reinventing the broken wheel

Just got another rejection email. This time for How I Saved the World by Doing Nothing. And looking back now I can’t believe that I ever thought that even an online literary journal that doesn’t actually pay for stories would want to publish it.

Don’t get me wrong, I still really like the story. I’m just not happy with the way I wrote it. And, obviously, neither were the editors of the journal. I do appreciate the feedback they gave me though.

As aspiring writers themselves, I think they felt it was important to give every submission one positive comment and one negative comment. For me the positive comment was that they liked my narrative voice. The negative comment was that I took it too far, and tried to explain things too much, rather than just letting the narrative flow.

In the literary world, this is pretty much a universal rookie mistake. Basically, I made the fatal error of “telling” instead of “showing”. In good literary fiction, the detail and description should flow spontaneously and organically from the dialogue and narrative. If the author tries to beat the reader over the head with what they consider to be important details, they’re doing it wrong.

This is why I feel like I’m simply reinventing the broken wheel; I’m making the same clichéd mistakes that pretty much all beginning writers make.

Still, there is hope for me, and I’m not about to give up without even really trying. The thing is, there’s a ton of resources available for free on the internet for aspiring writers, and I know exactly what I need to do to fix my problems. Basically, I just have to read a LOT, and write a LOT. Simple as that. Which is why I’m moving to Australia in six months to dedicate a year to nothing but writing.

And yeah, if I wasn’t serious about this I could be content with just posting stuff on this blog and having my Mommy and maybe one or two other people tell me I’m great, but in order to make my writing palatable to a wider audience, I’m definitely going to need to spend a lot of time and a lot of effort working on improving my writing style. But to me it’s worth it.

The funny thing is, just like the last time I got a rejection email, within a day of getting this latest one I received and email from a friend of mine telling me she’d finished reading the rough draft of my novel, and she really liked it. She even said it was so good that while she was at the bar with her friends, she just wanted to go back home so she could finish reading it.

Wow. That is seriously the biggest compliment anyone could give me at this point. And it really meant a lot to me. Hell, even if she was just saying that to make me feel better, it’s still the kind of encouragement that I need right now.

So my big goal this week is to try and find a literary agent. The book is nonfiction, which is good because there’s actually a bigger market for nonfiction than fiction, and with nonfiction you’re allowed to get away with more “telling” instead of always “showing”, so my greatest weakness—lack of descriptive ability—doesn’t hurt me quite so much.

I’d really like to have a career as a writer. I think it would be cool to make a living doing what I love most. Unfortunately playing video games and chasing women doesn’t generally pay that much, so I guess I’ll just give writing a shot. And I may not be a decent writer at the moment, but I think I have the potential to get there if I really work at it.

We’ll see.

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About Critical Awesomeness
I'm a 32-year-old American with a PhD in chemistry and a green hat. Only one of these two things is really important.

2 Responses to reinventing the broken wheel

  1. Brian Christofferson says:

    I loved your book! I laughed out loud on many, many occasions. It was painful though to read the part where you told about how I used your least favorite word in Swahili in very poor form. The nice part is that you made it sound better than it really was. Just for the record; What I said on Kilimanjaro all those years ago was more like:
    “Mzungu tired! Mzungu want white tea! Mzungu want white bread!

    Thank you for your kindness. You are great.

    Daddy Wade

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