A friend from way back looked me up the other day and noticed that I was a writer. He wanted to ‘get back to pursuing his dream of publication’ and asked me to look at his manuscript. Right here, I should point out that he has no formal education in English, Journalism, Literature, or related disciplines of a writer—not that one has to have them to achieve publication, but usually an aspiring author has to pay some dues one way or another. Writer’s organizations are also a very effective for acquiring the tools, incidentally.
It would have been more palatable if he’d invited me to an Amway sales retreat. I mean, if you’ve been in this business for a while, you know a new writer probably needs work and by the same turn, they probably don’t want to hear that. Even it they do overcome the body slam of first criticism, they don’t realize, as I didn’t and probably many of you didn’t either, how much they have to learn.
Cornered because he was an ‘old pal’, I tried a couple of customer-service strategies to stall. I talked about how many years I went to critique groups, and the stacks of rejections, and the delay between epiphanies that improved my prose.
He wrote back, saying that he agreed with all that…as if he had the battle scars.
So then I responded that when I started, I thought I had a foothill to climb, but actually it was Mt. Everest. And hell, I’m still scaling the beast.
His reply: something about how he could understand how he might have some work ahead of him.
So I went for broke. I asked if he knew what oblique dialogue was. A marker? Ever heard of a shapeshifter, a threshold guardian?
His next correspondence clued me that the game was over. He said he went to a community college creative writing class and didn’t feel the critiques there were very helpful. He also sent the manuscript to my inbox and left it open ended, saying “If you get around to it.”
Now, as far as I’m concerned, I’m glad he sought higher learning. Quite frankly, I don’t know what they cover in creative writing classes at junior colleges. But I noticed that he didn’t answer me. Clearly, he was oblivious.
Well, I sure the hell wasn’t going to fall into that black hole. My message back to him said: Took a peek at your story. Yep, you’ve got the writer’s bug. I strongly encourage you to submit it to some publishers. Good luck.
And he thought that was just peachy.
Sincerely, from me to all of you who know what a tough road this is, feel free to use my little charm should you find yourself in a similar pinch.
By the ever opinionated E.C. Stacy