Well, yesterday, I put my new and improved proposal into the mail to an agent who specializes in crime fiction. I am cautiously optimistic.
It's a strange thing, sending manuscripts out. It's this endless, elongated version of qualifying for a loan. You make your presentation, try to beef up your qualifications as best you can, and wait for some stranger to pass judgment on your worth to society. If the answer is rejection, you try again elsewhere. Eventually, you just go to a relative to see if they have an extra twenty.
Not this time, though. I've been quietly accumulating more credits. The manuscript--the collateral, if you will--is in the best shape its been. My cover letter and synopsis are light years better than they were. And this is all you can do: hone. Small credits are better than no credits. They build into medium sized ones that become humongo ones if you have talent and luck.
I've also learned something about myself in recent months, recognized a flaw in my character. It is an old one, deeply embedded, and it has hindered me in many areas of my life over the years. My problem is this: I have a tendency to try too hard. It used to hold me back when I tried to woo women, and I only was able to lasso my dear sweet wife because I had pretty much given up on finding someone and because we got to know each other over a period of a few months without the pressure of possible romance impinging itself on us.
Well, getting ahead in a career such as writing is a lot like starting a romance, and I think that I was always the guy who tried too hard, who made too many grand gestures, who forgot how to relax and be himself. I was always trying to write The Greatest Cover Letter of All Time, riddled with jokes that I had tried too hard to think up. In fact, the desire to insert jokes by force when necessary held back the quality of my work as well. I wasn't writing to my true potential because I would spend entire days trying to come up with a single funny line. And the work always showed, I'm afraid.
Now, this is not to say that I'm not a funny writer. Funny things occur to me spontaneously all the time. And the spontaneous ones are usually better, funnier, and more original than the ones I spend days thinking up. And the non-joke that I put in place of the day-long effort works more fluently and smoothly and allows me to do little tricks with language and with character development and dialog. And by hiding these goodies amidst the humor, I can be literary without highlighting it with neon signs and a bright orange sticker on my forehead.
At least that's the hope.
In the end, I'd be happy just entertaining people. It matters not whether readers find any deeper depths or not. It only matters to me that I work. And that I not try too hard.