December 1


Laugh or Cry, Just Don’t Shoot Yourself in the Foot.

By BarbaraEllinFox

boulders, laugh, mistakes, writing journey, writing path

I Choose to Laugh

There are days that I sit back and laugh (yes out loud) at myself, because crying would be just plain dumb. Besides, I never feel better when I cry.

My writing journey has been a path of adventure with periodic highs and plenty of opportunities to stumble. I’m firmly committed to persevere, and I believe that I’m able to learn everything I need to know to reach my goal. And yes, I believe writing is the path God has for me. That’s why I trip over some of the smallest pebbles on the path and blunder my way into the underbrush.

Through a few small victories I was encouraged to explore the idea of finding a literary agent. I researched agents, and then I set out to learn how to fulfill their expectations. Developing a web site, I learned about colors and fonts, and modules. I decided on my presence and began writing content. Plus, I learned to optimize pictures and even made a free handout to give to newsletter subscribers.

Hmm. Yes, the newsletter. I tried several companies before I found the one that seemed to work easiest for me. Now I can laugh, but at the time it was painful.

Web Site Woes

And I learned that web sites go down for no apparent reason when you need them the most. I most definitely did not laugh when that happened THREE times in as many weeks. The last time was today. Somehow my web site went to the wrong server. Huh?

Keep Learning

Next I studied the book on writing a synopsis and labored over every step. For two years I’d worked on learning to show, not tell. Synopsis with it’s tell, not show flummoxed me. But I made it past that boulder.

Then it was learn elevator pitch and write a blurb. Pieces of my book proposal began to congregate in my Scrivener file. I scoured my memory, and Amazon, for comparable books, all while kicking myself for not keeping a cross reference file on the books I’d read in the past year. At a speed of a book about every three days, in a year that’s, well … And I researched and wrote a marketing plan.

Who to Choose?

I was excited to learn that literary agent Mavis was interested in the kind of story I wrote, so I started a book proposal directed at Mavis.

A YouTube video interview with literary agent Gert revealed a great personality, which goes to show how valuable a personal interview can be. I was concerned that one time I’d commented on Gert’s blog post and used the wrong name committing a huge blunder. But maybe Gert never saw my response.

Checking it Twice, Gonna Find Out Who’s Naughty and Nice

Can you hear me singing? I put two proposals together and went over them looking for the slightest error. And I did it again. And again. Until I was bleary eyed. I checked the requirements of each agency one more time, assembled the documents, and checked them again. With trembling fingers I hit send. As the email for Mavis left my computer I heard words in my head ‟Did you spell the name correctly?” Well of course I had. I’d been studying Mavis for a couple of weeks. I knew how to spell her name, didn’t I? A quick glance at the web site showed me how horribly fallible I was. I’d added an extra letter—everywhere.

That stung. I hopped on one foot holding my toe while the pain subsided. Well, maybe she’ll be gracious and read my proposal anyway. Maybe I’ll win her with my writing. It could happen.


Three weeks later I still waited to hear if Mavis or Gert wanted to read my full manuscript. I figured they were neck and neck, after all I’d spelled both of their names wrong. UGH!

Then I had the surprising opportunity to submit to several other agents. I pulled out the query letter I’d written to Mavis in case it contained something I could use.


I never saw the boulder that hit me just below the knees. Totally blind-sided. Staring at me with a huge incoherent gap was my opening email greeting—with an entire WORD MISSING!

Did I mention that I’m firmly committed to persevere? I clawed my way back onto my publishing path secure in the knowledge that I would not hear from Mavis. In fact, I wouldn’t blame her for having a good laugh at my incompetence. And I laughed, too. At least I’d learned to put a book proposal together. Do you know what else I learned?

  • Always have someone else look over your writing, even if it’s just a letter.
  • Never send anything to anyone when you’re tired.
  • Boulders are not just pieces of granite. They actually roll into your path to see how serious you are about your endeavor.

But most of all I learned- When you’re galloping on your fast horse and your cowboy hat starts to slip—try not to shoot yourself in the foot.

A wise friend told me that we all had to have our beginner’s horror stories. Do you have one? Want to share?

Blessings to you and yours,

Barbara Ellin Fox

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