Flubs are not Fatal

Approximately 650 Christian writers have just returned from the ACFW conference in St. Louis. Some are celebrating agent/editor requests for manuscripts and are on an emotional high at the apex of the roller coaster we call the writing life.

Others may be feeling like they just slid over the edge and are plummeting down the steep hill into an abysmal, dark cavern. This feeling may be perpetuated by some flub on your part and you’re wondering if you and your career will recover.

Whatever fatal flaw you may be experiencing emotional distress over; it will likely not end your writing career. Unless you actually murdered someone… well, that might cause the ultimate demise of your writing dream through traditional publishing at least.

I’m here to share two “golden lessons”. Flubs are not fatal and the world of publishing is comprised of a small group of editors and agents.

My goal at one of my first writer’s conferences was to do several paid critiques. This was at a smaller, local gathering and I was just dipping my toes into the pool like a first time swimmer. I asked the conference director what I should submit. I still think he said “your best three chapters.”

I should have submitted my first three chapters.

Now, by the time I met with this particular agent over that critique, I had realized my mistake and apologized profusely. Surely, there was no saving my reputation.

It gets better.

Three years later I had an appointment with that same editor. I had polished the manuscript in those many months and felt confident that I had something worthy for her to consider. Just before our appointment, I attended her talk on writing edgy fiction and she made a point to say, “I really dislike when writers use rape as a plot device. Can’t you come up with something better?” My stomach twisted into a glorious mariner’s knot.

That’s right, my manuscript was about a serial rapist and our appointment was minutes after that talk.

I still went.

How do you handle these situations? Here are some of my suggestions.

  • Confess your mistake. Editors and agents are human just as we are and have probably made a few flubs themselves. Be open and honest about the mistake and move on.
  • Learn from your mistake. Don’t do the same thing twice. It’s not the fact that you made a mistake but your ability to fix and learn from it that is the mark of a professional.
  • Stay positive. If you think the agent/editor flubbed and it affected you negatively, don’t disparage them on social media. That same editor I met with twice is still working as an editor and was at the conference sitting one table away from me at the banquet. That would likely be a career ender.
  • Laugh about it. The writing life is hard enough. Self deprecating humor goes a long way in helping keep you sane.

Despite these gross errors in my writing journey, I still managed to acquire an agent and a publishing contract. And yes, it was that same novel.

What “fatal” flub have you had and how did you handle it?

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