It shouldn’t, I shouldn’t let it get to me, but it always did. Another rejection letter. Christ, I could wallpaper the parlor with them, I had so many. I used to enjoy writing until I started trying to get published. It was not always the same, but the pattern was consistent.
I would send a manuscript.
It would come back with a note: “Great character development but too long,” they would say.
I would tighten it up and send it back.
It would boomerang home again with another note: “Too short, but love the cast.“
Rewrite, edit, find a happy medium.
“We just don’t like it. The protagonist is wonderful, so real, but the hook doesn’t work… not enough conflict… the resolution leaves us unfulfilled.” Always, words to that effect.
I had to figure out a way to make it work. I had to change things up, take charge of my own destiny. So I sat down to analyze the situation. What was I doing wrong? What was I doing right? What could I do better? I scratched out a list and realized that I had a knack for characters but apparently had trouble drawing in the reader; injecting believable conflict; and worst of all, a penchant for wishy-washy endings
It made sense. My methodology had always been to create the characters and let them tell the story. In retrospect, it was clear to me that when I surrendered control of the story to my cast, things went downhill.
I could fix this.
Rolling a sheet of erasable bond into my old IBM Selectric, I drafted a quick character sketch. His name was Dr. Raymond Concord, a literature professor at a distinguished Ivy League school. He had studied writing and grew up listening to his grandfather tell him stories of “Wild West” shoot outs, of hold ups, and bank robberies; stories of war and destruction. He knew how to craft and tell a story. He knew how to write one as well.
Beyond that, he also knew how to kill. He knew how to kill slowly, painfully, he enjoyed it. He had killed his parents when he was eight years old. Smiling, he had watched them thrash and bleed out after running the blade of his father’s razor across their throats, one at a time. He knew he had been lucky that first time. He had been reckless and impulsive but no one had suspected him. He was just a child, after all. He was forty-three now, and he was an accomplished master.
I suggested a story line to Dr. Concord and let him run with it. In a matter of only a few weeks he crafted the exact story I had hoped for. He had really put his heart into it and it took on a life of its own. In the story Raymond is a professor who needs to be published, for tenure. He continually receives rejection letters, not unlike the ones I had been receiving. In fact, I had shown him a selection of my rejections for inspiration. Unlike me though, Raymond is incapable of creating characters that come to life. He is incapable of sketching a protagonist so real that they can literally leap off the page. In his story, Raymond has to deliver his manuscript in person. He handed it to the editor himself, ensuring that he knew who was readying the rejection letter. That night he would pay them a visit and wielding his considerable powers of persuasion he would painfully convince them to write an acceptance letter and a contract before mercifully killing them and posting the letter to himself.
I had to make few revisions before the manuscript was ready to send for consideration, but the changes were minor. A week after I handed it to the FedEx driver, I knew. I saw the story on the morning news. Late the night before, an editor at a major publishing house had been brutally murdered in his office. His throat slashed deeply, from ear to ear. I knew the panic he had felt as he watched his blood soak into the desk blotter, his life slowly ebbing away. I knew also that he had been cruelly tortured before he was killed. The anchorman said that there were no suspects.
Three days after the editor’s death made headlines, I received an acceptance letter from my publisher along with a contract. A contract with very favorable terms, I might add.