Back in July, I blogged about how I was shopping for a new horse. I compared the process to figuring out which of the multitude of writing projects you might want to work on next. Then a few weeks later, I whined about my broken ankle and how difficult it is to wait–for an ankle to heal or for a writing career to get up and running.
Well, my ankle is now ready for prime time (or horseback riding), but my search for a new riding partner has thus far not borne fruit. It’s not for lack of trying. It turns out to be harder than I thought to find a horse in my price range with the kind of training I’m looking for. To find one that’s not too young and not too old. To find one that’s been actually ridden and worked recently rather than hanging around getting fat out in a pasture.
So far, I’ve seriously considered more than a dozen horses. Sometimes I never even went to ride them because my trainer and I looked at video and saw they wouldn’t work for me. Others we rejected because the owners refused to send us recent video. If horse is a couple hours drive away, I want to see video first. I’d hate to drive all that way to see a horse and have it turn out be a waste of time, time I could have saved if I’d seen the way the horse moves.
While there were a few I’ve gone to look at which were nice, but I just didn’t click with, there have also been several with peculiar stories:
• There was the 8-year-old that I’d thought was trained, but had barely had a few months under saddle
• There was the 11-year-old that hadn’t been ridden in four years. I wouldn’t have even visited this horse, except every time I asked the owner about how much work the horse had done, the story changed until I finally found out the truth when I went to see it.
• There were two with unusual medical problems—no fault of the horses, or the owners (they were honest), but it sure explained how cheap they were.
• My favorite was the “imaginary” horse. I responded to an ad and the seller sent video of a wonderful mare. But when my trainer and I tried to make plans to go see the mare in person and ride her, we were told someone else was buying the horse. The seller said if I sent half-payment, she would cancel the other deal and put the mare on a horse trailer for me. Sight unseen. Um, no.
• There was the lovely gelding that the seller insisted on full price for, which I reluctantly agreed to, then she refused to take a cashier’s check as payment. Cash only, she said, because she didn’t have a bank account (!). I said no thanks.
• There was the seller who had sent pictures of her gelding including closeups of the horse’s feet (the condition of the hooves is a very important consideration). The pictures she herself had sent showed chips, cracks, and nail holes from previous shoeings, yet the seller said the horse had great feet that never chipped, cracked, or needed shoes. My farrier gave that one a thumbs down.
I always like to turn my personal stories into object lessons for writers. In this case, I can see a bit of an analogy between the various horse traders and writers I’ve known who have finished a manuscript. They think they’ve got a wonderful, polished piece of work. They’re absolutely certain their manuscript is in fantastic shape, ready to hit the marketplace. They’re anticipating a huge advance for a book as great as theirs is. They’re also sure they won’t have the least problem selling it.
Then reality hits when they submit their books to agents or editors. It gets rejected again and again: Not right for us or Not suitable.
It could be that your book just didn’t click with an agent, like those two horses I rode that were nice, but not for me. But it’s more likely you didn’t put in your time with that book to make it irresistible.
Sometimes buyers are glad to put in the time on an untrained horse if they see its potential. By the same token you might find an agent or editor who will see a gem in the rough with your book and be willing to help you get it polished. But just as there are far fewer buyers out there with the skill and inclination to re-make a green horse into a show-ready champion, you will be hard-pressed to find an editor/agent who’s willing to make your rough draft manuscript into a polished bestseller.
So put that training on your horse…er, polish up that manuscript. And improve your chance of finding the agent or editor of your dreams.