Saturday, 6 March 2010

Perfect Submission

This is a post just for my writing pals who have been trying to get published. If you aren't a writer, this won't make a lick of sense. If you are a writer but haven't been trying to get published, this still won't make sense. I wouldn't have gotten this at all a few years back myself; I had no idea what a long, hard business it was to write, submit, be rejected -- and repeat the whole process ad nauseam, week after week, month after month, year after year.

My writing pals will also know that this really isn't the done thing. Nothing spells total beginner like a long, whiny post about how good you are and what an unfair thing it is that nobody in the publishing world understands your genius. But I figured I could get away with this if I turned it into a verse and didn't name any names.

There is something else I'm doing here too. Although we writers are discouraged from broadcasting our many rejections and failures, for me these are like a badge of honor, the road to eventual success, and referring to them this way is like a murmuring a shibboleth: reading this, other writers will instantly know I've trod the same roads they've trod. Maybe I am making a virtue of a necessity here (who knows if I will ever get a novel published, after all?), but it seems odd to keep quiet about what we do and how we do it when it is so extraordinary. Not the fact that we write or what we write, but the fact that we do it, get serially rejected, and go right back out there and do it again until somebody cracks and takes us on. This isn't whining, it's bragging.

So here you are, my fellow would-be published writers. This may make you smile. And if you're like me, you'll probably need it.

Perfect Submission

I sealed it in an envelope
--pristine, professional,
Times New Roman, SASE enclosed--
addressed to A.
A
read my work with interest but
did not accept the principal
and sent it back.

Through cyberspace it went to B
B
did not fall in love
(And yet her love I did not seek—
I yearned for mere acceptance)—still
I sent it out again, this time to C.
C
passed it all around, she said
and really liked the premise but
somehow it did not click.

So out it went again
to D, E, F, G, H.
I waited days—weeks—months to find
that it intrigued (but not so much);
the middle sagged, the plot confused.
I nipped and tucked and rearranged--
—-and off it went, pasted, attached—
to I, to J, to K – and they
were not compelled, and told me so
(in many different ways).

So, long and hard, I sized it up --
revised it till it fairly shone.
And tightened, trimmed, and beta-read,
my darlings lay cold in the ground
when out it went again, this time
to L and M
and N and O
and P and Q until—
—it made me dizzy and
they all read it with interest but
were sorry it was not for them;
they did not fall in love, they said
they felt no passion and
enjoyed it but
they did not feel that it was right
they could not use it and
were forced to pass because
it did not meet their needs
or fit their list
and they were not compelled;
regrettably it did not click
they liked the voice and yet
it did not match their visions.

Oh, I may never reach
perfect submission but
like moth to flame, with stubborn will
Again and yet again
I must submit—I will submit—
to R, S, T, U, V
until the very…
...Zzzzz

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31 comments:

Bish Denham said...

LOL! We must be secretly masochistic.

Mary said...

So true... so true.
Love it! :-)

P.S. Do you have X & Y's current mailing address? ;-)

Victoria Dixon said...

Thanks! That was fun.

Thanks also for the link on the Japanese Challenge. Since that's in line with my blog's focus, I'll link to it, too. ;D

Miss Footloose said...

Yes, oh yes. I'm in the process myself all over again now that I'm trying something new and my old publisher doesn't take what I want to write now.

I have even reached Zzzz but guess what, I just started over with another A, B,C . . .

After all, there are thousands of them and just remember Edison and the light bulb!

Blythe said...

I don't think you know how to whine, Mary. This is too funny.

Tabitha said...

LOVE it!! :)

I think you've captured the essence of submitting perfectly. :)

Robert the Skeptic said...

Your struggle is very similar to my experience of submitting my film to festivals, except that they all require an entrance fee of $75 and up.

Most never even bother to notify that your film was rejected, you find out by it not showing up on their web site. Occasionally you "might" get an e-mail rejection. One rejected my film because it was too long - but accepted two other documentaries that were the same length and longer.

Maybe you should end run around these publishers and publish the book yourself. There are a lot of resources out there now for authors to circumvent the establishment. Do you want to be a highly paid author or do you want your work to be read and appreciated? Don't let others deny your talent, Mary.

Andrea said...

Your poem captures the process exactly. I haven't made it through the alphabet yet, so I guess I'll have to keep submitting.

Mary Witzl said...

Bish -- Speak for yourself; I've just outed myself! :)

Mary -- I sure do. I've got a couple of Zs too, somewhere.

Thank you for commenting!

Victoria -- Are you also interested in Japan and Japanese literature? I keep meaning to post what I've read -- it can be anything -- haiku, manga, novel, etc. -- but I haven't done this yet. But I've got the goods.

Miss Footloose -- You're an established pro, aren't you, since you've already published so much? It's mind-boggling that you have to go through this all over again, but having done this before, you probably take it in you stride.

I've really only worked my way to P, but I'm betting I'll hit Z soon enough at the rate I'm going. Can't wait to hit my tungsten.

Blythe -- Ooh, you'll have to talk to my husband and kids -- they know otherwise! I'm (modest simper) a whining virtuoso. But thank you for that nice compliment!

Tabitha -- Thank you. I've got the routine down now, at least. So different from the days when I barely knew my ABCs.

Robert -- You have to pony up $75 and they don't even have the courtesy to tell you that you haven't won? Jeez. I could NEVER be a film producer; I'm too much of a cheapskate. Thanks to the internet, writers can now submit their work without having to shell out for paper and postage. I can't even begin to imagine what writers like William Golding must have gone through (he sent Lord of the Flies out to 20 publishers, the old-fashioned cost-you-a-ton-every-time way).

Most agents are really good about getting back to writers; some even tell us why they don't choose to accept our work. They know better than anyone else what will and won't sell, so it's about a lot more than personal preference. But of course, it still sucks.

Actually, I think I'm wearing down a couple of agents. Keep your fingers crossed one of them will crack.

Andrea -- Welcome to the club, and thank you for commenting here!

Some writers do manage to get around this process by being phenomenally lucky (and VERY good). Michael Morpurgo scored a hit almost immediately and there are others who've done this. There's always hope!

Victoria Dixon said...

Hi, Mary. Yes, I enjoy Japanese Literature (I noticed you also follow Thersa Maatsura) and I read even more Chinese literature than Japanese. My blog is oriented around Asian Books and Writers of Books with Asian settings. ;D

Victoria Dixon said...

By the way, I clicked on your Japanese Literature Challenge logo, but there doesn't seem to be an active link there?

Mary Witzl said...

Victoria -- Forgive my cluelessness -- when I pasted this in, I thought the link was there, but I've since learned otherwise. I keep meaning to get my daughter to show me how to do this, but inertia has kept me from doing the necessary.

Here's the link: http://dolcebellezza.blogspot.com/2008/07/japanese-literature-challenge-2.html

Victoria Dixon said...

Thanks, Mary! I contacted her about doing a new challenge. That one was a bit old. ;D

Charlie said...

How frustrating it must be for you, Mary, especially since all of your blog friends know you can write and write well.

And it's doubly frustrating when you read some of the pure crapola that is being published. Throw in a vampire and you'll be all set.

Sad, but you're the determined sort [cough], so we know you'll keep at it.

e said...

You've captured the process perfectly...Keep going...I did a book on spec for a YA publisher and then was able to get other things published, so don't give up.

I'm coming back to writing after a bit of time and hoping to do some different things. Best of luck to you.

Pat said...

Got the tee shirt:)
The last thing my agent said :
'Unless they are sure tha tthey can sell 100,000 copies they aren't interested. Sad sad sad!'
I've nearly finished my latest revised version and after writing an epilogue will tackle L and M and N and O.

Postman said...

I needed that.

The publishing process is, at times, even more daunting than the writing. It's got its own ups and downs and trials and heartbreaks and depressions. I guess the only thing is to keep plugging away, come what may (ad nauseam and zzzzs notwithstanding).

Jacqui said...

I love it.

AnneB said...

Me, I'm still waiting to hear from I, J, and L. BTW, I read in PW that K and N are starting their own agency repping Swedish manga only, and R is being sued six ways from Sunday for siphoning off considerably more than her 15% from the pass-through.

Kappa no He said...

This is perfect and true and every writer needs to read it. And, have you sent the poem out? I bet it would get snapped right up. Oh, the irony. ^ ~

Mary Witzl said...

Victoria -- When you do this, give me a nudge and I'll join you, if you like. I'll even get my daughter to SHOW me, once and for all, how to paste in a link (as opposed to grabbing the keyboard and doing it for me). Glad you found it!

Charlie -- It's not all the published crapola that really bums me out, it's the GREAT stuff that makes me see how far I have to go. But you can't stop writers from producing stellar work, oh no. When I read crappy stuff, I just marvel the authors had the guts to send it out, and the persistence to stick with it. Nowadays, I'm in awe of just about anybody who has published, good or bad.

Don't worry, I'll never do vampires. Or, for that matter, werewolves, dragons or fairies. But I do witches and talking turtles...

e -- Thank you! The fact that I get cool, published people cheering me on gives me a real boost. I can't imagine there are that many super polite people out there who are just trying to make me feel better.

Pat -- Gulp. One hundred thousand copies? That many? Was this a U.K. agent?

My target audience is young teenage misfits and nerds (and, fingers crossed, adult crossovers). I'm pretty sure they aren't in short supply, but one hundred thousand seems like a tall order.

Good luck with L, M, N and O!

Postman -- Keep on keeping on, that's my motto. One foot ahead of the other. (I've even got one of my characters repeating that like a mantra whenever times get hard.)

Writing isn't easy by any means, but it's definitely the easiest part of this whole business. Writing for a discerning audience, for people who know what sells and doesn't sell, with one eye on plot, character development, setting, etc., and the other on the ever-evolving zeitgeist, all while trying to produce something that is coherent and cohesive and compelling -- that's tough. But hang in there -- you've got a lot of comrades. And all that alphabet ahead of you!

Jacqui -- Thank you. You're published and polished -- you've been there and done that, haven't you?

AnneB -- Oh, tell me about it! All of that stuff we don't even know about, the sharks that look like dolphins, the goalposts you manage to squeeze through, miraculously, only to have them moved forward -- that is another matter and I can't even bear to think about it.

If I see you aiming for the rapids, I'll let you know. And I know you'll do the same for me!

Kappa -- Aw, thank you!

I have close to a whole chapbook of writer angst poetry; writing it is one of the little things I do to keep myself sane. A few years back, I did get one of these poems published in Flashquake, but others have not met with success. But I'll keep on churning it out whether I like it or not.

Falak said...

The best part about ypur posts are that I always get to learn a new word! This post was such an eye opener for am amateur writer like me. One day your work will surely get published:)

kara said...

and then...you read something like Twilight...which not only got PUBLISHED but became a CRAZE and it makes you want to punch something in the face, right? well it should. keep at it. if that fruitcake can get published, so can you!

(please note: not implying you are also a fruitcake)

Nora MacFarlane said...

That was fun! ...and I'm living it with you.

Robin said...

That was awesome!!! Why is there a weird conspiracy of silence about rejections? Of course writers get rejections! It's like a gymnast on the balance beam. If they never fall, that means they're not trying.

I find the lingo around agents and writers really amusing. Imagine a friend asking, "Do you like my dress?" and replying, "Nah. It doesn't do it for me."

I think you're da bomb, and I can't wait to read your first novel with a cup of tea and a bowl of Cheez Its.

Pat said...

She's American - from Ohio - but based in London.

Mary Witzl said...

Falak -- Thank you, my dear. The way things are going now, I'm not all that sure I'll get published. But I'm very sure I'll keep on trying.

Kara -- Whatever Stephenie Meyer is or isn't, her books are definitely a huge hit. And hits are respected in this business, so my hat's off to her. But I'm with you on the books -- they just don't do it for me. I've read Bram Stoker and I've read Anne Rice. After them, if I never read another vampire book it'll be too soon.

But I'll keep on striving, for sure!

Nora -- Thank you, my fellow pilgrim. We're all in this together and that really is some comfort.

Robin -- It's a little sad, isn't it? Just like dancers and gymnasts go around stretching and talking about their screw ups and callouses, we ought to be able to talk freely about our failures. And many of us do, but it's frowned upon. I think we should turn it into bragging: look at me, look at all these rejections I've accrued -- am I something or what?

Pat -- Ooh, she's not on my list! I'll have to look her up. (Just kidding, partly, but who knows? I may well end up querying her at some point; one day my own memoir should be ready to roll.)

MG Higgins said...

Thank you! You made me laugh (and cry). I get to about L or M and put my poor little manuscript (and bruised ego) away. Maybe I should keep sending. Your post is giving me courage.

Marcia said...

Going by your alphabet count, my first book took UU submissions to sell.

Mary Witzl said...

MG -- Just look at Marcia's post! I think we'd better brush off those manuscripts and send them out again. I'm in awe of everyone who has tried and tried again -- and made it.

Marcia -- Reading your comment made my day. There is so much about this business that is utterly dispiriting, but the kindness and good example of writers who have made it never fail to make me push back into the ring.

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