You pour blood, sweat, tears, and whatever else your life exudes for months on end, into your manuscript. If it survives, it’ll be your first published novel.
You’ve edited. You’ve polished. You’ve re-re-re-polished. Finally, finally, you’re ready to begin the submission process. (Although the polishing will never stop; you’ll be prodding and poking at it with relentless obsession until either success or defeat pry you away from the keyboard and slam you against the wall.)
Every writer who’s walked the walk of submission knows the tortured steps.
First, the dreaded query letter looms. You must distill your story down to a couple hundred words, turning it into a literary sphincter that grips the reader with strength and persistence, forcing him to cry out for the release of knowing more. You must also hit just the right balance of confidence and supplication. You’re luring, baiting, enticing. And then gripping! Gripping HARD!
Everything must be targeted. Your manuscript must fit a genre, and you better know which one it is. The agent you choose to entreat must be a proponent of said genre, and you better know his background, too.
Many potential agents require a synopsis. Think of it as a query on steroids. Longer. Bigger. But it must retain that sphincter-like quality that sucks the reader in. It must be emotional and immediate, demanding a right to exist.
Many publishers also require you have a website; someplace where they can browse your personality, your ‘voice,’ to greater depth. Or maybe they just want a good laugh while eating a tuna sandwich at their desk, about who’s out there banging on their door.
All of this is well and good for the most part. It puts you through your paces, forcing you to see your work from different angles. Sometimes it leads to a moment of revelation, resulting in a great, big, fat rewrite. Sometimes it just makes you calm down enough to abandon the idea of grabbing agents by the lapels and shaking them because they don’t see what a terrific find you are.
But the part of submission that hits me like a sea-change, is the attitude adjustment.
All this time you’ve been The Creator. The Sole Authority. The one gifted with divine inspiration to tell your story as no other can.
And now, with the click of a key and the flip of a switch…you’re a beggar. A supplicant.
And you realize that submission isn’t only the act of presenting your work. It’s the act of bending your knee and bowing your head and hoping someone will hear the squeak of your voice that was once a roar as it crafted words into marvels of imagination.
This is submission. Expose your belly.
Welcome to Hell.