Oct 27 2008 4:51pm

Behaving Badly As A Career Strategy, part 1

Stevie Chuckles’ Advice to New Writers

Part 1: Before you sell

You are important. Your writing is important. You and your writing are more important than anybody else (and their crummy writing). Here are some behaviors you can embrace to accentuate your place in the writing universe.

Most of all, remember that rules are for OTHER writers.

  1. Manuscript format is for people without genius. Allow yourself to express your creativity with interesting paper, inks, and unusual fonts. Strange packaging—say, the uncured hide of a unicorn—will also bring your manuscript the attention it deserves. Don’t worry about return addresses. If they really like it, they’ll find you.
  2. Feel free to submit to several different markets at the same time. Your genius doesn’t have time to wait like those other jerks.
  3. Or, since you’re so important, feel free to submit your original manuscript. The only copy. Backups are for the timid.
  4. Write a cover letter that explains that the editor would be A PATHETIC FOOL to pass up this story which is obviously so much better than the SHIT that editor usually publishes. They will appreciate your candor.
  5. Feel free to contact movie studios immediately, even before your book or story is finished. Your ideas are so original and so creative they will just hand you buckets of money for the priviledge of being associated with you.
  6. Editors may demur but they really like nothing better than to have you follow them into the restroom so you can pitch your novel to them.
  7. If one of these lying bastards actually has the temerity to say they don’t want to listen to you pitch your story during their particularly painful bowel movement (I mean—you’d think they’d want the distraction, ya know) then it is your duty to trash them in public and private conversations. People will admire your spunky and courageous behavior. They won’t share your opinion with other editors. They respect your privacy. And they won’t put their cell phone video of your diatribe on YouTube.
  8. Consider novel submission methods. In this day of email and internet applications those companies aren’t really using their fax machines for anything important and this provides them with a hard copy. Or, since today’s editors are on the go, go, go, consider text messaging your manuscript to their cell phone, one paragraph at a time.
  9. Attend some writer’s workshops. Because of your genius, of course, the main topic of these events is how sucky everybody else’s writing is. Face it, everyone is really there in hopes you will like their story and to hear you savage everybody else’s story. They hope they can be as wittily cutting as you are.
  10. Remember that you don’t have to read the entire manuscript of the other workshop participants. You already know its sucks. It just eats up your time. Making fun of the first or second page is sufficient.
  11. If someone does have the temerity to criticize the story you’ve brought, it’s important that you interupt them before they finish—before they completely embarrass themselves. Otherwise you might not have enough time to explain how very WRONG, WRONG, WRONG they are.

Next time: After you’ve sold but before you’ve published. (It involves spam.)

*The above was part of my lecture at the 2008 Viable Paradise Writer’s workshop on Martha’s Vienyard. New writers are strongly encouraged to follow every step. It cuts down on my competition. Okay. Maybe not the fax thing. Or the text messaging. Or ANY of them.

Adam Rakunas
1. rakdaddy
You’re writing is important.

You're idea is intriguing to me, and I would like to subscribe to you're newsletter.
Pablo Defendini
2. pablodefendini
Appreciate you're feedback. Its now been fixed. Their are always errors that slip through the cracks.

Tudza White
3. tudzax1
The newsreader version of this article is numbered correctly, but the webpage still has two "1."s. I expect the change needs to get noticed by a server or two.

Anyway, with reference to the second #1, why not submit to several different markets at the same time? How about in the same market, are you supposed to submit to various publishers one at a time? All the other suggests have their obvious problems, but this one seems reasonable to someone who has not submitted a work for publication.
Steven Gould
4. StevenGould
Tudzax1 (did I spell that right?)

Simultaneous submission can be done by agents (who communicate the fact that the work is at multiple houses or magazines ) but unpublished writers who do it (especially when they don't communicate same) can find themselves in deep trouble. An acquiring editor has no interest in even reading a work that is sitting in another company's slush pile.

While you can actually sell a novel out of the slush pile, it's such a small percentage that publishing houses want to know that they have an exclusive look at the material before they invest the most valuable commodity they have on it. (Not money--time.)

You may even get away with doing this but if an editor finds out you've done it to them, there's a good chance your stuff will not be read at that house again.

It sucks for new writers but it's the way things are.
eris esoteric
6. eris esoteric
You know, I've been explaining AWS (Asshole Writer's Syndrome) to people for years. Nice to see some of the behaviors catalogued.

My theory? It's caused by cognitive dissonance writers experience living in two worlds simultaneously. The first, and most important world (from the subject's point of view) is the one they've created, in which they know everyone's thoughts, and they control everyone's behaviors. The second is the one the rest of us live in, in which the writer has very little control at all. And let's face facts, humans do not do well transitioning from situations where they have power to situations where they have no power.
John Chu
7. JohnChu
My theory for AWS is another kind of cognitive dissonance. Of course, it's related to achieving some sort of recognition in the field, or, really, not achieving some sort of recognition.

On one hand, you recognize that you have to get out your million words of cr*p. You could potentially face many years of rejection slips before you sell anything, if you ever sell anything. On the other hand, you also have to believe that the story you're working on right now, the story that you're submitting right now may be The One. It may be your first story that an editor reads, does not find wanting, and is actually willing to pay for.

The business of writing can be incredibly demoralizing. In the face of constant rejections, writers need ways to keep their spirits up. Otherwise, we'd probably just give up. (For the record, I average one rejection every other week and that's infrequent compared to some of my friends.) Unfortunately, some writers choose ways of puffing themselves up that are counter-productive. The ways that they keep themselves going pretty much insure they'll never get published. Ironic, huh?

Maybe being a jerk might make you feel good in the short term. It feeds into that myth "well, if they just give me a fair shake, I *know* they'd publish my work." Or maybe they're attempting some sort of sympathetic magic. i.e., "If I treat my work as if it were utterly brilliant, everyone else will too." Or maybe they've brainwashed themselves into thinking that it really is utterly brilliant (but misunderstood, of course) because that's their defense mechanism against constant rejection.

However, I suspect that, in the long run, you're much better off being a decent person who gives the editors what they want the way that wants it, and who treats fellow writers with dignity and compassion. When you get demoralized, the company of other writers who are going through exactly the same thing you're going through is a good thing. (How did we ever manage before the internet?)

Oh, one other thing that Steve mentioned the year I was at VP: Do not engage in rejectomancy. No good can come it. I know we're all starved for editorial feedback. Making a banquet out of the imagined scraps buried in a rejection slip doesn't help.
J Sierra
8. jhsierra
AWS? Well, we all would like to believe we are the center of the universe, wouldn't we?

Some perhaps go too far in their pursuit of publishing, I would imagine that years of rejections can do anything to anyone. Not the publishers fault, nor the writer with the dream, but rather the fact that we all are a part of a commercial world, wether we like it or not.

That being said, I enjoyed reading the list. Gave me a good laugh. :)
Arachne Jericho
9. arachnejericho
Years of rejections is no excuse for acting like a jerk.
Keith Fieldhouse
10. kfieldho
I've often wondered when I've seen lists like this: in a typical unfiltered slush pile, how many manuscripts would fall under one of the items above? My guess (based on no actual experience whatsoever) is somewhere between 5 and 30% but I'd be interested in a reality based estimate.
11. rogerothornhill
I can't believe you're giving away this advice for free! Put it in a book--it would sell like hotcakes. It might even rate a whole side of a flyer for the Quality Paperback Book Club.
Melissa Ann Singer
12. masinger
@10: I see variants of #1 every single time I sit down to read slush, and have experienced all of #s 1-6 as well as #8. Not sure about the percentages, but these are pretty common(#s 6 and 8 less than the others).
Arachne Jericho
13. arachnejericho
I've kind of concluded that the slush pile draws all sorts of crazy to it. And boring, but it's the crazy that sticks in your mind.

You should cover some style advice too.
eris esoteric
14. A different Eric
kfieldho: in a typical unfiltered slush pile, how many manuscripts would fall under one of the items above?

You might get a kick out of TNH's classic post Slushkiller, which contains a percentage breakdown of the slush pile. In short: 70-95% of the stuff that comes in over the transom could be described as some combination of "hopeless" and "horrifying."
Keith Fieldhouse
15. kfieldho
@14, @10 Thanks for the responses. The "Slushkiller" post may have had the best writing/getting published advice I've ever read: "If you’ve written a book that surprises, amuses, and delights the readers, and gives them a strong incentive to read all the pages in order, your chances are very good indeed."

Of course, like most good advice, one's ability to interpret and apply factors in quite significantly.
Ashton Jones
16. Ashton_Jones
Beautiful. As someone who is just trying to sell their first few shorts and is going mad waiting for responses from various markets on the various manuscripts I've put out there, I can't get enough information on the actual business of writing. It helps when it's entertaining as well. Thanks.
Fabien Roy
18. lokiloki265
It's nice to find a post that pops up after more than a year that deals with writing. I must admit I find myself guilty of rejectomancy. And I thought it was a sign that an editor had actually read my manuscript and commented on it. Live and learn. Thanks for the fax idea.

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