Writers attempting publication and screenwriters pursuing the silver screen need to be resilient creatures. Tilting at wildly whirling windmills, walking along crumbling cliff edges, swimming against the current, and running full speed into brick walls are a few regularly scheduled activities. For all the fortitude imbued supernormal keyboard tap happy types, there are still certain occurrences that cause those hearty hearts to plummet.

1. Submission Requirement Confusion. Beyond the normal confusion that comes from thinking you’ve followed guidelines perfectly only to find that what you read was not exactly what they’d written comes the classic wait! what? double take. Sometimes a publication will state a particular requirement so plainly that it is beyond the abilities of human brain to brain interface to misunderstand it. Then comes the rejection thanking you for thinking of them but they don’t do whatever it was the guidelines insisted plainly that they did, in fact, do. Again, I say…wait! What?.

2. Realizing somehow after an entire submission package has not only been sealed but also mailed, that your SASE is missing the all important second S. Unless you can convince yourself that the second S actually stands for Stamp…less, you are a walking, blushing faux pas. I know this because I did it. Once. It was a market I respected and that had shown a glimmer of reciprocated respect…what to do? Fortunately, I realized it right away. I immediately sent a proper SASE in another #10 envelope, with a brief note of explanation and apology. The editor was a class act and sent my regularly scheduled rejection in due time, with no comment. On either faux pas or accompanying submission.

3. Learning a lesson of proper submission etiquette. After you have improperly etiquette-ed. I once sent a query addressed to a long dead literary agent. Granted, I was just learning the ropes, and did not yet understand how easy it is to hang one’s self with said ropes. A small excuse is that the listing made no reference to the state of existence of their figurehead. Nor did it offer a contact name. Common sense would indicate that the person whose name was also the name of the agency is the contact person. I didn’t actually learn that common sense was wrong unless the querying writer is also a medium, until well after I had received a form rejection. (This one comes with the caveat that you never really know what will happen. I actually made the same mistake at a later time and with a major publishing house that got a request for chapters.)

4. The horrified gravity plunge sensation when you decide to skim a screenplay you recently entered in a respected competition and see that it’s not as ruthlessly proofread as you were absolutely certain it was. This is a terrible, horrified, awful moment that lasts until many months later when the results are announced and that script has advanced! Yes. Another one I know of from personal experience. It eventually reached Semi-Finalist and I have never decided if it’s that the story was good enough to withstand the glaring errors or that the errors weren’t as glaring without my personal perfectionist’s glasses.

5. Realizing that you have written a screenplay that includes a lengthy quote from the only beloved story in the public domain that is involved in a rights dispute quagmire that most people don’t know about. Already using and falling in love with it doesn’t matter. The only option is to completely remove it as soon as you find out about it and use something you love as much. I created my own replacement story, and counted myself lucky that I caught it at all.

As indicated by the proliferation of certain personal pronouns, I have learned these things from my own experiences. As is true of the rest of life, writing and screenwriting mistakes happen. All the time. The good thing is that once committed they are usually so embarrassing or upsetting that they keep a person from repeat performances. Except for figuring out whether any given editor or agent is still with us, and not having the inclination to run to the nearest search engine every single time. Short of making a habit of seance, I think that one rests in the hands of just how gracious any given publishing house or agency may be. And that, I’m afraid, is anybody’s guess.

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