Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Submission and Opening Pandora's Box

As many of you know, I finally got the guts up to mail off a couple of my short stories for publication. Yesterday, I mailed it off.

I was going to mail them off on Saturday, but we wound up not going to town until the post office had already closed. Since the mail didn't run on Sundays I had to wait until Monday to mail them off. In the mean time, I started researching magazines, because one of the first things I realized was you can't sell a short story if you don't know what market to send it to.

I found some that were perfect, but then I decided I needed to go through one last time and make sure everything was square. Since it was for real this time, since it was for all the bannanas, I wanted to make sure that I had caught all the grammer mistakes, that I had fixed all the parts where the writing was weak, blah blah. What I didn't realize was that, by examining the stories for just a moment, I opened Pandora's box.

I saw one thing that didn't work. No, two. No, three. Now, four. Five? Six? What were they, multiplying? At one point I was so delirious that I swear, when I looked at the page, I saw the words fornicating and creating more and more errors and mistakes.

In horror, I set out with my trusty pen and began hacking and slashing, fixing errors and repairing typos, changing parts of the story that didn't seem to work, or fleshing out areas that needed more fleshing. I must have cost us a small fortune in paper and ink, and I'm sure everyone in my family read them five times, if not more. I apologized to my mom over and over and over again about all the trouble I was putting everyone through. Bless my mom's heart, by the end of the evening, she was probably more frazzled about the mailing than I was.

Finally, I got the last draft done, a few errors had to be fixed but nothing major. Then I stressed on printing out address labels, making sure the addresses were perfect and the right SASE (Self-Addressed, Stamped Envelope to those of you who -- like I did -- have no clue what a "SASE" is) with the right manuscript envelope, and finally, I crashed into bed at one in the morning, exhausted from stressing so much.

The next morning, I woke up at around 7:30 -- the usual time for me on the weekdays -- but by 10:00 I was already exhausted. I had hardly slept the night before; I was still worrying about the manuscripts. So I decided to take a nap. At noon I woke up in horror, my heart pounding, because I realized a few pages from one of my manuscripts still had writing on them from errors I had to fix, and I hadn't printed out the new pages to replace them. I flew to my laptop and, in a frenzy, I fussed with it until every page was perfect.

Then, I had another problem. Paperclips! I needed paperclips! Everyone knows you can't mail off a manuscript without paperclips!!! So then I had to search the house for paperclips. We were out! So I called my mom and had to have my brother pick up paperclips from her work so that I could mail them off.

So then, I finally had to go to the post office. The last time I went, I had made a simple mistake -- I thought I had grabbed all the money in my pocket to buy stamps, but I had forgotten a nickel, so then the old, bald man behind the desk had to look at me like I was an idiot and tapped his fingers impatiently after saying, "If you don't have more than that you're not getting any," while I searched for the missing, elusive nickel.

With that event still fresh in my mind, I felt my chest tighten. I didn't know what to buy or what stamps or how many I'd need. What if I messed up? What if I didn't get enough postage and then they got sent back, and then I'd have to wait even longer for a resonse. What if there was a line at the post office and, after running out of patience with my doddering around with my little stories, they rioted and sacrificed me on a table made of postage stamps and Express Mail boxes.

My heart pounded as I approached the desk. I cleared my throat and said, in a pitifully soft voice, "Ma'am, I'm here to mail these. I'll need a lot of stamps."

She smiled at me sweetly and looked at the envelopes. Then, she helped me buy giving me four stamps for the SASE, a book of stamps for home (because we were out) and then weighing and putting the proper stamps and their proper number on each package.

When I finally paid and left, my hands were cold, clammy, and shaky. I had done it. I had finally done it. I mailed off my stories, I submitted a manuscript...something I'd heard on author's blogs and biographies all my life, but never actually thought I'd do.

I drove in a daze, not really taking in anything that I saw as I drove. I got home and collapsed onto the couch.

A short story is only a fragment of what a novel would be. Just the thought of making sure every page of the novel was mistake-free makes me break out in cold chills. Not to mention, all this horror, all the ink and effort and stress and strain, and I still won't hear from them for months, and when I do, it may not (probably won't) be a "yes."

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go dig my stuffed tiger "Hobbes" from my closet, fix myself a cup of hot cocoa, and curl up underneath my bed covers and hide from the Big Scary World.


Jean said...

Way to go, Jason! I'm with you on hiding under the covers, but at least you're doing it after sending off the submissions. You've earned it.

Jason said...

Thanks, Jean. Now I just need to have patients. It's not going easy. I just sent them off, but I already checked the mail box fifty times today waiting for the mail to come in, ha ha.

Jaye Patrick said...

Well done, Jason. Hopefully, your patience will be rewarded.

Barrie said...

You should be proud of yourself, Jason. The post office thing is very tough. Sending those babies out into the world. But you did it!

Jason said...

Thanks guys. My family seems pretty confident. I'm glad they are. :D

PJ Hoover said...

Way to "Feel the fear and do it anyway"!
So what's next?

Jason said...

Ha, next? More writing. Whatever I can write. Mostly short stories I think, but I'm gonna keep submitting and stuff. I'll consider it practice for when I start trying to write a novel and actually submit it. :D