Seriously Teenie Tiny Short Stories
Manuscript polished and complete? -- check
Beta readers thrilled? -- check
Have your query and synopsis tuned and ready to rock? -- "Honey? What are all these charges on the Visa card?"
That's what I heard yesterday. In my effort to keep the embarrassment to the family name in check, I'd enrolled in a couple of query and synopsis courses through Writers Digest. You can buy all of the books you want on these subjects but nothing beats a good old fashioned spanking from industry agents like submitting your tortured query and synopsis for review. For the agents, it's probably like when I read my third-grade son's cute paragraph on what he did over the weekend. So, how in Hades do I condense the description of my full-length novel into roughly six sentences, not to mention the whole ONE page synopsis (how generous)? I imagine an illuminati-associated secret society whose sole purpose is to come up with ways to rip the souls of debut authors right out of their chests.
I had to think of this in terms I could better understand. In my world, I'd liken that interaction to a gaggle of first year med students huddled around an X-ray. What the attending likely hears is "cool picture!", or "is that white stuff bones?" when what the seasoned physician really wants is a young hand to come up in the back row and hear, "looks like the patient has left ventricular hypertrophy. I'd recommend a cardiology consult."
So, how could I be that kid in the back row short of hiring a ghost writer? I did all the things a good student could: I took notes from class, I read the blogs of industry illuminaries (if only I could do a cut and paste of knowledge from Chuck Sambuchino), studied the back covers of my favorite books and authors and spent more time writing single sentences than I did entire chapters of my manuscript. After all of that, I finally had my submission materials. My index finger must have hovered over the send button for twenty minutes, beads of sweat forming over my face. Dude, you're not trying to figure out what meds might save a patient's life. It's just a class, I thought. No, not just a class. It's an opportunity. I'm keenly aware that every time I interact with industry pros, even the ones that I pay, it's me and my baby looking to put our best foot forward, to be noticed if for no other reason than there's potential in this guy and those 83,347 words strung together. My type A, ultra-competitive nature is both a blessing and a curse. I die a thousand deaths every time I send something off to be critiqued; not because I'm afraid of failure or rejection, but because I fear there was an opportunity there, in that moment, and I might not have done absolutely everything in my power to seize it. If age is supposed to mellow you, then I'm the Bell Curve outlier.
So, now I wait. The agents running the classes go back to their three-hundred daily emails, meetings, sales pitches, conferences and somehow find the time to read through all of my material. Thankfully, for both of us, I'm not sitting in a chair in their office leaning so far forward that I threaten to break off a portion of their desktop with my forehead. And when that critique finally appears in my email, my finger trembling above the mouse button, I'll breakout into a cold sweat wondering if I seized that tiny moment.