Thursday, September 23, 2010

Goober Writers Anonymous--Ishta Mercurio

Goober Writers Anonymous is a group for writers to vent about past or present writerly mistakes for therapeutic reasons, to educate others, or just for a laugh.  If you would like to join the group and sign up to submit a guest post, please leave me your email address in the comments below.

Perks of joining:  You get to put the nifty little badge on your blog (yes, this does indeed make you cool), sharing with others and being a part of a group is always fun, and I will put a link to your blog on my blog below under Members of GWA.

Today's guest blogger is Ishta Mercurio from Musings of a Restless Mind.  Please visit her awesome blog and become a follower.  I'll wait.

Back yet?  Excellent.  Now enjoy her post!

My biggest goober moment came right at the beginning of my career as a children's writer.  I had never studied creative writing per se, but I had always been good at it (according to my English teachers in high school and college) and I DID major in Lit for a year in college before switching to Theatre and Dance.  So when the burnout and desperation hit after 6 years of full-time, hard-core stay-at-home-mothering (meals and desserts cooked from scratch, house painted myself, the whole bit), I thought, "Why not?"

Seated in the living room, husband's trusty laptop balanced on my knees, I banged out a story that I had made up that night to get my then-5-year-old to sleep, and thought, "Yup.  That should do it."  And then I thought, "Actors have agents; I bet writers do, too."  After about 5 minutes of research, I emailed my ten-minute-old manuscript, sans query, to one of the largest, most sought after agencies in the business.  I think my form rejection arrived within about 45 minutes.


A few months, about five books on writing, and several weeks on the SCBWI crit boards later, I realized what a mistake that first email had been.  Not only had the email itself been completely inappropriate, but my manuscript was, in a word, awful.  I made a whole catalogue of mistakes that night: thinking writing a picture book would be easy; thinking a first draft could ever be query-ready; thinking any draft that hadn't had objective eyes on it was fit for an agent's consumption; thinking that because I had never revised any of my school assignments, I could do the same thing with my professional work and get away with it.

Was it salvageable?  Of course, and after almost two years of critique, marinating time, and revision, I think it's finally there.  I will certainly never query again without a whole bunch of crit buddies telling me they think it's ready.  Do I still query too early?  Sometimes; but when the first form rejection rolls in, I at least know that it's a sign that I need to revisit my MS and see if there's anything I can do to make it better.  Did I blow my chances with this agency?  Only time, and a lot more writing, will tell.  I can only hope their memories are shorter than mine.

Thanks for sharing, Ishta!  This is such an extremely valuable story to hear.  I'm so glad you were able to find a critique group to help you out.
Discussion:  I have heard this mistake being done soooo many times.  In fact, I might admit I did it once upon a time.  So, my question is, has this happened to any of you?  And about how long did it take you to realize you made a mistake?  Me?  It took about three submissions and a lot of head-burying-from-complete-humiliation before I could really see what I was doing wrong. 


  1. I have never done that. I haven't finished a first draft but the moment I began writing regularly was the moment I joined a writing group. I don't think Sarah and Teebore would have allowed me to submit any of the crap I was writing those first few years. Also, my pieces always came back to me with red all over them. I could tell then, they weren't ready.

  2. Well that's one benefit for being a slow writer I guess. By the time I get any of my manuscripts done, I will know enough to avoid the most common pitfalls.

  3. Like Emily said, it's a common mistake. At least you only sent it off to one agent and not dozens of agents. Not that I did that. Ahem.

  4. Oh yeah, guilty as charged. But I'll save the gory details for my guest post in a couple of weeks.

  5. Yup, been there. I did have a critique group, but the members said my story was fine--since they were beginners too! (Lesson learned: make sure my critters have been around the block enough times themselves...)

  6. I haven't done that, but that's because I had started the blog the same time I wrote the novel so I began learning as I went. I have learned the ins and outs of writing, agents, and the path to publishing on here, and continue to use it as my guide.

  7. my first attempt was at a little kid's book too. because my hopes were to work in illustration, i didn't even worry much about the writing... or the story... but i poured hours into the illustrations. i did the whole thing backwards. publishers often have their own illustrators, and don't even want pics with stories. luckily i only sent it off to one agency (and then a fire took that one away ). the rejection said: while we think you are a talented artist, we are only seeking original and well-written stories. (that's not a direct quote, but you get the gist) i felt like such an idiot! :)


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