On Water a Coward: Submitting My Work Takes (Maybe) More Than I Have

Not that I love opening with a quote by Adolph Hitler: but then again, when the subject is something that makes you craven, it’s just as well I don’t admire the author either.

“On land I am a hero, but on water I am a coward.” And a good thing for all of us he was! But invading and conquering England would have been good, from Hitler’s point of view. Why is it that I can write at such a furious pace and craft a story with all my heart, but when it comes time to submit it my knees turn to… um water?

The deal, in brief, is this. One of those online submission contests has come up- and this time, THIS time of all times, they are looking for just exactly what I write. Adult-aged, epic fantasy/sword-and-sorcery/high fantasy stories. Not another vampire-loves-mortal-chick, not give-me-some-new-setting, not a crime-actually-does-pay morality. They just want stuff exactly like what the Lands of Hope is.

And I might not submit.

I mean I probably will, but right now I’m all-around chicken about it (which is pretty humiliating even if your last name doesn’t already mean “rooster” in German. Ask Kat.). I’m too chicken to send in the submission yet (I have until the end of the month) because of course, I’m afraid of being rejected again. I haven’t even sent a query letter because I’m sure I’ll mess that up. I’m even too scared to share the name of the site, because I’m terrified one of you will submit something (out of your pile of high fantasy reaching to the ceiling), fire it off in about seventeen seconds, and ace me out. Honestly, I’m a mess!

What happened? A week ago I was whacking away on another story, having already finished the tale I should submit to this contest around the start of the month. Dragons, demons, conspiracies, betrayals- everything that makes up the wave of Despair threatens my heroes daily, and I don’t so much as flinch. I am observing and taking notes steadily on all the action. I’ve become brave about my writing, I believe I have a need to do the job and I can feel solid ground under me when I do. But this news comes along and I’m wrecked: haven’t written a word in two days. My heroes only want a miracle or two, no problem- me, I need counseling.

For one thing, it’s too long. My story, Judgement’s Tale, is coming in almost twice as long as they asked for. But then again, this is EPIC fantasy, the ancestral home of too-long books (hence the qualifier ‘epic’, duh). So if anyone could overlook that… and what else is a query letter for, but to ask? I’ve sought a break-point in the tale for almost a year now, with no luck. I’ll look again, for sure. But it’s going to be too long. I could live with that.

But then too, they want the first fifteen pages. Which means they’ll read it. Why am I not singing for joy? When I cold-queried thirty-odd agents last year, I had no such assurance. And I’ve polished the whole thing repeatedly (almost constantly) since then. It’s SO much better than it was.

Why not submit it? Why do I even have to talk myself into this?

Because, of course- they could say “no”. And I can get all the rah-rah speeches from good friends and fellow-authors I want (I’ve already had some good ones, thanks). It doesn’t matter a straw in the wind. The judges can publish their Top Reasons for Rejection, and I can scour that and be ready. But a rejection is still the same. I put my heart into Judgement’s Tale. If it’s no good, I’m no good. I would never want to be separated from the depth and the pain of rejection, if the alternative is not to be the chronicler of this tale. Sheesh, maybe that counseling is a good idea after all.

Same for you? No big deal, just dust yourself off, etc? Or is it the depths of the “D” word for a week/month/-ever? I’ve enjoyed the last year very much, and I realize now it was largely because  I was self-publishing and therefor free from the angst of having to submit my work.I’ve enjoyed my time on “dry land”. But Judgement came to my world across an endless sea, and I need his strength now.

Maybe Christmas is the right time to put together a witty, hope-filled query, say a silent prayer for a miracle, and hit the “Send” button.

 

And I’ve decided I will. Soon.

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About Will

I'm the chronicler of the Lands of Hope tales, available at Smashwords and all the major online retailers.

Posted on December 14, 2011, in about writing, Authors - Will Hahn. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Write the query like you write Blog posts like this and they’ll be all over you. 😉

    In earnest, put your charm and wit into a query letter pretending you’re not writing it for an editor but for our little blog here. Tell your readers (me and the other followers of this blog) what Judgement’s Tale is about, add a couple of words about you and why you’re chronicling the story, and then don’t post it here but send it off (with a reading sample) instead.

    I know you put your heart into JT, and I am sure there are many, many people out there who will eagerly read it when/if you self-pub it. But letting this chance go by is really cowardly. What if they like it? What if they want a story just like this? And if they don’t, if they really say “it’s too long”, they’re not rejecting YOU as a person. In that case, you can still go ahead with the original plan of self-publishing. (Oh, and you can hunt them down and see what you can do with your halbert).

    Be brave, Will Rooster, I know you can do it. Braving the troubled water to try a different approach will make you stronger, no matter the outcome.

  2. So right, Cat, it just stuns me what an emotional wreck I become over querying and submitting. Hey, I sang the national anthem at Yankee Stadium! Pressure, crowds, no problem- but this is a different animal, you know? I’m already working on the submission so no worries.

    One interesting bit of feedback- I told the family last night what I was going to do and my daughter was stunned that it would take 4-6 MONTHS to hear back. She likes to write as well, and is completely dismayed that I will have to wait so long. Me too, to tell you the truth.

    • The best thing you can do is send it and forget about it. Do other things (like writing something new etc) and get on with life. The answer will come when it comes. no sooner, no later.

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