Another Lesson in How NOT to Impress an Editor

Photo courtesy of and zole4

Some of you may remember this story when it happened several years ago. But since we have so many new readers and since it’s conference season, I thought it’d be a good time to encourage you by letting you see the funny and the good, even in the midst of the horror.

And I hope you’ll get a good laugh along the way. ๐Ÿ™‚

Coke, Sweet Tea, and Grace

I took one last look in the mirror, then touched up my lipstick, primped my hair, and brushed my teeth…again. Everything had to be perfect! After all, I was having dinner with an editor from a major CBA house and a well-known author, also with a major publisher. I whispered a prayer for direction and discernment regarding my novel idea. I should have prayed for bigger hands.

At the restaurant, we were quickly seated at our tiny table, Major CBA House Editor on my right and Successful Well-Known Author with Another Major House on my left. Within seconds, the cute, perky waitress took our drink orders. I really wanted a good ol’ Southern sweet tea, but since we were in PA, I knew better than to ask. (Just for the record, unsweetened tea and packets of sugar do not sweet tea make!) So I ordered Coke. Better to be safe than sorry.

The waitress returned with our salads and drinks and placed the giant glass of Coke on my right, between Major CBA House Editor and me. The drink needed to be on my left. So I reached across my salad to grab it with my left hand. Have you ever heard people talk about how horrendous catastrophes play out in slow motion as they’re happening before their very eyes? Well, I can tell you for a fact, it’s true.

I watched in horror as my dreams of publishing with Major CBA House pirouetted to a funeral dirge across the table and fell, along with the oversized glass of Coke, right smack onto the blouse, into the lap, and then into the tapestry purse of Major CBA House Editor. Now we’re not talking about a glass turning over and dripping its contents onto someone’s pants. Nope. We’re talking about a supersized glass the size of a watermelon, filled with syrupy sweet, near-black Coke falling headlong onto said editor’s entire body. I wanted to crawl under the table. I actually tried, but the floor was full of feet…and waiters with mops…and waitresses with napkins…and a soaking wet purse carrying the expensive electronic devices of Major CBA House Editor.

Photo courtesy of and Ambro

For this I brushed my teeth…twice.

I looked up from the floor, my small hands sticky with the evidence of my fall from grace, and forced an embarrassed laugh. “Well, there goes any chance of ever submitting a manuscript to you.” I hated the whine in my voice.

Gentle Editor rose from her cola bath, gazed down at me on the floor in all my soda splendor, and smiled. “Oh, you can submit it…as long as this scene is in it.” She stepped over me and my mess and sloshed to the restroom.

Kind Successful Well-Known Author with Another Major House, still safely stationed to my left, leaned over the edge of the table and peered into my soppy space. “Uh…that went well.”

It did. It really did! After all, Major CBA House Editor not only said she would look at my manuscript, she wanted to be IN IT! The moment of my publishing death had evolved into new life for my novel idea!

Just for the record, I would never recommend this technique for approaching editors. Others may not be as nice as this kind, gracious lady. Oh, and let’s be clear here, she didn’t say she’d BUY it, she just said she’d LOOK at it. Believe me, there’s a huge difference.

But what she didn’t know was that at that moment she answered an important question in my story arc. Even though the novel will be loosely based on my experience of caring for my terminally-ill sister, I had been struggling with whether or not to make the protagonist a writer and speaker. After all, I didn’t want it to be too close to the truth and possibly stifle the creative process. But this scene is just too good to waste! Now I know the main character will have to be a writer and speaker. Cool!

So, what scenes from your life–or the lives of those around you–can you include in your books? If you’ve ever heard me teach on writing fiction you know that I use a lot of real life in my books. That doesn’t mean the story is about me.

The storyline itself may not have anything to do with our life experiences, but that doesn’t mean we can’t pull hilarious, heart-wrenching, thought-provoking, frightening scenes from real life and plop them into the fabric of our books. We simply let those scenes happen to our characters. And the good thing is, not only do we have instant access to the conflict, but we also have the emotional reaction that went with it. After all, we experienced first hand the joy, the heartache, the fear, the humor, the embarrassment. We know how it felt.

This happened several years ago, and as you’ve most likely figured out, I still haven’t written that book, but I will. And I can promise you, at some point in the story, the protagonist will have dinner with a major editor, and…well…you know what’ll happen next.

(Photos courtesy of and zole4 and and Ambro)

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