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Five Ways to Tell You’re Not Mrs. Muir

By Cathleen Armstrong

Have you seen The Ghost and Mrs. Muir? That 1948 movie about a widow who lives by the sea and writes a book with the help of a ghostly sea captain? From the time I first saw the old film, it was my fantasy to be Mrs. Muir. But the more I wrote, the more it became clear that there was only one Mrs. Muir, and she wasn’t me. And as you prepare to head off to the conference in Dallas, here are five reasons why she probably isn’t you, either.

1. Mrs. Muir’s fingers flew as she wrote her masterpiece in a few weeks’ time.

Nope. Doesn’t work that way. There are times when fingers fly, but for me there was a lot more time spent staring at the screen forbidding myself to check Facebook.
Last Chance Hero
2. Mrs. Muir wrote “The End” about midnight, got a good night’s sleep and was off to London the next morning to find a publisher.

One word: Editing. Lots and lots of editing. Writing “The End” is one of the most satisfying, but misleading terms you’ll ever write. It’s not the end; it’s the beginning of a whole other process-the rewrite.

3. Mrs. Muir barged into the publisher’s office and begged him to stop what he was doing to read her manuscript immediately.

Don’t try this. Of course, you’d never get anywhere near your publisher’s office. They’ve learned and they have methods in place to stop you, but don’t try it at conferences, either. I can almost promise you that it won’t go well. Make your appointment and have your pitch ready.

4. Mrs. Muir sat and watched while her publisher read the entire manuscript until he sat back with a satisfied sigh and said, “What a wonderful book! Of course we’ll publish it.”

Right. Let me gently tell you that this is not going to happen. But if you do get a request for your full manuscript, go ahead and imagine that satisfied sigh. Why not? Just be prepared to get right back to work should the response not be what you imagined.

5. Mrs. Muir had a faithful retainer who followed her around making her cups of tea and urging her to take naps.

Of course, you may have someone like this in your life, but if you do, I don’t want to hear about it.

Okay, so we’re not Mrs. Muir. But as you head out to the conference with your well-edited manuscript in hand, your pitch polished to perfection, and your appointments all scheduled, who needs a movie fantasy? Except for the faithful retainer and her cups of tea. That one’s hard to give up.

Cathleen ArmstrongCathleen Armstrong, mother of three, grandmother of eight, wife of Ed, and personal attendant to Dani the Corgi lives in Orange County, California. The most recent addition to her four-book series, A Place to Call Home, is Last Chance Hero, released this month by Revell.

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2 Responses to Five Ways to Tell You’re Not Mrs. Muir

  1. Beth K. Vogt says:

    Cathleen: This was the most fun dose of reality I’ve read in a long time! Wouldn’t we all love an editor’s satisfied sigh and a faithful someone making us cups of tea or coffee and urging us to take naps?

  2. Oh, Rats! You mean I can’t slide my manuscript under the door of the…nevermind. Thanks for a great post!