In an earlier episode I said:
On the subject of getting published, I had a letter waiting for me when I got home last night. It was a slip from a large paying magazine, rejecting a story. The note was brief and said (in only slightly friendlier language) “We rejected you story either because it was stale, sloppy, or (most likely) it just plain sucked. Or there might have been another reason.” Obviously in my case it couldn’t possibly have been any of the three stated cases – I suspect it was just too long for a first-timer.
Yeah, too long, that’s the ticket.
Well, maybe it was too long, but I’ve been going back over it and it was also sloppy. Before I submitted it I read over the thing God-only-knows how many times, and then tonight I decided to go and tighten it up a bit before submitting it to the next place, and what did I find? Errors. Phrases repeated three paragraphs later, ambiguous pronouns, even a friggin’ spelling error. Advice to writers: Do not edit a piece and then submit it. Edit it, wait a week at least, read it over carefully, then submit it. Right after you edit, you already know what each paragraph says, so you don’t read it as carefully as you should. You need time to forget what you wrote.
I do, at least. Dang, that was embarrassing. The editor of that magazine is also an agent; I decided to give her time to forget about me before I send her a query.
Edited to add: It seems I had broken my spelling checker. Running experimental software may ultimately be the cause, but until I rebooted I had to check with British English – my American spelling list would accept anything. I try not to depend on those things anyway, but sure enough, I should have sat on my new super-short synopsis a bit longer before sending it out. (Sent before I discovered the errors in Old Town or I might have been more cautious.) We’ll see what happens.
The lesson is patience. I’ve been working on the novel for years now, and I couldn’t wait one more damn day to send off the queries. Part of it is that I set a goal for the day: hit up agents. I let little things stop me sometimes, so yesterday I was determined not to let that happen. I should have. The mistake was in setting up the expectation that I could produce the exact materials that each query required in a single sitting. (I now have 3, 5, and 20-page synopses, and the next agent will want a different size. More on that next episode.) I was going to send out a pair of queries today, but I’ll wait until my even newer 5-page synopsis has time to mellow.