Guest Post by Megan Grey
With Halloween only a few days away, this is perfect time of year to explore the fears we writers often face. And if my own experience is any indication, we writers have lots of things that can strike terror into our neurotic little hearts: Rejections. Pitch sessions. Criticism. Rewrites. More rewrites. Our laptops deciding to drunk-query our dream agents.
Maybe I should explain that last one.
With my first novel (at least, my first submission-worthy novel) written and rewritten and rewritten again, I faced the much-dreaded next step. It was time to query agents. I spent weeks crafting the perfect query, and researching which agents would (in my estimation) be the best fit. Then I spent a few extra weeks procrastinating sending it, for a host of what seemed like perfectly reasonable excuses at the time, but really boiled down to one: fear.
Late one night, after bolstering my courage with approximately 8.3 pounds of dark chocolate M&Ms (as a Mormon, I don’t drink alcohol or smoke, so I heavily abuse chocolate instead), I readied this perfect query email to one of my top agents, took a deep breath, and hit send.
I was pleased with myself for conquering my fear, and yet something—writers intuition? An extra power of foresight granted me by obscene over-consumption of chocolate?—made me check my sent folder to make sure the email went through.
A quick scan revealed it had indeed sent, and seemed to be formatted fine. I was just about to close it and ease my paranoia with a few extra M&Ms when something horrible caught my eye. At the end of my query, where I could have sworn I had written “Thank you so much for your time“, this email read “Thank yo.”
Thank YO?!? After about a millisecond of debating whether I had the street cred to pull that sort of nonchalance off (I don’t), I quickly decided to send another one. Surely if agents see two of the same queries in their inbox, they’d only read the most recent, right?This seemed my only option. I re-pasted my query into another email, read it through about a dozen times to verify that each and every word was in place, and sent it again.
This time, when I checked the sent folder, my horror doubled. Not only did this one also end with “Thank yo“, but my computer had somehow deleted the latter half of several of my sentences. So now I had two queries to one of the top agents in publishing, both of which made me appear that I was querying while intoxicated. Or a complete idiot. Or, most likely, both.
Full-on panic set in. In between planning the destruction of my laptop, which I was convinced was turning all Skynet for the sole purpose of ruining my writing career, Ienvisioned being blacklisted by every agent and editor in the business. Being unable to show my face at any writing conference, ever. Having to enter the witness protection program just to lead a normal life again.
After a fit of weeping and swearing off both computers and M&Ms forever (obviously not in a sane frame of mind), I crawled into bed next to my peacefully sleeping husband,who was frustratingly unaware that every hope and dream I’d had of a writing career was shattered. As I lay there in bed, it occurred to me to try one last desperate ploy to salvage things. I would send my query again, rewritten from scratch (no copying and pasting) on our desktop computer, one that I could only hope didn’t have some vendetta against me.
So I did. In the subject line of this email, I wrote “Query (please disregard my previous emails, my computer was having issues)”. I sent it. And, lo and behold, after checking thesent folder, this email appeared to have sent exactly as I wrote it. No sentences that mysteriously lead to nowhere. No awkward and ungrammatical uses of slang. Now I could only hope. (And totally run my laptop over with my car in the morning. That was still happening, regardless of the outcome.)
The most I felt I could hope for from this was that the agent would have enough pity forme to not put me on some industry watch list. So I was completely shocked when, only a couple days later, I actually got a partial request from this agent. And though I was eventually rejected, it was a very nice rejection, and didn’t include any kind of restraining order. Since then, my query (my actual query, not the one my laptop decided to send on my behalf) has gotten me several partial and full requests, so I think it’s safe to assume I’m not on an agent blacklist somewhere.
The moral of this cautionary tale (besides never trusting computers) is this: my career didn’t end because of a computer mistake. It didn’t end on my first rejection, or my twentieth. It won’t end if I flub a pitch session, or if some reviewer hates my work. My career will only end if I give in to my dozens of fears about writing. It will only end if I give up.
And the same goes for you.
Guest Writer Bio:
Megan Grey’s fiction has appeared in Fireside, Sybil’s Scriptorium, and One Horn to Rule Them All: A Purple UnicornAnthology. You can find out more about Megan by visiting her website at www.megangrey.com.