When Good Intentions Go Awry

Obsessive Compulsive
Image by austins_irish_pirate via Flickr

I prepared for this for weeks.

I mean it. Weeks. Notes in my calendar. Detailed reading. Brainstorming. It was an online contest that gave you the chance to put your novel in front of thirteen agents at one time—and more importantly, this was not their fathoms-deep slush pile; this was a chance for them to pause and give real consideration. It was a big deal, and they were only accepting a limited amount of entries.

A week ago, I prepared the email to submit, so that when the moment came, all I had to do was hit “send.” Yesterday, I set the timer for three minutes before the first round opened. But I waited for the “call for submissions” to show up online, and the first round filled up in less than a minute.

Gnashing my teeth, I waited all afternoon for the second round, knowing that it was my last shot. I started checking the computer against the atomic clock at 4:45. At 4:59, I planted myself in front of the computer with my finger over the “send” button, and the minute it changed to 5, I clicked. Yess. Done.

And the immediate email came back: entry rejected. Too long.

I almost threw up. How could that be? I checked it, rechecked it, counted it three different ways. I didn’t waste any time trying to overcome obsessive compulsive tendencies on this one. It was perfect. How could it be too long?

Of course, by now, kids were swarming me, and it took fully three minutes to recreate the email and hit “send” again, by which time the contest was full. I stared at the computer, unable to believe that after all my hard work—after doing everything right—it was all for nothing.

Dazed, I went out to the kitchen to put dinner on for the family. I kept telling myself to pull it together, there was nothing I could do about it, not to take my disappointment out on the kids…but the trouble was that I didn’t understand why I had failed. I’d done everything right!

Christian walked in the door after work, saw the stricken look on my face, and asked what was wrong. As I stumbled out the story, I mentioned the note at the bottom of the first rejection: “It said check whether you were sending in rich text or HTML, but I’ve submitted to this site before and never had any problem…isn’t Yahoo mail on plain text anyway?”

Did I mention the word “stricken”? You should have seen the look on his face. “I changed it to rich text two weeks ago,” he said, “when I was sending out news releases for your Advent book from your account. I didn’t change it back, because I thought it would look better…”

In every situation, there are lessons to be learned. In this one, I learned that sometimes, **** happens, and it’s nobody’s fault. I learned that sometimes, even being obsessive compulsive isn’t enough. And I learned a new meaning for the adage about the road to hell being paved by good intentions.