Friday, June 29, 2007

Thursday's Thistles- Stupid Mistakes

I have been working incredibly hard, mostly at freelancing (magazine/ezine writing). I'm having success and that is so exciting, I can't even tell you. But along with that success comes more communication with editors and with that increased communication comes an increased likelihood of making a mistake. I don't want to sound snobby but I rarely make mistakes when it comes to my writing. That's not because I'm so perfect. It's because I obsess over sending things out. I'm afraid I'll make a stupid mistake like forget to change the editor's name,leaving it addressed to their competitor's magazine editor. I'm afraid I'll use incorrect grammar in a query letter, thus showing the editor right off that I'm not a writer at all...I'm just faking it. So I obsess.

I write and rewrite. I wait and look at it again later and write again. I edit and edit and edit. And I'm sorry to admit, but many times I then put the article in a folder on my computer and don'topen it again. Is that crazy or what? I spend all that time on it and then let fear of making a mistake get in the way of sending it at all. Oh brother!

Well, even with all my checking and rechecking, I made some mistakes this week. And they are not little mistakes. They were huge, or at least huge in my mind.

I pitched an article idea with a huge flaw in it. I had one article purchased by this particular publication so I pitched a list of other ideas I had. The editor wrote back asking me to go ahead on one that he liked. I won't go into the particulars, but basically when I went back to research this human-interest story in the publication's state of NC...I discovered that NC stood for North County...CALIFORNIA! So I scrambled to find another human-interest story that was similar so that I could that idea along with my apology for pitching something that wouldn't work for a North Carolina publication. I couldn't find anything. So I sent an email with my tail between my legs. I felt so bad and stupid and mostly disappointed because it was a great story which now doesn't have a home.

I failed to follow the directions. When I learned that this women's website I love, was looking for articles, I sent them an email asking for the guidelines. The editor (or whoever answers emails) wrote back a nice email with the guidelines included. I read and reread the guidelines. I saw that there was one email address for completed articles and one for queries. I had a great idea for an article so I went ahead and wrote it. I sent it and within 24-hours got a response from the editor. She asked me if I had been asked to send this article and then went on to explain their policies, which included querying first. So, (insert tail between legs again) I answered in an email and apologized all over the place.

I spelled the magazine's name wrong. Yes. It's true. How stupid can you be, right. I mean, people always say to be sure you spell the editor's name right. You don't ever hear advice on spelling the magazine's name right. Why is that? I'll tell you why- because it's a no-brainer. I had queried this magazine three times before catching my mistake. It was a simple mistake-just an apostrophe in the wrong place...but stilol...this was a major national magazine I was presenting myself to.

So how did it all turn out? Well, in the case of teh NC publication...after receiving my profuse applogy, the editor wrote back. His response surprised me. Instead of the, "You loser, I already had a space set aside for the article. Don't ever query me again." that I feared, I got this: "Oh well." Oh well? Oh well! but it gets better. He went on to compliment me on my "good eye" and thanked me for being proactive in looking for articles for the publication.

And in the case of the query-fumble - At the bottom of the email, the editor said she'd take a look at the article to see if it's something they'd like to publish. Then she said to please [PLEASE!] give her a few days to get back to me. What? No, "Send a query, you idiot! Can't you read?" The editor was...well...nice!

And in the case of spelling the magazine's name wrong, I simply corrected on the subsequent queries. My very first query to the magazine (with name spelled wrong), I got a very positive response. In fact the editor keeps telling me to send more article ideas (even though it was still misspelled). My hope is that she was so overworked that she didn't notice my spelling. But it's also possible that she did. But apparently I wasn't the joke of the national magazine conference room when she said, "Hey look at this writer. She can't even spell our name right."

So what did I learn? Perhaps editors are people. Could that be? I mean I've heard the horror stories. I've heard how one simple mistake lands you in the slush-pile forever-more. But that wasn't my experience. Could it be that editors are real people just like you and I? Could it be that it really is all about the writing? Now, that's a crazy thought and one that makes me feel more free, lighter in a way. Even with my obsessive checking, I will make mistakes. Yes me...mistakes! But it's ok to make mistakes, because those who receive my writings have probably made a few too.

The take-away-lesson is to loosen up. Just hit that send button (Thanks AW) and know you've done your best. And if you've made mistakes, someone will let you know soon enough, or perhaps you'll catch it yourself after you've already sent it. But rest assured that the editor on the other end of that email, just might be a real-live human being who is just as passionate about finding a good story as you are about writing one.

Keep Dreamin'! -Karen


Jennifer said...

What an awesome (hate that word-but it's true) post. It's always fresh to see honest writers on a blog. Yes we make mistakes. It's also reassuring to have a reminder that editors just might be human, they are.

God the mistakes I've made and make. I think it just comes with the biz. My worst problem is email send-off with wrong editor names. If I have a good intro letter with links and stuff I'll cut & paste it from my last email and a few times I've forgotten to change the name at the top. I always send an apology email and still don't hear back. But can you blame them. Man I can at least get a name right.

Luckily the longer you're at it the less mistakes you make. Well, in theory. (No, seriously you do).

Love the new blog girl. Keep on posting regular-like and when I get a chance I'll link you to mine.

Karen L. Alaniz said...

Thanks Jennifer! Yours is my very first comment. This is very exciting. Glad you enjoyed my misery.