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And off sail my ships

So yesterday I finally got all my ships afloat.  Funny that I think of them that way:  what they really were was three electronic submissions and one gone by snail mail.  All were requests — well, three of them were straightforward requests from the WisRWA conference I went to in Green Bay, Wisconsin, and National in Washington.   The fourth was to an agent who’d had a full after last year’s National conference in San Francisco and although he rejected it (on grounds of not enough tension to sustain the book — I guess that’s my Achilles heel as a former nonfiction writer, where tension wasn’t a problem) he said he’d like to see whatever I did next.  So I figured as long as I was sending stuff out . . .

I do think of them as ships, for some reason.  Always have.  Haven’t been very good about launching a fleet recently, until the summer conferences came about.  Maybe it’s just that I feel more comfortable to send manuscripts off to people I’ve met, who expressed some interest, however vague.  And I know that the editors and agents who graciously take pitch sessions at conferences are hoping to find something brilliant, but are braced to get stuff they’re really not interested in, or material that’s just plain badly written.  When I send off my hopeful little ships, I wonder which category they’ll fall in.  Of course, I’m convinced they’re brilliant at the time I launch them, but when I look at some of the ships I’ve launched I shake my head.  My first magnificent work of fiction, for one.  That I think will remain a bottom drawer special for some time, and justifiably so.

The problem is learning to launch the ships and then forget about them.  It’s a terrible temptation to follow them in my mind’s eye, squirming uneasily when I imagine them stacked on a pile of other requests, wondering in what kind of mood the agent/editor will be in when they finally pick them up.  Worrying, of course, does nothing to improve their chances, nor does it help me get on with anything else.  They’re on their way;  I’ve seen them disappear over the horizon.  Now to get down to work.

At least that’s the plan.  The sensible plan.  Is anyone else bedeviled by the inability to let go?  Am I the only one to have to discipline myself not to go on thinking about a story, but to move resolutely on to the next one?  Of course if everything works out as it should, the next one will absorb all my time and attention, and when the replies (and the odds are they’ll be rejections) roll in, I’ll remember absently, “Oh yes, that’s right.  Too bad.”  

Hah.  Not likely.  My manuscripts are my children, and I remember them all.  I just have to let them leave, the way I submitted to the reality that my children grew up.  Teach myself to think about something else.  Maybe, if I do,  this time one of the ships will come back home under full sail, with an offer attached!

Well, I can hope.

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6 Responses

  1. Ships! – That’s a clever way to think of them. Will they strike gold or ivory …or end up on the bottom of the sea?

    And I guess writing is a lot like ship building too.

    Great analogy – I can see your workshop title now : Setting sail with Captain Beppie!

  2. Funny Amy! Isn’t it odd? From the time I started to write fiction I just thought of them that way. With nonfiction it was SO much easier — I didn’t start seriously writing until I had an advance and contract in hand. Those were the days. I really doubt that even nonfiction works like that now, unless of course you’re Sarah Palin or an ex-president.

  3. I sent off a bunch of submissions last week. The first day, I must’ve checked my email every 20 minutes – even though I KNOW there wouldn’t be a reply that soon. Took me a full week to relax into the waiting. Good luck trying not to think about it!

  4. Yeah, Christi, that’s the problem, isn’t it? All a matter of mental discipline, I’m sure — not something I’m brilliant at. I stare out the window when I should be writing, I’m thinking about a plotting problem when I should be paying attention in a meeting, I’m remembering some fun scene I’ve just read when someone is telling me a long boring story. So I guess worrying about my ships is part of the same mental quirk!

  5. the submission never was a fear in me. the waiting is what always got to me, but I’m getting better. I’ve got a full that’s been on submission for 1week, 6days, 9hours, 31minutes and 4seconds….5secs…6secs…

    see? better! I’m not even paranoid yet. too early to get antsy or worried that it will disappear into the land of the lost.

  6. Well. I guess it’s encouraging that I’m not the only one following my little ships mentally. All good wishes to yours, Keri. May it come back home in triumph!

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