Friday, January 18, 2008

Fear is a funny thing

I was talking to my "submission buddy" the other day. A submission buddy, for those who don't have one, is like a diet buddy. They're the person to whom you tell your goal, and who keeps riding you, asking how you're doing on that goal, until you achieve it.

My buddy was supposed to send in a submission by the end of 2007. We discussed the likelihood of an editor being in the office and reading slush between Christmas and New Years, and agreed that a submission the first week of 2008 would still count as having been done by the end of 2007. We even worked out which day to mail the package for optimum chance of it being read.

The day approached. I did my buddy part, asking if everything was in readiness. It was. The manuscript needed only to be printed out, the revisions I'd suggested made to the cover letter, and then the whole thing popped in an envelope. About two hours of effort, my buddy estimated.

The day came. And went. Somehow, despite discussing this for three weeks, my buddy scheduled a business trip for the day when the submission was supposed to occur, completely forgetting about the submission. It was "an accident".

Uh-huh. How many of you believe that? I didn't either.

But, I gave my buddy the benefit of the doubt. If it was mailed the first day my buddy was home, I'd still give credit for having met the 2007 submission goal.

Do I need to tell you what happened? Or rather, what didn't happen?

Clearly, something else was going on. The material was good. I'd read it, and loved it. The cover letter was as good as we could make it. We'd double-checked all the submission protocols. There were no more reasons not to send it out. So my buddy was inventing reasons.

After a lengthy discussion, during which I refused to accept any of the offered excuses (that's the advantage of a submission buddy who's also a writer -- we know which excuses sound good but aren't true, where someone unfamiliar with the industry might fall for it), we eventually got to the crux of the matter. Fear.

"What if I send it to everyone that rejected the first version four years ago, and they still hate it? I'll have wasted all that time and money!" my buddy wailed.

"You'll definitely have wasted those four years if you never send it out at all," I countered. "But if you submit it, there's a chance that you'll be rewarded for your efforts."

When we're in the grips of fear, all we can see is the downside, and what will happen if our fears come true. It's much harder to look for the upside, and take a chance that it might happen. In our heart of hearts, we believe the worst will occur, and we'd rather spend our future years talking about the book that "might have been" published, rather than face that fact that it was never going to be published.

Which would be a reasonable reaction, except for one little thing. Every published author had to sell a first book sometime. Why can't it be you? Why can't it be now?

PS - the story has a happy ending. I just received an email from my submission buddy, telling me that the manuscript is in the mail. :-)


Estella said...

Everyone has their fears and foibles. So glad you persevered and got your buddy to mail the pkg.

N.J.Walters said...

I don't think any writer hasn't sent off a manuscript and then thought..."Oh, my God. What have I done. It sucks. They'll laugh at it." It's part of being a writer to suck it up and do it anyway. If it gets rejected, hopefully you get some feedback and can use that to make the manuscript stronger.

Glad your "submission buddy" was able to push past the fear. Good Luck!