The Submission Process: “But you don’t own a shih-tzu.”

shih-tzu

I had a dream last night in which I was trying to explain the novel submission process to my father. My Dad passed away in 1990, and dreams about him are rare, so it was something of a gift. And, considering the nasty topic, it was a pretty humorous dream.

“You can’t just write ‘Dear Agent,’” I said.

“What do you write?” he said.

“You write whatever their name is. ‘Dear Ms. Huntington’ or whatever.”

“That doesn’t sound so bad.”

“Well,” I said, “but then you have to personalize the letter.”

“How do you do that?”

“’Dear Ms. Huntington, I read in the recent Annals of the American Kennel Club that you are the breeder of champion shih-tzus, and that your prize bitch, Foxy Fiona, recently won fifth prize in her class at Crufts. I, too, am the owner of a shih-tzu.’”

“But you don’t own a shih-tzu.”

“It’s for the letter, Dad. I’m supposed to make a personal connection with the agent. I’m supposed to show that I’ve done my research, and that I know something about her.”

“Sounds stupid.”

“It is.”

Of course, I know as well as you do that one does not go off on a tangent about an agent’s shih-tzu in a query letter (unless one’s book is about shih-tzus). But the dream was instructive. It was instructive in that I woke up laughing.

There is a game to be played in the submission process, and having been through it once before with my first novel, I dread it again this time with my second.

The submission process has been dangling over my head like an anvil in a Wiley Coyote cartoon — freezing me in place, preventing me from completing my most recent draft. If I finish this draft, my mind tells me, then I’ll have to finish the next draft. And then soon enough, I’ll be submitting.

But the fact that my subconscious found enough humor in the process to create a nocturnal comedy sketch about it (with my father included) tells me that maybe I am in fact ready to move forward. Maybe I shouldn’t take it all as seriously as I have in the past – the research, the e-mails, the rejections.

If my subconscious says it’s okay to laugh in my dreams, then it should be okay to laugh in my waking life. Laugh at the “Dear Author” emails, the “Thank you for your query letter, but…” e-mails.

Easier said than done, right?

So that’s one of the reasons I’m writing this post. To remind myself of my dream. To remind myself of the lunacy of shih-tzus and query letters. If my mind can come up with that, it can come up with anything.

And isn’t that what being a writer is all about?

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