Wednesday, July 11, 2007

How to Say Goodbye

Okay, I admit it. I've been holding on to my proposal for six weeks. It's been done, finished, ready to go for all that time, but I'm still holding onto it. Every day before I begin working on THE BOOK, I open up my proposal file and read it through. I change words, I change sentences, I wonder if it make sense. Then I tell myself that I'm going to print it out and mail it off.

And then I don't. Print it out. Or mail it off.

This isn't my usual MO. I'm usually quite good at saying goodbye. Maybe I'm really busy right now and doubting my abilities because of it. Maybe there's something not quite right about the story and my instincts are trying to tell me that. Maybe I'm just afraid of failure.

Whatever the case, I need to get that proposal out the door.

If you've got something you've finished, but are holding on to, here's my sure-fire way to get your baby out the door.

1. Read it again.
Yes, I know you've read it a half-million times, but read it once more. Not on the computer scree, either. Print it out. Read it like it's a book. Mark any grammatical errors, missed words, or poorly worded sentences with red.
2. Make the changes.
If you've found any of the above, fix them. Rework sentences, reread paragraphs, spend time working toward elusive perfection.
3. Tell yourself you've done it.
You've made the manuscript the best it can be without editorial help. You've polished and shined until your book nearly glows. There is nothing (repeat it with me...nothing) more that you can do.
4. Print it out again.
5. Do not read this copy.
Instead, clip it and slide it into the envelope it will make its journey in.
6. Write your cover letter. Make it brief and professional.
7. Package everything together and seal the envelope.
8. Immediately head for the post office and send that baby out.
Do not let children, pets, jobs or husbands interfere with this task. If you do, the envelope will remain where you've lain it for the next six weeks.

Easy, right?

So why haven't you done it?

Why haven't I done it?

Believe it or not, I know the answer to this. Once we send our manuscripts out, we can no longer rework, revise, recreate. Our words and, therefore, pieces of our soul are racing toward their destination and we know they aren't perfect. No matter how many times we search, our eyes aren't refined enough to show us all the flaws. We know they're there and we want desperately to see them, but even as we find and fix, more mistakes remain and are made. Instinctively, we know this. We just don't want to accept it. In a world where good isn't necessarily saleable, we need great, fantastic, beyond the norm. Until we send our book off, we can hope it is that, dream it is that. Once it's gone, there's no chance to make it what we're striving so hard for.

Here's something else we must know and accept. No manuscript is perfect, no story is without flaw. We're not alone in our imperfection. We're the norm. Our words aren't being compared to other, better manuscripts. They're being weighed in the heart reaction of the editor. When she reads, does the story come alive? Do the characters touch her? Does she want to keep turning pages? If so, the flaws - small and large - will be noticed only as items that need changing, not as deal-breaker, send-this-back-to-that-horrid-writer catastrophes.

Okay. So let's get this done. We've got much better things to do with our time than rework already reworked writing. Like writing the next book!


Sabrina L. Fox said...

LOL. You're funny. But I will say it helps to see you get the same way as an unpubbed writer does. Nervous about your work. I think we tend to believe that once we sell the first one it becomes so much easier. That's not the case though. Thanks for reminding us. ;)

And a side note, if you ever need a final read through, let me know. I'm enjoying the reader job with SH very much. It's much easier to pick apart other peoples work than it is to do the writing myself. ;)

Anonymous said...

Did you mail it off? I'll keep you accountable :o) I'm working on revisions now and realizing how rough my first draft is...yikes.

Hey, but it's easier to fix junk than a blank page, right?


Crystal Warren Miller said...

Shirlee, I am thankful that you blogged about this here. This is my biggest hurtle--sending off my own stuff/proposal.

I have walked many writers through getting published(I've worked for editors and agents in book doctoring,) but now I want to do this, and I still have to walk my own walk.

I appreciate your openness and candor about the process.