It only took two serious panic attacks, a public meltdown, the destruction of my social life, and the possible jeopardisation of my academic career, but I have done it!
34 161 words. 30 days. One survivor.
It hath been submitted. The novella is gone and I cannot do anything more to help it. My baby is now adrift in the sea of submissions, floating along at 160th in the queue. And 170th. But more on that later.
The last five days were gruelling. I reached 30 000 words and came to the shocking realization that, actually, meeting word count does not equal finishing the story. So all my lovely calculations meant nothing in the end, because, short of simply killing off the main character with an unexpected bolt of cliché lightning, there was no way to conclude the novella at that point.
I sent the final section of the completed draft to my editor at 1AM on the 29th day.
For the next two days, I edited. My editor sent me line-by-line comments in the Word document, which, towards the end, amounted to a solid wall of blue “FIX THIS!” The degradation of my language skills due to sheer exhaustion resulted in problems such as “falling chunks of mason”, rather than “falling chunks of masonry”. While the piece was exceptionally gory, I did not actually intend to write about a rain of dismembered proletariats. Would have been a cool metaphor though.
The 29th was probably the worst day. I hate correcting. When faced head-on with my own stupidity in the early hours of the 30th, I felt my sanity slipping. There was rage. There was Nutella. There was someone who knocked on my door at 4am and asked for the master key when it was NOT MY DUTY DAY QKERROLRHOGRBJDSIPRGHUDNL!!!
Yes. But I got through it. And a certain misguided first year BCom student is probably traumatised. Oops.
And yesterday night, voiceless after reading the entire novella aloud to proofread, I triumphantly pressed ‘submit’. I drank, ate popcorn, watched the sci-fi kitsch that is Jupiter Ascending, and fell into the loving embrace of my beautiful bed.
This morning, I woke up and experienced Panic Attack #2.
Despite meticulously checking every single word in this story, despite obsessively following Shunn’s guide to the standard manuscript format, despite all the hours and the pain and everything, I had made a huge mistake.
I submitted a .docx file instead of a .doc or a .rtf.
I cannot describe the crushing sense of failure. There was no way to withdraw my submission and put it back up again. Multiple submissions were not permitted. Clearly, beside the submission field on the Moshka online form, it reads “.doc or .rtf”.
I wanted to do everything right. I wanted my work to stand on its own; professional, problem-free. And now, I had done something incredibly stupid. It’s the most basic of rules, follow the publishers formatting guidelines.
I called my editor, also known as my mother, and started crying.
She initially assured me that no one would mind. It’s not like the biggest publishers of science fiction and fantasy on the internet would be running Windows ’93, making my .docx unintelligible. Maybe the page was just out-of-date.
But I knew this wasn’t true because they had just switched across from email submissions to the automated system within the last month. When this call for novellas went out. If they asked for .docs, they probably wanted them for a reason.
So my editor suggested that I resubmit the story, with an apology and explanation in the cover letter, using a different email address.
Which is what I did. I created a new gmail account and submitted the same thing, apologizing profusely. Maybe too profusely. I was really, really, so, so sorry.
I believe that the slush pile readers are human. I even believe that the people of the other side will ignore the problem. But after the last sleepless month, I could not endure the idea that there was chance that someone would not even read my work because it was one ‘x’ away from perfect.
So my novella sits at 160 and 170. I wish it luck. I am very proud of it.
And even if it never gets published, I dedicate it to my mom.