Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Confessions of a crazed writer

Myra here. Today I am going to confess a grievous crime from the early days of my writing career.

Yes, you will be shocked. You will be horrified.

You will probably die laughing to think mild-mannered Myra could stoop so low.

See, it all began back in the days post-graduation from the Institute of Children’s Literature, when I wrote for kids and teens. I had several magazine story sales under my belt, plus a really cool middle-grade novel manuscript that I was oh-so-proud of. The characters were based very loosely on my daughters and their experiences as competitive swimmers, and as a U.S. Swimming-certified stroke and turn judge back then, I knew whereof I wrote.

Did I mention this was the late ‘80s, when I was much younger and much stupider (at least about the publishing industry)?

But I digress. In those days I was a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, which was not stupid at all. This was and is a fine organization. Our area chapter hosted a conference every summer, and we brought in some really big names in children’s publishing.

At one such conference, a popular multi-published author in our chapter gave me an introduction to an editor from a major publishing house that I really, really wanted to write for. The very charming editor kindly invited me to send her my manuscript, which I promptly did.

And boy, did I have high hopes! An “in” from a popular children’s author, a manuscript that had already garnered a sizable amount of positive feedback--this was a sure thing, right?

Okay, so a few weeks went by. Then a few months. This was back in the dark ages before everybody used email, so I snail-mailed a status request letter, complete with self-addressed post card. And another, and another over the course of about a year. Always the responses were vague. “Your manuscript is still under consideration, blah, blah, blah.”

One year became two years, and with every day that passed, I convinced myself that no news was good news. I mean, if she really didn’t want the book, how hard was it to just say no?

I asked my multi-published author acquaintance for advice, and she said I should just telephone the editor and ask for an update. Not counting the fact that the very idea of calling a big-name editor gave me heart palpitations, do you have any idea how hard it is to actually catch these people when they’re taking calls?

Thus began a very un-fun game of repeatedly leaving messages until finally . . . one sunny afternoon . . . she returned my call.

After all these years I don’t remember the specific details of our conversation. What I do remember is that it started out civilly, me asking for clarification about the status of my manuscript, her hemming and hawing about how she was so swamped, etc., would I remind her who I was, which book this was, etc., etc. Eventually it got to the part where she flatly said no, she didn’t want to publish my book.

And that is when I lost it. Utterly, humiliatingly lost it. Few times in my life have I been that angry--and just ask anyone in my family about how angry I can get when things don’t go my way!


It wasn’t just that she said no. It was that it took her two years to say no! Two long years of my life spent hoping, waiting, wondering. And then she had the nerve to make flimsy excuses and act like it was no big deal!

To my credit, I had kept writing during those two years, but that didn’t lessen my outrage that she took so long to reject this book. I may have given her a piece of my mind before hanging up, or I may have politely thanked her and said goodbye. I honestly don’t remember now.

The next thing I do remember is screaming at the top of my lungs and slamming around the kitchen with a big butcher knife (I was about to start supper when she called). I scared my middle-schooler daughters so badly that they phoned their dad at work and begged him to hurry home immediately because Mom had gone berserk. Heaven knows what they thought I was going to do with that knife!

I did calm down . . . eventually . . . and neither the cops nor the men in white coats arrived to haul me away to a padded cell. (In addition, no children, husbands, editors, or live animals were harmed during the making of this tantrum.)

There’s a lesson in all this, believe it or not:  

Never, under any circumstances, pin all your writing hopes on one submission, much less one manuscript.

To paraphrase an old infomercial, “Send it, and forget it!” Go on to the next project. Keep writing, keep coming up with new ideas, keep getting your material out there to increase the odds of eventually getting that long-awaited yes.

So what is the proper protocol for following up with an editor or agent who just never seems to get back to you? First of all, check their submission guidelines for estimated response times. Allow an extra couple of weeks, and if you still haven’t received a reply, a polite email requesting a status update is perfectly reasonable.

If interest has been expressed but you know the person is extra-busy, exercise patience and allow another few weeks. If so much time passes that you start to think you’re getting the runaround and the editor or agent is never going to get to your manuscript, it may be time to move on--most particularly if this was understood to be an exclusive submission.

At this point you can send a politely worded letter or e-mail respectfully stating that X amount of time has passed and if a decision cannot be reached by Y date, you must withdraw the manuscript from consideration so that you may submit it elsewhere. When that date passes, if you still haven’t received an answer, feel free to do exactly that! (But keep copies of your correspondence as backup.)

In all correspondence, no matter how impatient you become, be polite and professional! As we’ve said before on this blog, the publishing world is a tight-knit community. Burn a bridge with one editor or agent, and you may find doors slamming shut in other offices as well. (Pardon the mixed metaphor.)

I wish I could say I learned my lesson and never lost my cool again with a publishing professional. The truth is I’m not always a very patient person, and I’ve had to work hard at accepting that the only thing I have control over is myself. The only way to survive the frustration is to keep the focus on improving my craft, writing good books, and staying abreast of industry changes and marketing trends as best I can.

Remember, if you hope to gain the respect of other industry professionals, a businesslike approach is essential. The Golden Rule works, too. Treat others as you would like to be treated.

Even if they take two years to say no.

What “writer crimes” have you committed in the course of your career? What lessons have you learned?

Share your story and you could win a copy of Seven Spiritual Gifts of Waiting, by Holly W. Whitcomb.

In America, waiting presents an enormous challenge. We are impatient, "fix-it" kinds of 
people — and not all situations can be fixed. This book presents seven spiritual gifts that waiting can teach us: Patience, Loss of Control, Live in the Present, Compassion, Gratitude, Humility, and Trust in God. An excellent resource during times of waiting within the church year including Advent and Lent, the book includes spiritual exercises and reflection questions for personal or group use as well as a retreat design.

89 comments:

Helen Gray said...

Myra, I don't think I've ever thrown an audible tantrum, but I've sure had my bouts of hiding out and feeling near bitterness after waiting as long as a year and getting a rejection.

I can think of a lot of boo-boos, but none that I care to make public. :)

The coffee pot is set.

Helen

Carol Moncado said...

I don't *think* I've made any grievous errors to date. There's still time. :D

I have to admit I have a very hard time seeing you flying off the handle, Myra dear :).

And now back to NaNo...

Tina Radcliffe said...

Wow, I am so jealous.

I seriously had an agent hold my msc for 18 months and then send me a letter,saying she was on the fence but in the end she decided no.

I wish I had had the guts to explode.

Christina said...

Oh, I hope I haven't made any deadly errors. I try not to make a step unless I'm certain it's okay.

Funny story. I think I'd be mad too. I'm always working, or try to work, on the next story. I usually have a story in various stages. One in plotting, one in stewing, one in first draft (or maybe four) and one in revisions.

Kara I said...

I've had a proposal out three years and counting with an editor! I'm pretty sure it's because she hasn't been able to bring herself to actually say no so is hoping I get the message by the passing of time :)

The worst crime I think I've committed, way back in the day where I know NOTHING about publishing and thought you just "picked" an agent.

So I picked an agent who would be fortunate enough to represent my genius manuscript and sent him not one, but a series of what is best described as a stream of consciousness emails musing about my book, other series possibilities, ideas for other books etc. etc.

He was far more gracious than I deserved. I still cringe just thinking about it!

Virginia Carmichael Munoz said...

WOW!

My just dropped. I thought this was going to be some sort of 'I forgot to sign my name' posts.

Go, you! Sometimes people need to be reminded that writers have feelings and lives and hopes and dreams. Okay, maybe the butcher knife was a little scary... but otherwise, I get you!

Uhhh, I've done some stupid and crazy things. Speaking of not signing a name- I submitted an ms without a title page. The publishing house requested a full of the 'as yet unnamed manuscript'. I thought, 'what are they talking about?' And found the title page still in my printer. You know, first page comes last. UGH.

Um, one I also e-mailed an agent I really admired and mentioned how much I enjoyed reading her other clients... then I cut and pasted the query portion into the e-mail. She responded with a request for first 3 chaps but when I looked at my own e-mail I saw I had accidentally pasted SOME OTHER AGENT'S NAME right below the part about liking her so much, and right before the query. Yeah. Smooth.

I could go on, but it's too depressing.



Virginia Carmichael Munoz said...

P.S. If I don't win this book I'm going to buy it. Waiting is not my forte. You know how most women reach the end of their pregnancies and start counting the days? I count hours... minutes... and am completely convinced the child will NEVER arrive and I'm going to be pregnant forever. It's a bad time. I cry, beg, and make everyone miserable.

Virginia Carmichael Munoz said...

Oh, and I had an agent ask for the first three chaps after I'd sent five pages as requested. Then she asked for 3 months EXCLUSIVE reading time while she read the full.

At the end of that time, she e-mails and asked if I would resubmit because there was soemthing she didn't like ON THE FIRST PAGE.

Boy, this post has me cap-locking all over the place. *deep breath*

Annie Rains said...

Two years? That's horrible. I have a similar story, but mine only lasted six months, lol. Thank you for sharing and I'm glad the men in white coats didn't come to get you.

Julie Steele said...

My editor changed. The magazine I was writing for went a different direction. I stopped writing.

I STOPPED WRITING.

Now that is a crime.

I am writing again and will not let anything or anyone stop me again, especially me.

Great post. Thanks for a great visual, even though it is very scary and would make a great horror movie.

Peace, Julie

Jackie said...

Hi Myra,

I hope I haven't made any grievous errors yet. I've been to one conference.

I've made mistakes and not trusted myself with my writing.

So, what do you think the timeline is for hearing back from an agent who took your first two chapters at conference?

I was thinking Thanksgiving.

I admired your honesty in sharing with us today!

Jackie L.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Writerly crimes...

Too numerous to mention!

Or maybe I just don't want reminders!!!

CRINGE!!!!! Multiple CRINGE!!!!

Smiling and nodding works. And writing. Writing. Writing.

Oh, Myra, I can just see that whole thing going down. Oh. Ouch.

Success is the best revenge.

Now that quote should not be misconstrued, because I'm not vengeful at all, but your success is the best way to show folks that you nevah, nevah give up, very Churchill friendly, right?

So we work. Work. Work.

Myra, you've showed them. Good for you!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Julie Hilton Steele, if this post did nothing else but get you to make that statement, it is worth ALL OF MYRA'S HUMILIATIONS GALORE!!!!

:)

You go, girl!!!!

Rose said...

Myra,

I had one children's magazine that I submitted to regularly that had purchased several manuscripts hold a manuscript about nine months. I politely inquired with a letter, which they answered by saying-oh we returned that manuscript. We didn't want it...so, okay no big deal until nine months later when they SENT the manuscript back with a note that said:

"We just found this in our acceptance folder...guess we filed it wrong."

WHAT? Why tell me that? Why even return the four sheets of paper? I didn't throw a tantrum but I never submitted there again.

Then there was a personal rejection letter from a writing magazine that was so contridictory, I still have no idea why it wasn't rejected. Yet the editor took time to write me a personal letter. I pondered that letter for over month wondering what he wanted to tell me exactly, besides my manuscript was rejected.

But like you, I've always just kept writing....

Anonymous said...

Okay Myra, I meant to email you last week and thank you for the wonderful Holiday Bark, but I forgot. Please don't get mad.

I laughed when I read about you stormy around with a butcher knife. I can so relate. When I frustrated w/writing, I snap at everyone. They know something's wrong w/mom and to stay clear.

It's a tough business.
(And the bark really was delicious. No one else got a bite.)
Connie Queen

Sandra Leesmith said...

Oh Myra, I so relate. We did make so many mistakes when we started. But in all fairness we didn't have the resources we do now, the friendships with other writers, the exchange and sharing of knowledge.

I have to say that I truly can't picture you ranting with a butcher knife. Not the sweet Myra I know. chuckle

But on the note of sending it out and then forgetting about it. I had sent PRICE OF VICTORY to Avalon and did as you say. I forgot and worked on other projects. Well they had some editor changes which I didn't even know about. And I had forgotten about it so well that when TWO YEARS do you hear me? TWO YEARS later they called I had forgotten they even had a manuscript of mine. It was rather embarrassing when "The Call" came and I had to ask them "Ummm what manuscript do you have?" LOL

Anonymous said...

Kara,

You writing "stream of consciousness emails musing about my book, other series possibilities, ideas for other books etc. etc." describes what so many of us thought before we learned about the publishing industry. Sweet and niave.

Virginia-- I'm impressed the agent requested three chapters after you bragged about another agent. Your query must've great.

Connie

karenk said...

Myra,

Enjoyed your posting today...

karenk
kmkuka at yahoo dot com

Jeanne T said...

Oh Myra, thanks for sharing so transparently. I'm sorry it took two years. I'm also grateful you're willing to share. Learning from writers who've gone before me--on the writing journey as well as the emotional aspect of the journey has helped me learn how to handle and respond to similar situations as I face them. I haven't submitted any mss yet, but I hope to within the next year.

It's great to see the other end of your journey--you're published and encouraging other writers. Thanks!

pol said...

Myra, I am a reader and I never knew it could take so long to hear back from the publishers. you are really an exceptional bunch of people. I am so glad you guys keep going midst the heartaches and give us readers the wonderful stories that you do..I would be lost without my books...

Paula O(kyflo130@yahoo.com)

Mary Connealy said...

It was a dark and stormy Myra....

Mary Connealy said...

I'm sure you're wrong to lose it, but wow, two years.
I dont' blame you.
Your advice to keep writing, to submit it and forget it is great.

HEY that's a poem.

Submit it and forget it. (forgit it!)

:) I think I'll go make a poster of it and put it up on Pinterest.

KC Frantzen and May the K9 Spy said...

(((Myra)))

You knowwwww...
A bridge COULD have a door. Well it could!!!

Have you participated in the aforementioned children's organization of late? The last local conference I attended made up my mind, that I was going to independently publish.

Why?

Because during the first pages portion of the program (where a NY agent and NY editor sits in front of the full audience and listens to a professional read anonymously submitted first pages) the reader's face morphed into a beet. She bravely kept reading though. I was horribly uncomfortable, especially as I was seated next to a man I didn't know.

The first page was utterly pornographic. I've not shared with ANYONE except my husband what was on that page.

Let's just say that it was in the POV of a young teen in the act of losing her virginity with a much older guy she had just met at a party.

IN. THE. ACT.

This, at a CHILDREN'S conference, in the South.

What made my final decision was, both the NY agent and NY editor (both from prominent pub houses) were salivating by the end. Both asked for the anonymous author to submit the full.

O.M.Gosh.

Where's the butcher knife, Myra? I need to hack a way through that door on the bridge!!!

No way were they getting their grubby paws on May's story.

Actually, now that I think of it, I can use that emotion in my current manuscript. Kewl. Thanks!!!

(There's a blessing here SOMEwhere, surely!)

Anyway, I don't know if that little story qualifies, but that was 3 years into this writing life. Because of prayer beforehand, asking for clear direction in what to do, DH and I took that as a sign to take this path. I'm pleased thus far. The gal's manuscript has no doubt sold, with rights optioned in Hollywood...

So be it. :)

KC Frantzen and May the K9 Spy said...

Here Mary, we say "Fergiddit."

Melanie Dickerson said...

Myra, I think you were pretty patient to wait two years! I waited a year and a half, during which I had several communications with the editor, in which she told me how much she loved the opening of my novel, read it to her sister, who also was mesmerized, read it at a committee meeting at her major Christian publishing house--they also loved it--gave me revision suggestions, which I immediately followed through with and submitted, but after a year and a half, finally decided to say no. (This book still has not sold.) But whenever I see her at the ACFW conference every year--and yes, I always see her--she always smiles and says hello. I think I even hugged her this year!

What is the moral of that story? An author's life is painful but you just have to get over it? Maybe. And editors are humans too and they are just trying to do their jobs to the best of their ability and aren't trying to rip your heart out? Okay, yes, that's it. :-)

Missy Tippens said...

Myra, I've been looking forward to this post since reading the blurb! LOL!

I love it. I can just see you with that knife, raving and foaming at the mouth. :) Your poor girls!

You should pull that mss out (if you didn't blow it up) and see if it's any good. That could be enlightening. It could also give you a chance to send it around again if it's truly good!

Missy Tippens said...

Oh, Kara, that's so cute! I'm sure you probably made him smile. :)

Missy Tippens said...

Virginia, I sent Emily a manuscript without page numbers!!! I was horrified when I realized it! I just prayed she didn't drop those pages.

Myra Johnson said...

Good morning, Seekerville! Have I mentioned I am NOT a morning person? Once I roll out of bed, it takes me at least an hour or two before my brain is nearing functionality. Glad so many of you arrive early to get the conversation going!

Thanks again to Helen for starting the coffee! What would we do without you, girlfriend??? Yes, bitterness is a good word to describe how it feels to wait so long only to get a rejection. Okay, since you are such a sweet lady, we will permit you to keep your "boo-boos" private. :-)

Myra Johnson said...

Carol, thanks for taking a few minutes away from NaNo to read about my rant. Yes, dear, there is still PLENTY of time for you to have a few of your own!

Tina, explosions may feel good at the time, but they sure are embarrassing after the fact!

Missy Tippens said...

I have a feeling the first editor I ever pitched to (who's now a top executive at Harlequin) would probably say I committed a no-no when I got so nervous I spewed on and on about the story until she had to finally cut me off before I told the whole thing. I was mortified. I spent the next couple of years at RWA hiding from her! LOL I still hope she doesn't remember my name!

Myra Johnson said...

Christina, you are a smart chickie, always keeping something in the works.

Kara, you made my day!!! We've all been there . . . the utter naivete of being a newby writer. Thank goodness we can learn from our mistakes!

Virginia, don't you just hate it when you stick the wrong info into an important email--or worse, send a rant to the wrong email address! Anybody here who has NEVER done that, raise your hand!

Anonymous said...

WELL NOW I'M EMARRASSED!!!

Audra Harpers sent me the Holiday Bark, not Myra. Excuse me while I crawl in a hole somewhere.

Connie

Myra Johnson said...

Virginia, just read your next two comments. Oh, yeah, waiting is just the pits, whether it's pregnancy, editorial responses, that contracted book to FINALLY get released . . .

And really, THE FIRST PAGE??? And it took her that long to say so??? (And hey, we all understand CAP LOCKS.)

Myra Johnson said...

Annie, there are times I really, really wish those men in the white coats would drive up in their little van and take me somewhere to just weave baskets all day and forget the craziness of this business!

Julie Steele, congratulations on writing again!!! We simply CANNOT give in to the discouragement, whether it's an editorial staff change, a rejection that takes too long--ANY rejection, for that matter. Rhino skin--an absolute necessity in this business!

Myra Johnson said...

Jackie, not trusting ourselves with our writing is, unfortunately, a hazard quite common to this business. As for how long to wait after an agent took your chapters at a conference, see what you can find out online or in a writers market resource about their usual response time. If you can't find anything, I think it's reasonable to follow up with a polite status request after 2-3 months.

Myra Johnson said...

Ruthy, I agree--persevering through the hard times and finally coming out on top (if that's what this is!!!) is definitely satisfying!

Rose, oh, that's just awful! They filed it wrong??? In their acceptance file??? And they still rejected it??? And confusing rejection letters--oh my. The only saving grace there is someone cared enough to give you a personal response.

Myra Johnson said...

Connie!!!! You had me there for a minute! Yep, my bark is worse than my bite! And don't you have to wonder sometimes why writers put ourselves through such torment? I guess that's what it really means to say writing is a calling. We do it because we have no choice.

Sandra, you really forgot Avalon had your manuscript??? That's wild! I'm picturing you on that phone call scratching your head!

Janet Dean said...

Myra, excellent advice. I chuckled at your knife wielding tantrum in front of your kids. But, I understand your frustration and anger. I went through something similar with a publisher. I didn't win their get published contest but the editor expressed interest in publishing my story. Months, a year, perhaps more passed. I've blocked the details, but in the end after chasing the editor down, she did pass. Some of our painful experiences are blessings in disguise. God knew what was best for me and that was Love Inspired.

Janet

Mary Connealy said...

Don't think of it as being patient, think of it as being forged into steel in a fiery furnace.

Much easier.

Carol Moncado said...

I did accidentally kick an editor out of a seat at conference this year.

I'm still mortified.

Does that count?

Eva Maria Hamilton said...

Myra, I'm sorry that happened to you. But look at you now! Great takeaway from your post - just keep at it! Love it!

Myra Johnson said...

KarenK, thanks for visiting today!

Jeanne T, that's what we're here for--to share our learning experiences and encourage each other along the way. I hope you'll find the confidence to start submitting your work very soon!

Paula, yep, right here in Seekerville you can learn everything you NEVER wanted to know about the publishing business! Thank you for being a faithful reader. Your support is invaluable!

Jamie Adams said...

Good morning Myra! I'm an IOCL grad too. My biggest mistake was to stop trying after my first rejection letter some 13 years ago. If I'd just kept going how much farther would I be today?

I'm the type that rarely gets angry but when I do all the things I didn't let bother me before come rushing out too. And I don't vocalize well when upset. Tears and stomping around... it's not pretty.

I don't have any editor issues brewing but agents...
Once an agent called me to tell she loved the ms and to call her when such and such publisher bought it. And just recently an agent told me the story was good and she believed they (same publisher) would buy it but she wasn't in love with it enough to represent me.

Myra Johnson said...

Mary, I am "stormier" than most people may ever know. "Submit it and forget it" has become my mantra. Sort of. Because we never, ever really forget. Except maybe Sandra--LOL!

KC, I know what you mean. There's stuff published out there in the ABA for kids and teens that can make your hair curl! Or stand on end! Or completely fall out! The key is to know which line you're submitting to and make sure the standards match your own.

Myra Johnson said...

Melanie, you were a very patient writer. At least you were getting regular (and specific) feedback, not a general "still under consideration." Unfortunately, editors' hands are tied by committees who are always looking at the bottom line financially. But the bright side is you now have a relationship with that editor, and who knows where it could lead!

Myra Johnson said...

Missy, I do still have that manuscript somewhere. It was the first completed novel manuscript I ever wrote! It's so old, it was pre-computer!!! I even wrote two sequels to the story, and they're all in my filing cabinet. To pull them out today would mean MAJOR updating, not just because my writing skills have (hopefully) improved but I'd need to change things to include modern technology.

Myra Johnson said...

Connie!!! Audra sent you the bark??? LOL!!!!!!

Janet, you're so right. We do have to think of these disappointing rejections as God's timing. He knows when we're actually ready for what publishing success could bring into our lives. And He knows where in the publishing world He wants to put us.

Myra Johnson said...

Steel. Fiery furnace. Got it.

Mary Connealy said...

Somehow this whole post makes me want to go order expensive chocolates for myself.

That's always wrong, right?

(somebody stop me!!!!)

Mary Connealy said...

CAROL, It only counts if you left actual footprints on her backside.

Keep trying.

Myra Johnson said...

Carol, kicking an editor out of her seat is only bad if you didn't help her up off the floor.

Eva Maria, it isn't how we start, it's how we finish, right??? That's my story and I'm stickin' to it!

Jamie, I'm like you--anger means tears and stomping around and (unfortunately) often yelling at people who don't deserve it--meaning my family. Thank goodness they are very forgiving. And that agent? Didn't like it enough to represent you but "Call me when XX editor buys it"??? REALLY!!!!!!

Myra Johnson said...

Mary, any excuse to eat chocolate is a good one. FYI, anybody near a Trader Joe's? They have the BEST 1-pound dark chocolate bars!!! One square a day--maybe two--that's my limit. And it is oh-so-delicious!

Carol Moncado said...

There were apologetic cookies involved later.

Does that even it up?

Carol Moncado said...

I have several of the "if you don't hear from us in x days/weeks/months" things that are likely no longer under consideration ;).

I did have an agent email me last week to say she had been swamped but hadn't forgotten me.

The editor said 6-8 weeks about 4.5 weeks ago. I figure with the holidays etc, that probably means sometime after New Year's would be okay to follow up... ;)

Here's praying it's not years later for either one...

Myra Johnson said...

Carol, it's a positive sign that the agent took the time to let you know she hadn't forgotten you. And things do move more slowly during the holidays. So I'm thinking mid-January would be a good time to follow up if you haven't heard anything by then.

It's worth emphasizing that as writers we have the right to expect a certain amount of respect and consideration, even from busy editors and agents. We don't have to be doormats. But it's all in the approach. Be professional. Be polite. Give them the benefit of the doubt, but know when it's time to respectfully move on.

Virginia Carmichael Munoz said...

Oh, KC!!!!

Ugh. Yuck. That story is awful!


But I love what you took away from it. And we love May! We'd never want anyone's grubby paws on her!

Julie Lessman said...

MYRA, you hothead, you!!! ;) I shudder to think what I might have said in that phone call, darlin'!!

LOVE THE STORY AND LOVE THE MORAL:

Never, under any circumstances, pin all your writing hopes on one submission, much less one manuscript.

AND I WILL EVEN GO AS FAR AS RECOMMENDING WE TAKE IT A STEP FARTHER TO:

Never, under any circumstances, pin all your writing hopes on any contract, royalty check,5-star review or contest win ... pin it on God and ONLY God!!

Don't think this is a "crime" per se (unless it's a crime to be stupid, in which case, put me away for life!!), but one of the silliest things I ever assumed was that agents only came from New York. I've told this story before, but when I got Natasha's e-mail asking me to call her immediately regarding my ms. after 24 other agents rejected it, I was convinced it was a hoax. MORAL OF STORY? Never assume anything -- nothing in this life is a sure thing except for God. :)

Hugs,
Julie

Myra Johnson said...

Julie, that's the best advice ever--"pin it on God and ONLY God!!" Our primary responsibility is to write the best book we're capable of writing. Everything else is entirely in His hands. And until He CLEARLY tells us to stop writing (and just getting a bunch of rejections isn't necessarily God's NO), we have to keep on keeping on.

Jan Drexler said...

Writerly mistakes?

Maybe I'm just so new I wouldn't recognize a mistake if I made one...

Seriously, I know I've been rescued from making a lot of grievous errors just by being here at Seekerville. You all help tremendously by giving us the low down on the publishing industry.

I know not to submit anything on pink paper, I know it may take months (years) to hear from anyone, and I know I need to keep on writing.

Seekerville, rocks. You know that, don't you?

But, as Carol M says, there's still time. I'm sure there's a horrific writerly mistake out there somewhere with my name on it...

...and when that time comes, I'll stay away from the kitchen knives :)

CatMom said...

Oh Myra...bless your heart...I'm so sorry you had that experience, but look at what an entertaining, FUNNY story you have to share with Seekerville now! (sorry--I know that doesn't make up for waiting TWO years*sigh*). Had to laugh at the knife-wielding part of your story and imagining the looks of horror on your daughters' faces. But you shared some excellent advice with us today--thank you! ~ I guess my biggest "error" would be my mind going blank when I meet with an editor face-to-face--I can feel so prepared and of course I know what my ms is about, and then I smile at an editor and all my "well-rehearsed" spiel seems to vanish from my memory and I began chattering away, feeling like a crazy lady, LOL. Thankfully all the editors I've met with at ACFW conferences have been very kind, and have actually requested proposals. But I SO wish I could stay calm and remember what I'd planned to say during my "pitch" instead of babbling away. ~ Thank you again for sharing with us today, and btw--all the books I have by you are on my "keeper shelf" because I've enjoyed them so much. ~ Hugs, Patti Jo

Melanie Dickerson said...

Mary, if it makes you feel better, you can always order expensive chocolates and have them sent to me!

Ruth Tredway said...

Hello Seekers,
I have to agree with Jan. The advice and experience shared on this blog are invaluable. Parents say it like this: "Do as I say, not as I do."
The biggest mistake I've made so far is to not submit. I've done a few things that felt like they were ready for publication, but they are still in my file list. That's about ready to change - I keep reading, keep trusting Him, and keep writing. When the time is right, I'll add submitting to my growing list of skills.

Myra Johnson said...

Wise, move, Jan! Those kitchen knives will get you in trouble every time! So kind of you to let US make the mistakes first so you don't have to!

Patti Jo, you are so sweet! And I TOTALLY relate! I can plan the best spiels in my head--better yet, type them out on paper. But put me in front of an editor and I get major brain freeze! So I'm better off with a neatly prepared one-sheet that I can just pass across the table and then sit there smiling serenely (with my shaking hands carefully hidden beneath the tablecloth).

Myra Johnson said...

Ruth T, I know it's scary actually sending out your work and opening yourself to possible rejection, but no one ever sold the manuscript they kept locked away in a filing cabinet or computer disk. To borrow an old cliche, "Nothing ventured, nothing gained."

Myra Johnson said...

Well, it's just past lunchtime around here, and I just realized I haven't offered anything from the Seekerville buffet.

On today's menu: your choice of lobster bisque or New England clam chowder, served with homemade biscuits dripping in melted butter. Fill your salad plate with greens, ripe tomatoes, sliced cucumbers, green peppers, kalamata olives, and feta cheese.

For dessert, white chocolate macadamia nut cookies or double-fudge brownies.

Oh, don't I wish!!!!!

Tina Pinson said...

Boy Myra,

You could have been writing my life story there.

I so understand your frustration. I waited and waited to hear back for a couple years myself. Still waiting, and this after getting in contact with them a couple of times to see if they were ever going to get back to me.

I figure I probably won't hear from them, and the time factor or lack of answer means and NO.

Oh well. But thankfully, this wasn't my first bout with waiting, and I learned the lesson you spoke of about not waiting on one manuscript. Of course it took me a bit and a few tears. But with the second round I'd been sending proposals out and working on others.

And I haven't thrown anything or stopped writing.

blessings

Tina

Tina Pinson said...

Ever close down all the comments and look at the wave of pictures? Kind of fun... just saying.

Myra Johnson said...

Hi, Tina P! Glad you can relate! Or sorry, as the case may be. ;-) It's so hard to give up hope when you keep thinking if you waited one more week or one more month, maybe they'd say yes. Unfortunately, that isn't how the publishing industry usually works. I've had other frustrating experiences with l-o-o-o-n-g waits. In one case, the editor kept losing my ms. because of computer crashes. I'd keep resending, and the ms. would keep "disappearing." I finally had enough and figured God had other plans for that book. Turns out He did!

Nancy C said...

Oh, Myra, I can so relate to your post. Well, except for the butcher knife :-)

One of my mistakes submission-wise was when I sent a historical romance under an 'open submission' call and didn't take the time to look at the publisher's website. After all, I knew what they published ... except, they had decided to change their direction and 'heat level', which was the reason for the open submission call.

Something good came of the submission, though. Because I submitted a full manuscript, I gained PRO status in RWA and access to those resources.

And now I not only ask other authors about the publisher, I look at the website, catalog, etc., before a submission :-)

Nancy C

Myra Johnson said...

Nancy C, it's true--publishers can change directions. It's always a good idea to double-check writers guidelines before submitting a manuscript. Even better is the insider info you can glean from authors who write for that house. Glad this "mistake" at least earned you PRO status with RWA!

Dora Hiers said...

Myra, remind me to take your knife away at lunch tomorrow. :-)

Mary Connealy said...

MELANIE you are as always, the soul of generosity.

Myra Johnson said...

LOL, Dora, I promise to keep my cool over lunch! Looking forward to seeing you tomorrow!

Jeanne T said...

Myra, I plan to submit my work. If I can ever finish it. ;) It's been a busy last few months, and I'm still working through revisions. Sigh. I've set a goal to be done by January 1, but I might have to extend it to the end of January at the rate I'm going. :)

Maybe then I'll have a rant story to share. :)

Myra Johnson said...

Jeanne T, I understand how the busyness of life can thwart the best of writing intentions! It's good to have a deadline to aim for, but be kind to yourself with the holidays approaching. This can be a crazy few weeks for everyone.

Janet Dean said...

Myra, I love your photo!

Janet

Myra Johnson said...

Thanks, Janet!

Lyndee said...

Myra, love your post. Wise words.

My maiden name is Jobe pronounced Job, and I do have a long runway for patience. That probably isn't an asset at times as it can send me down the path of procrastination, ironically, not when writing, but in follow-up. I've also had an editor hang on to my manuscript for 14 months. I just happily waited, but wrote the entire time. Now I'm shopping three manuscripts. And still writing!

Myra Johnson said...

Lyndee, you are indeed very patient if you can happily go about your writing without feeling an urgent need to obtain answers IMMEDIATELY IF NOT SOONER!!!! You probably have much lower blood pressure and fewer ulcers than us impatient types--LOL!

Lyndee said...

I don't know, Myra. My patience is rooted in the scripture 'to everything there is a season' and the serenity prayer. I can't fret over things I cannot change! I do in fact have a very type-A personality, but God and I've come to a truce about it, lol.

Myra Johnson said...

Good for you, Lyndee! That's a wonderful way to look at things!

Cara Lynn James said...

Myra, I can't picture you screaming in the kitchen with a butcher knife in hand! Glad you didn't use improperly.

Waiting is so awful, but there's a lot of it in the writing/publishing world. Just remember they can be late but we can't. That's just the way it is.

Mary Connealy said...

I meant to mention the photo, too, Myra but I was distracted by the image of you weilding a butcher knife.

It is LOVELY. (the photo, not the image-wait, photos are images...I'm confused)

Myra Johnson said...

Cara, I may have injured a carrot or onion. But that's all.

Mary, thank you! :-) I actually understood what you meant!

Hey, anyone else surprised by the DWTS elimination tonight? So sorry to see Gilles go!!!

Audra Harders said...

Oh Myra, I can so relate, girlfriend. I'm amazed you waited so long to receive any response!

I know--send it and forget it--but really? I've never forgotten a submission or proposal.

You defeated the odds, Myra! Despite the tiny tantrum you might have thrown, LOL!

Renee (SteelerGirl83) said...

Awww Myra! I'm so sorry about that rejection after TWO WHOLE YEARS! What WAS that woman thinking?! Pssssh.

Jess * Jessie * Jessy said...

I can identify, Myra. I was blessed with an enormous amount of patience. I've waited for years only to be told when I finally checked that the manuscript was lost. I've never gone so far as to wave a knife around, but boy! I've felt like it. :)

Debra E. Marvin said...

My biggest stupid-writer-trick was sending off a proposal via email and then panicking when I realize my phone wasn't on five minutes later.

I did hear from that person 3 months later.