Friday, January 21, 2011

My New Happy Place

            Before I get into my next post, I should say that I have spent the last four days deliberating whether or not I should remove my last post, “Jealous Much?”  That’s not to say that I don’t still hold that opinion, because I do, but I question my own wisdom at having posted such blatant animosity in such a public forum.  Not that I believe that there are too many folks reading my blog, but I’m averaging about ninety a month or 3 a day.  Not too shabby for a complete unknown.  What worries me most are the literary agents who might poke their head in to take a look after they’ve received my query.  So why don’t I remove that post?  Well, I guess that’s because that post shows a part of who I am.  Happily, that is not a part I show very often, but it is there nonetheless, so the post remains, however shameful I now find it.  Now…getting down to business…
            I have spent the last week preparing query letters to be sent off beginning February 1st.  I am selecting those prime agents I most admire for whatever reason and writing queries tailored especially for each one.  I’m happy most of them accept email queries.  A few still do it the old fashion way so I find myself visiting print shops where I have my query, synopsis and sample chapters printed then stuffing large envelopes with my treasure and a self-addressed stamped envelope for their reply, hoping and praying that they actually will reply.  Emailing queries is easier, of course.  All I have to do is make copies of the files and queue them up to copy and paste into the email.  I’ve even found a few who actually want attachments which is a big surprise as most just want everything in the body of the email.  Sometimes they want fifty pages of my manuscript in the body of the email.  Boy, let me tell you, that’s one long email! 
            And that brings me to a problem I’ve been struggling with lately:  retaining proper formatting within the body of the email.  Every writer knows how utterly important proper formatting is, including me.  So I prepared a sample query, complete with copied and pasted chapters and synopsis, and sent it to myself to see what the email looked like when I opened it.  Boy, was I surprised by how messed up the formatting appeared.  Wonky, Anne Mini called it.  (She promised me she would address this issue in a forthcoming formatting blog next week.  Thank you, Anne!)  There were huge gaps between the paragraphs and the font, which I purposely set to 12-point Times New Roman, the industry standard, reset itself back to Tahoma 10 point. 
Well, I was aghast.  I certainly do not want the agents I query to think I don’t know what the hell I’m doing.  They likely won’t even look at my query, let alone my chapters or request a partial or full manuscript to read if they believe I’m not versed in industry standards.  I tried everything I could think of, but in the end, I discovered that the problem lies within the programming at Hotmail, Microsoft’s email service.  So what’s a writer to do?  Dump Hotmail, that’s what!  So now I have a Google Gmail account that I will use to send all queries.  When I tested it and sent an email to myself at both my Hotmail and Gmail accounts, the Hotmail email was distorted while the Gmail was not.  So Gmail it is!  Problem solved.  Unless my recipient agent uses Hotmail…yikes!
But I’ve been wringing my hands for other reasons, as well this week.  For three weeks, actually.  The whole reason I’m querying is because I believe my manuscript is ready, that it is as highly polished as it can be without feedback from a professional within the publishing industry.  I sent out my first query on December 28th.  It was a referral from an agented writer friend, the very talented Lisa Regan.  Her agent received my query and requested a full (because Lisa said she loved it and her agent trusts her), which I happily obliged her with. 
Unfortunately, when I started reading through a PDF version of my manuscript, I found a few errors.  Nothing too major, one misspelling, an errant quote mark, a missing word.  Not too big of a deal, but enough that I became worried.  What’s worse is that I was always in conflict about my Jillian chapters, those three chapters (6-8) written in Jillian’s voice.  I was never satisfied with them, but since I couldn’t figure out how to fix them, I just accepted that they were okay and I moved along.  It wasn’t until I sent off my manuscript to Lisa’s agent that my stomach started doing back flips over the issue.  How could I have sent it to her when those chapters were not ready?  I’m such an idiot, but there’s no going back now.
Since then, I’ve worked with Lisa to make those three Jillian chapters sing.  They say exactly what I want them to, exactly how I want them to say it.  For the first time since completing my manuscript, I am happy.  Totally, thoroughly, 100% satisfied.  I’ve read it through one more time and cannot find anything that I would change.  But my greatest chance at landing an agent, one to whom I’ve been referred, the most common method agents use to find talent, has been tarnished.  I’m not saying blown at this point because she said she wouldn’t get back to me until February, unless she just didn’t like it, then it would be sooner.  Well, it’s January 21st and I still haven’t heard from her so I think that’s a good sign, at this point anyway.  That is, if she’s even started reading it.  And what if she hasn’t?  God, if I could only get my final version to her.  But it’s a moot point, I’m afraid.  It is done. 
Lisa reassures me that she should have the ability to look past all that and I hope she does, that she would at least give me the opportunity to show her my revisions, but I know, above all else, that this is a lesson learned.  Don’t ever send out your manuscript until you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that it is ready.  You don’t want to have those feelings of regret or lose that golden opportunity that awaits you.  This process is hard enough without sabotaging yourself.
Having said all that, I am, at the very least, happy …with my book, that is.  I’ve found another happy place, my first being behind the wheel of my sporty little convertible with the top down on a warm, sunny Puget Sound day.  This is a great place to be—my new happy place.  I am ready to start querying in earnest without worrying that I messed up. 
I love my new happy place.  

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