Blunder Out the Gate

Written by Charli Mills

Charli Mills, a born buckaroo, makes literary art accessible at She writes about the veteran spouse experience and women forgotten to history.

February 13, 2015

RodeoLast week I refined an idea to call my ride to publication, “The Rodeo.” The reality of today’s publishing market is as unforgiving as that bull once he busts out the gate.

Hitting the ground is part of the ride. It’s not personal when a bull stomps your belly; neither is it personal when an publisher or agent never gets back to you.

Today, I discovered an embarrassing blunder and at least I can say with great confidence, I know why this particular publisher will never get back to me. I sent the wrong manuscript. Right title; right revision; wrong edit version.

I don’t know about you, but I get lost in all my revisions. I don’t mean revising, I mean all the versions of my novel that hold space in my folders. They are organized numerically and by date. My revisions exist in Scrivener and as Word Docs. The latter, I share with beta readers or my editor.

When the last revision returned to me it was the final revision with the final edits. But wait — I had to accept the corrections and make recommended changes. I had to accept the commas and change awkward sentences. In my haste — yes, I recall Laura Ingalls quoting Pa, “haste makes waste” — I wasted my opportunity. I thought I had saved the changes, but I sent a file with the complete mark-up of edits on every single page.

Picture this: you are in a writing class. You spend the semester writing, revising and critiquing short stories. Your professor encourages you to send off your latest revision to a literary magazine. But instead of mailing your clean re-write, you mail the professor’s last round of remarks which leaves each page looking like a bloodbath.

Do you think the editor of the literary magazine is going to try to read your submission buried beneath red ink? Most likely, not.

Worse, I recall a similar scenario at work — reading resumes. I was part of the hiring team and often had to read numerous resumes while I was busy with my own department and work. Sometimes I would find such absurd mistakes that I would share the laugh with my team or the HR manager. I cringe to think my submission made someone laugh — look at that mistake!

Rodeo stock-riders make mistakes, too. Especially right out the gate (meaning, your first ride). So I’m going to share a laugh with you, courtesy of comedian, Bill Engavall. When he says, “I am a cowboy,” substitute, “I am a writer!” This is what my first ride felt like, but I’m all psyched up to try again!

Lessons learned from Ride 1:

  1. Now I know what the ride feels like.
  2. A friend cached me on how to save my changes.
  3. Next time I won’t submit in haste. This isn’t a race. It’s a rodeo.

A big buckaroo shout-out to the talented photographer, Jamie Miles. That amazing bull ride photo is her work. I’ve long been a fan of her photography (she covers country music concerts) and when she posted photos from a national bull riding event I asked her if I could purchase one. Consider ways that artists can support artists.

Any feedback for a newbie taking the ride to get published? What was your first ride like? Did you ever blunder? How did you bounce back?


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  1. Sherri

    That is a superb photograph (but couldn’t watch the video, said it was unavaliable at my location). Oh Charli, I am instantly reminded of that iconic line spoken by the incomparable Bette Davis in All About Eve…’fasten your seatbelts, it’s gonna be a bumpy night’. Well, that first ride is always a bumpy one, that’s for sure. From someone who almost deleted her first memoir submission for a literary competition, never mind a complete manuscript, I can only symapthise. But you got back on that bull and now you’re heading out again into the ring. We’re all behind you. Well, close enough but keeping well out of the way of those flailing hooves! But we’re waving our stetsons in the air and cheering you on…you go girl and hold on tight πŸ˜€

    • Charli Mills

      That’s an amazing shot, isn’t it? I saw that there is an MTV/UK link for the video…I had trouble with it embedding…it didn’t! Try this:

      And you know the greater story because I told you I had hastily updated that document. Turns out I didn’t update it at all! A bit of a bump the first go and I like the reference t Bette Davis!

      Thanks for waving your Stetson! We’ll cheer each other on as we ride!

      • Sherri

        Will try this link, thanks! And yes…and oh no!!!!! And so we do indeed keep cheering. Have a great weekend Charli…and Happy Valentine’s πŸ™‚ <3

      • Charli Mills

        Happy Valentine’s Day! <3

      • Sherri

        Hi Charli! Hope you had a great weekend. I’ll email…but just wanted to let you know I manged to watch this video and laughed my socks off, it’s hilarious, love it! It’s great that you retain your wonderful sense of humour, even though I know what a horrible time it was for you with your first submission πŸ™ I am already in danger of getting in a muddle with some revisions having converted parts of my memoir into the new Word, parts not and thinking I’m going to have to get way better organised than this! A bumpy ride indeed…but gosh darn it, we’re cowgirls, right πŸ˜€

      • Charli Mills

        Isn’t that video hilarious? Every time I get all, “I am a Writer” I think of this song! Some days I’m the writer with dirt in my teeth. πŸ™‚ Off to the next ride! I really recommend Scrivener although I obviously struggle in between revision after I pull one out of Scrivener and get it back edited in Word. In reality, I’ve found that it takes 10 days to 2 weeks to put the new edits back into Scrivener, but worth the time for keeping it organized. Had I taken that time, I wouldn’t have had the problem! Thus, I’m doing it now! That’s right — we are cowgirls!

      • Sherri

        Haha πŸ˜€ Great to know you’re back in the saddle though Charli πŸ™‚ I’ve heard of Scrivener but no idea where to get it. Online? It seems that it is a good programme to use.

      • Sherri

        Thanks so much Charli, will take a look asap πŸ™‚

  2. Annecdotist

    Oh, poor you! I’ve heard quite a few of these submissions stories, Charli. It seems we check and check and then still manage to do something so out of character. I think the heightened anxiety leads us to self sabotage.
    I haven’t – at least to my knowledge – managed to do anything similar for my novel submissions. But, I might have mentioned before, I did send three pages worth of different variations of my bio along with a short story submission on one occasion. Very embarrassing.
    Glad you can laugh about it and good look with the next one.

    • Charli Mills

      I was surprised at how emotional I felt over the submission at the time. It was my first manuscript submission and it was one of those short windows of opportunity. I wasn’t ready. I tried to get ready too quickly. But I did it. It’s like throwing paint at the canvas and now I’m okay to approach it and go for a real painting. Just had to get over the nervous nillies! I’m focused now! πŸ™‚

    • Annecdotist

      You’ll see I wished you good look – would like to pretend it was intentional!

      • Charli Mills

        Ha, ha! I will take a better “look” before submitting next time!

  3. TanGental

    Oh dear; not aware that I’ve done this with submissions but I have countless versions at work. One that comes to mind, back when I had a shorthand typist as a secretary. She handed me the letter and I noticed embedded on page two the sentence ‘the problem will be bugger next time’. Pleased I’d spotted the error, rather than just cross through the u and replace with an i I wrote in the margin. ‘bugger should be bigger, ha!’ The letter came back with ‘the problem with be BUGGER next time.’ Can’t win, eh?

    • Charli Mills

      Ha, ha! I’ve caught a few of those funny miscommunications when editing between multiple parties. I think I was too wound up, had too little time to respond and had no idea I saved the wrong file to upload. I’ll chalk it up to first-time jitters. Now I have a stupid story to laugh about — I already did the worse thing I could do so I’ll relax and slow down next time! πŸ™‚

  4. tallypendragon

    Oh my, that sounds sooooo like me, exactly what I would do! I tend to overwrite revisions straight into my scenes on Scrivener so I don’t have that exact problem, I’d get too muddled else – I get muddled anyway!! You know what they say about whatever doesn’t kill you, so just think of I t as a brief but forgettable interlude in an otherwise perfect performance ????.

    • Charli Mills

      Of all the drafts I could have mixed up, this was the one with all the track changes and comments…on every single page! My editor is thorough. Yes, I have a muddling problem. πŸ™‚ Thanks!

  5. Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

    The problem of the multiple version control. I know it well and haven’t worked out a foolproof way of dealing with it yet. I feel for you its a hard road to hoe. You are right – it is a rodeo and you just have to get up on that beast and keep on riding. You never know though. If ever there was evidence that you have undertaken good editing process this has to be it and they may realise that it obviously wasn’t the finished copy. There is a perfect one out there. Good luck.

    • Charli Mills

      I’m rethinking my folder system. It is cumbersome to put a Word Doc back into Scrivener, but worth it. One, I can mark its status and two, even if my manuscript gets accepted, I’m sure there will be requests for more revision. Revision is much easier to do in Scrivener…it’s keeping track of the manuscripts sent out and received back for editing. If you do work out a foolproof way…let me know! Thanks for the encouraging perspective! Yes, they will definitely know I go through an editing process! It was just ride number one, and an unexpected call for submissions. I’ll continue to work my plan and pay attention to which file I’m sending.

      • Charli Mills

        I like it. I just need to have a better process!

  6. Jeanne Lombardo

    Seems that so many of us can feel your pain on this one Charli! I too move back and forth between Scrivener and Word. I keep meaning to improve my skills in Scrivener so I don’t have to do that, or do it less. What I do now is eventually move drafts into an archive folder, or if I am working with a particular editor/recipient, I make a distinct folder so I don’t sent the wrong manuscript. But it is still tedious and I end up with a whole load of files I am reluctant to dump. But it is all a learning process I reckon. (I used that last verb especially for you.) I am having my own learning curve right now as regards rights on scanned articles and photos I want to post on my client’s website. I have still not wrenched my jaw back up off the floor on what I have been quoted by the licensing company here that handles AZ Republic articles…we are talking stuff from the 1980s and 1990s. But that is a topic for later!

    • Charli Mills

      If I could stay in Scrivener, I think I’d be better organized, but when I have to send off a manuscript for edits or review, I produce a Word Doc. Once I have chapters, I can copy and paste back into Scrivener, or review my edits, make changes and read comments in Word and then copy over to Scrivener one chapter at a time. But geez, it gets tedious and redundant! I reckon (good verb choice) licensing is a sharp learning curve! That’s a topic you’ll have to tackle for us one day!

  7. lorilschafer

    We all make those stupid mistakes, of course – I always loved getting a cover letter that claimed the applicant was “detail-oriented” but then it had typos or he or she forgot to attach a resume. I know it stings, but try not to beat yourself up about it. You never know – they might appreciate the fact that you had it edited – and can prove it!

    • Charli Mills

      Good things can always happen…my cousin got hired after forgetting to sign her cover letter! And yes — see! — I do edit!. I think I had to battle my first-time jitters and I’m glad that I was able to submit, although incorrectly, so I can be more focused next time. Thanks for the pep talk!

      • lorilschafer

        You’re welcome, Charli – keeping my fingers crossed for you πŸ™‚

      • Charli Mills

        Please do — I need crossed-fingers! After my declaration that I edit, I erroneously end with double punctuation. Yes, I need crossed fingers. πŸ™‚

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