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.

14 thoughts on “Sloppy!

  1. oops! Do you have your own personal ‘pre-sendout’ proofreader? Is that a done thing? Is that a wise thing? How is a duck?

  2. I do have people who read many of my things before I send them, but this was a case where I’d run it by some people, then went back and made a few last-minute changes. It was in the areas I had moved things around that the problems cropped up. I just needed to step back and let the thing sit for a few days. The lead time at these magazines is months – what’s the hurry?

  3. A week is okay for typos & stuff, but six months is better for the deep structure of the piece

    some of my 10 year old sutff can be a revelation, did I really write that? me? Its not bad at all!

  4. There’s a reason I have a link to Scary Squirrel World on my site.

    A six-month waiting period would be nice, but by then I will have forgotten that I wrote the story at all.

  5. I have heard a rumor that comment 5000 was mine! I take claim to the stakes, even though I am in France with some serious snowboarding injuries I am ready to claim what is mine! But not till Sunday when I am home, and have a chance to recover and convalesce. I should have some good ideas for stories by then…

  6. As I said before, had you been paying attention *ahem*, you and Bob get to duke it out for who gets which prize. Though if nothing happens soon I will go ahead with Bob’s story setup. It’s certainly more practical for me to buy you a beer.

  7. Where is this “Bob” character? He’s that tree killer, yeah? Some highland games to decide the winner?

  8. Hi pL,

    Given your pinky fracture, I’m not sure the highland games would be a fair competition. Along those lines, given your comment deficit disorder, you might considered getting a Cat Scan, too.

    The simplest thing would be to cheerfully accept the beer from Jer and collaborate on the rebuttal, er, resolution of my story set up.

    On the off chance that you don’t want to do things the easy way, perhaps you could write a set up and Jer could run a poll to see which one he should finish off.

  9. He’s probably changing careers again (it is spring, after all).

    Hey Bob, whay do you know of inelastic supply problems for your stove’s fuel pellets? My Dad says there’s a pellet shortage in Durango. Everybody bought into the “pellets are cheaper than natural gas or wood” subterfuge, only to discover natural gas and wood are still more plentiful. Dad says every time the lil’ old Ford half ton rumbles into town from Spokane with the month’s supply of pellets, it gets cleaned out immediately. Sounds like Hearthstone has masterfully executed on the Gillette strategy of “give away the razor, sell the blades dearly.”

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