GUEST POST: On the verge of a first manuscript submission

Some thoughts from client R.L. Saunders…RL Saunders

My first presentable manuscript is going out on submission very soon. Finally. I’m telling you, my agent is so damn picky. It’s almost like she doesn’t want to send out manuscripts until she feels they’ll sell.

I hope this isn’t the end, of course. But just getting to this point feels like something. So, between anxiety-related physiological reactions, some unspeakable, I’m feeling really reflective about the whole weird journey that got us to this point.

What’s funny is that some parts of what I’m feeling, like the nervous waves of nausea, are basically the same as when I began querying. I checked my email every hour. Still do. I can’t stop. The habit will be further reinforced while I’m waiting for news about subs. (And those of you who have been there, or are there now, know that’s a fat lie. It’s more like every 45 seconds.)

There was a period during which I checked my inbox all through the night. Because prospective agents probably pull all-nighters reading enthralling queries, and will want to request fulls at 3 a.m. I know we live in the same time zone, but maybe she’s travelling, and she’s reading and responding to queries right now. No email at 3 a.m.? Time to check twitter, real quick, to see if she tweeted anything about international travel this week. Shit, nothing. I’ll give it some time. Like until 3:15.

As a premature querier, this went on for a long time. I had a story with decent voice but no real plot to speak of. Do you like the sound of my voice, prospective agent? ME, TOO! Here are tens of thousands of words of my ultra captivating voice for your reading pleasure! Prospective agent say what? Readers like some kind of narrative arc to follow?  Something to compel them to finish the page and possibly even turn it? FINE.

I’d always been a reader, but I started reading more through writer eyes. I paid closer attention to the stuff that made me pay attention, you know? I shaped up my manuscript some more, queried some more (still too soon) and found The One I wanted to work with!

Just two small problems, though. One, she wasn’t an agent yet. Two, she didn’t love my manuscript yet. Details.

Very, very long story short (oh my god, it’s such a long story that includes scrapping the first MS and a lot of twitter stalking), here we are, sending my baby out into the world. Maybe he’ll get slapped around a little before the right person finds him, and that might be good for him. But I know he’ll make it somewhere, someday. He’ll be okay and so will I. I have to believe that.

And if there’s one thing I’ve learned through this process, it’s that nothing’s ever for nothing. All I’ve done, including the moronic stuff—oh so much moronic stuff—has brought me to the place that’s right for me, at the time that’s right for me to be here.  Does that make any sense?

Several years ago, R.L. Saunders  quit her job as an English teacher, sold her house, dropped out of her Ph.D. program, and moved to an island. In Key West, she spent a couple of years teaching, then had a boatload of fun as associate editor and columnist for an island newspaper. Now she writes full-time under a palm tree, sipping rum from a coconut. Living real life in the middle of everybody else’s vacation is a constant challenge.


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21 responses to “GUEST POST: On the verge of a first manuscript submission

  1. “As a premature querier…” Ha! Amazing! Oh R.L., you are a legend in my eyes.

  2. Excited for you to send your baby out into the world. Fingers crossed for you and Linda!! -Your Friend in Compulsive Email Checking

  3. I envision our manuscripts as tiny soldiers ready to do battle with the monsters of rejection as they make their way to the Golden City of Publication. Thanks to Linda, though, those manuscripts are wearing well-tooled suits of armor in the shape of perfect story arcs and eloquent prose.

    Hmmm…was that overwritten? 😉

  4. Lesley C

    I live on the other side of the world so I literally do get those 3 am emails. (For some reason, agents seem very fond of replying between 2 am – 4 am) The downside is that if it’s rejection, it kinda ruins your sleep for the rest of the night so I kinda envy that you have an agent in your own time zone. All the best on the sub!

  5. I think you need to send your baby out with a spear gun. (Nobody’ll get that except Facebook pals.)

    Seriously, Ms. Rum-slurping-outta-coconut Saunders, I have great faith in you. You’ve got the voice, and if that picky agent has really spanked, I mean massaged, that ms. into shape, I’m betting my cabana you’ll have a sale soon. Just remember to get in a stock of rum, line up the coconuts, and–forget e-mail–attach phone to ear!

  6. Bill trudell

    Life is funny, kind of a journey an adventure.

  7. I LOVED reading this and being able to relate to those 3 a.m. email checks; to the air of anxiety, tension and anticipation. 45 seconds? You’re a rock. I might have been at 30-second checks after querying Linda and after an initial round of revisions. M-E, I get that same feeling every time I see Linda’s name in my email…butterflies. Good butterflies. I wake up and think, “Wow, I am represented. I am represented by Linda Epstein!” It’s a big door to have stepped through and I am looking forward to when my novel is ready to go out like yours, R.L. We’re in great hands. Like you said, Linda is “so damn picky.” She won’t let our work go out until she is confident it has clean underwear on and its hair is parted correctly. What a wonderful place to be in, R.L., and I am excited for you!

    • Thanks, Joe! Know what I love about Linda? She makes sure we’re clean and fed and well-rested, but lets us wear mismatched socks to school if it’s what’s in our hearts that day.

  8. We’ve had eerily similar paths, you know that? I’m a few hairs behind you now, still working hard to get my ms presentable. But as for sheer longwindedness I’m confident I’ve got EVERYBODY beat.

  9. Good luck, R.L.! As Linda just said to me yesterday re: a negotiation, get ready to “hurry up and wait!” I have been amazed in my now 8 years in this business (I landed my first agent in 2005) how much waiting is involved, and just how patient one has to be. The key is to stay busy while waiting working on the next manuscript. I say this even though I don’t always do it, because it’s so true. I can drive myself crazy waiting.

    Sometimes answers come quicker than you can even imagine. More frequently, though, things you expect to take days take weeks, and things you expect to take weeks take months.

    Regardless, I would not trade one second of this crazy career for anything else in the world. All it takes is one “Yes,” and all the “No” answers disappear. The world changes. It’s breathtaking.

    Good luck!

  10. This is simply beautiful.
    Ah, our babies going out into the world to get slapped around. Mine’s slightly bruised, but I like it. I’m kind of Fight Club about my work anyway. I’m kicking the crap out of it right now.

    I get excited every single time I get an email with the name Linda Epstein in it. I conditioned myself to unleash the butterflies whenever I saw that name, hoping it was an email asking for The Call. Now I still get all giddy. Querying has marked me!

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