YA Highway’s Road Trip Wednesday this week asks: What’s the biggest writing / querying / publishing mistake you’ve made?
It’d be rude not to answer.
I make plenty of writing mistakes, but those I can revise.
My biggest industry mistake, which still makes me cringe, actually happened a couple years ago when I applied for an internship at an Agency That Will Not Be Named. I had been applying to a couple of other agencies and publishing houses, and I had some boilerplate text which I then customized for each letter.
This sounds like it’s going to be a forgot-to-erase-the-other-agency’s-name mistake. Not so.
In fact, I pored over each letter before sending them out just to make sure I wouldn’t make that mistake. When I sent out this letter to Kelly (names have been changed, for obvious reasons) at the Agency That Will Not Be Named, I felt like everything had gone right. I hadn’t made any mistakes in the letter, made sure to change the agency name, and I did a lot of research on the specific agency to educate my letter.
Next day, I received an e-mail back. Splendid! What a quick response! That’s great news, right?
In no uncertain terms, this e-mail explained that there was no “Kelly” at Agency That Will Not Be Named. Thanks for my letter. No internship for you.
What I cringe over, though, is that Kelly was not even the name of one of the other agents I was writing to. Kelly was some imaginary name that my brain connected with Agency That Will Not Be Named. So, my well-researched letter now looked like a cut-and-paste e-mail bomb across a ton of agencies.
Would I have gotten the internship had I not screwed up the name? Probably not. But after the name foible and subsequent rejection, I decided that I needed to work on beefing up my resume. That led to researching publishing MA’s, which led to researching writing MFA’s, which led to one semester at Hamline where I learned a ton, and that led to me taking a hiatus from the program because it was super-expensive and I was going broke, and all of that led to… writing. Both freelance writing and fiction, full time.
And I love it.