I hate rules. Because I am doomed to always follow them. To the letter. I always walk the straight and narrow. I do not stray.
In the publishing world, particularly for those querying, there are a lot of rules. There are #pubtips and #querytips. There are how-to’s, explicit contest rules, and inflexible submission guidelines. My research is both extensive and exhausting. I take caution. Follow instructions exactly. I tread carefully. Try not to make too much noise.
I try to (but of course I can not) do everything right and then I wonder if that means I’m doing it wrong.
Because there’s a lot of that out there. Have you noticed? A lot of You’re-Doing-It-Wrong rants. You’re sending your work too soon, too late, too often, too little. You have the wrong greeting, the wrong subject line, the wrong word count…the wrong book. You, my friend, have not followed the rules.
And so, I’ve become a little fanatical about them.
In a dance class the other day– yes, I have to learn how to slow-dance now, for this wedding, so we don’t embarrass ourselves or my parents on the dancefloor in front of all of their friends– the instructor asked, and he was dead serious, if I might be obsessive compulsive? Because I quickly make up for a too-little step with five big ones, that I’m ahead when I should be behind.
I didn’t know how to answer that.
Yesterday, I reached some kind of turning point. If it can be called that. After three hours of extensive agent research, I finally felt ready to send one new query. Just one. I read it over roughly 36 times and then I pressed send.
And there it went. And as it went…I froze.
It is not clear to me how a person can read something 36 times and not realize that she has failed to copy and paste the first word of her query into the email. Meaning the first impression of me, of someone who calls herself a writer, will be that she is missing full words, that she starts in the middle of a sentence instead of the beginning. I mean, it’s common knowledge, isn’t it, that you have to start there?
So I stared at this mistake which can’t be fixed. And sighed.
Because I’ve read the rules. I’ve been following them since I learned red-light/green light, hide and seek, seven-up. Since I shook my head if the opportunity to skip a high school class arose. Since I eyed my friends and pointed to my watch as we neared a curfew.
Something about this first-word-loss put things in perspective. Like finding a typo in a published work. Of course it must-be-done a certain way. But, the truth is, it isn’t always, and not for lack of trying. For all those making rules, I’m pretty sure that’s a rule.