A few weeks ago, I spent an unplanned evening with my husband and kids (even the one away at college!) watching a movie. A chill-out night was just what we all needed. We snuggled under blankets, lit some candles, ate some snacks, and watched a movie we had seen more times than we can count—one of our favorites, National Treasure.
After a busy few months of sports and work and school and stuff, it was a fantastic night full of laughs and reconnecting. One of the scenes in the movie is shot in the United State Library of Congress, and of course my sixteen year-old son had to take the opportunity to remind me of one of my most cringe-worthy writing mistakes ever.
“Hey Mom, didn’t you send your first book to the Library Of Congress?”
“Yeah,” my daughter chimed in. “Didn’t you get it copy-written or something?”
I felt a wave of my writer’s past wash over me.
“Um, yes. Yes, I did.”
And then we all burst out laughing. No one harder than me.
We’ve all made rookie writing mistakes in the hope of one day getting published. I’ve had my fair share of them, that’s for sure. But this one was my first and most memorable. If I had only known back then that there was no need to get a copyright on my manuscript, I could have saved the $42 filing fee and all the time it took to file the paperwork. But more importantly, I would have realized that I have all legal claim to my manuscript simply because I wrote it. No one is going to try to steal an unknown, unpublished author’s poorly plotted, and poorly written middle grade manuscript. They really aren’t. Besides, that’s the publisher’s job and when the time is right, they will be the one to file the copyright paperwork for me. And I won’t even have to pay the $42! Most of all though, if I do ever have a book filed away in the Library of Congress, it will be a bit better written and a lot better plotted than that first manuscript ever was! But someday will I go to the Library of Congress to find my first little book? Um, yeah. Of course, I will!
And then there was that time, 5 months after I wrote my first middle grade book, when I attended the Rochester Children’s Book Festival. I was in awe of all the authors there and wanted to immerse myself in all their authorly glory as they signed books and interacted with kids- hundreds of kids.
Of course I had to walk up to a very well known children’s author and tell her I was a writer. Of course I had to tell her I was hoping to get an agent. And of course she looked at me with a blank stare and said nothing. I’m not kidding. She said nothing! No response at all. So I started babbling about how great her books were (I hadn’t read any of them!) and asked how long she had been writing. Our conversation turned somewhat normal after that but still I walked away wondering why in the world she didn’t take me under her wing and guide me along the publishing path. When what I really needed at that point was for someone to put me out of my misery. And tell me I had a lot to learn.
Boy did I have a lot to learn!
We’ve all made these mistakes, but we get over them and move on. We do all the things we need to do to help us reach that elusive goal. We read books in our genre. We read books on writing craft. We devour writing websites and interviews of authors who’ve made the same mistakes we have and lived to tell about them. We connect with amazing CP’s and put our work out there. And we write, write, write.
But leave it to those closest to us (hey, family!) to remind us of our mistakes, and that they still love us anyway in spite of them. So no matter what blunders you’ve made, they can’t be that bad. And we’d REALLY love to hear about them. Come on, fess up! I can’t be the only one who gave her first manuscript to every kid in the neighborhood—positive that their feedback alone will prove her stuff is better than JK Rowlings, right?
Really? No one? No one?
In spite of our cringe- worthy writing moments, it’s fun to think back on our writing journeys. It helps us to see how far we’ve come.
Thanks for reading today… and not judging me too harshly. 🙂
Have a great week everyone!