Part 3: Constructive Criticism, a Great Critiquer and an Obscure Law in Montana
So, naive me. I typed “The End” on It’s You, spent the next day perfecting a synopsis and sent my queries to about 12 agents. Interestingly enough? I did get a request for a “partial” which means that one agent liked the idea enough to want to read some of it. I sent her 50 pages with fingers crossed (spoiler alert: it never went anywhere.) Meanwhile, the rejections started pouring in. Here are some of the actual responses:
“Thank you for your query. Unfortunately, your material is not right for the agents at our company.”
“Thank you so much for querying us with your project. Unfortunately, we did not feel it was the right fit for our agency. ”
“Thank you so much for querying me and giving me the opportunity to consider your material. I’m afraid, though, that after reading your letter, I just didn’t feel strongly enough to ask for more.”
“Thank you for your letter. From your description, I don’t believe I’d be the right agent for this project. I’m sorry to have to pass on the opportunity to read your work.”
(Note: This one’s different. Remember it.) “I think it still needs some work. There are plenty who have classes which really make a difference. Also, a great site for fiction basics is Suzanne Hartmann’s Write This Way Blog. Awesome material.”
So, yeah. A bucketful of rejection. Every day another, until I had eleven. Ouch. It hurt. I won’t lie. It hurt a lot. But, you see that last one? The one about Suzanne Hartmann? Well, at this point I wasn’t above a little help, and so I checked out Suzanne’s Blog.
Game Changer, folks.
Suzanne offers a critique service for a modest price (aspiring authors, I URGE you to make use of it.) I submitted It’s You to her on September 8th. I got her response several weeks later. She was kind and encouraging, but my manuscript was COVERED in red like something had died nearby. I promptly burst into tears and considered chucking the whole thing in the fireplace. But, then I came to my senses and realized what a GOLDMINE I had just been given. I had no idea I was doing so many things wrong!!! She counted 18 different mistakes I was making: POV (point of view), using “that” too often, overuse of participle phrases, mis-use of semi-colons, commas and m-dashes. The list was LONG. But, folks? For two weeks I STUDIED IT like a textbook. I tested myself on it every night before bed. I committed it all to memory and vowed I wouldn’t ever make that many mistakes again.
However, I couldn’t bear to look at the manuscript which felt like such a tattered, broken thing. Too much wrong with it to fix. I put the story in a binder with Suzanne’s critique and shelved It’s You. (But, don’t forget about it…I’ll come back to it later!)
Meanwhile, I found out the deadline was coming up for the Annual Writer’s Digest competition and I wanted to enter. It’s You was a mess. I’d have to write something else. It was a 4,000 word limit (about 25-30 pages) and I decided to figure out a great meet-cute and write a great short story. (Still smarting from so much rejection, I decided to forget novel writing for a while.) I was meeting some friends to celebrate my birthday at 8:00pm, and I was ready at 7:00pm. So, I sat down with my husband’s iPad and hit wikipedia for strange marriage customs trying to find a topic that was both interesting and untapped. Arranged Marriage. Hmm. Oooh. Proxy Marriage. Fascinating. Wait! What’s this?! An obscure law that allows Double Proxy Marriage in Montana? Say what? I spent 40-minutes pouring over this law and when I left for dinner?
YOU GUESSED IT!
I had my meet-cute for my short story that I intended to call “By Proxy.” Only…things didn’t exactly go as planned…
(Tune in for Part 4 tomorrow!)