Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Adventures of a wannabe writer

A cautionary tale that could be true in many cases

Jack had always wanted to be a writer, ever since he was a little boy and had read the children’s illustrated version of Moby Dick. When his fifty-something friends— many laid off in the last recession—took time out to write their novels, Jack did not want to be left behind. Besides, his back was hurting from playing golf on weekends and he needed a more sedentary pursuit

First, he was told that he needed a writing credential, an MFA or something. So he enrolled and went out for a three-week retreat with other writers, where he got drunk, swapped stories and slept with some of his fellow alumni (and even a loose faculty member who came to these events just to get laid) and received a diploma for his efforts at the end of the orgy. He returned with three things he had learned: (1) write daily, at least three pages, (2) write great one-page query letters until you find a publisher or agent, (c) and market, market, market yourself.

Jack followed the formula. He wrote three pages every day; most of it was junk, so he trashed them at the end of the day. He developed 100 versions of a query letter and sent out at least three queries a day, flogging this novel that he hadn’t yet written because his three-pages-a-day output was ending up in the waste basket. He built a website, posted his un-trashed sample writing on it, blogged and twittered. He shot a home movie of himself typing away at his computer and posted it on You Tube, where he got lots of hits because it was a movie about “nothing.” He went to writers conferences where he attended umpteen “how to write” workshops that all told him to lock himself away in a room and write because writing was a noble occupation and that family and friends were distractions. He locked himself in a room and wrote until his wife left him because she had graduated from being a golf widow to a writer’s widow and was fed up with both.

When his novel was finally completed—1050 pages—he went in search of an editor to make sense of what he had written. The editor, highly paid, and who made a living on people like Jack, whittled his story down to 45 pages and said that it was insufficient to stand alone as a novel but could be entered in a novella contest.

Jack entered every literary contest for novellas that he could find on the internet, sending out about 100 submissions over six months. He won nothing.

He met several other writers in the same boat while at the many conferences that he still continued to attend in the hope of meeting the elusive agent or publisher who would glimpse the spark in him. Since no sparks ignited, he suggested to his hapless colleagues that they publish an anthology under a no-name publishing company that could be floated for just that purpose—who would know the difference? They did, and between the 25 writers in the anthology, each bought 500 copies to sell, gift or burden their friends and relatives with. The book was ranked a bestseller in Canada.

Jack finally realized his ambition. He changed his website to “writing instructor”; after all he was published in a bestseller—that was credential enough—and he started teaching other hapless wannabes how to write, especially how to write query letters.

Last heard, he has written nothing since that solitary novella. But I am told that he is making a lot of money and appears to have finally snagged his whale.

About the Writer

Shane Joseph is a writer for BrooWaha. For more information, visit the writer's website.
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2 comments on Adventures of a wannabe writer

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By melanie jean juneau on October 03, 2012 at 07:13 pm

Wonderful, flowing writing with easy wit and a steady dose of humour. Absolutely perfect. Even as a beginner who, can't type, can't spell and has only one foot in the 21st century's technological world, I STILL grinned through the entire essay. Thanks for pointing out all the pitfalls.

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By Shane Joseph on October 03, 2012 at 07:20 pm

thanks motherofnine9. i am finding the truth behind "write what you know." it's a lot easier.

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