Put Your Heart Into Your Work


 

Everything hurt.

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.


 

I count 747 for 176

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33 thoughts on “Put Your Heart Into Your Work

  1. Great job! I loved how it started out so realistic and matter of fact, and I was reading it as about your experiences with writing. Then I was drawn in by your grisly character. The creepy ending was a delight too.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Sorry Marcy – You can’t believe the things I write. They are all completely fabricated. OK there may be a bit of truth scattered in some of them to help keep me on track. And, sometimes the names remain the same to embarrass the guilty but, in general I make it all up. I’m glad I got you drawn in though and I’m glad you got a kick out of it. Thanks.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. 2/3 of the way through, I figured the ending would be… radical. You really brought the hammer down, though. Even if I was expecting something, I was still surprised. Simply awesome!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Excellent work. Am wondering how to address you. Each time I struggle with what to call you. Having had rejections, galore, I can truly understand the emotions. This story can be developed into a motion picture, I think, properly marketed.

    Like

  4. Fantastically creepy! I like how it starts out going in one direction, and then there’s this sharp turn and we’re heading down a completely different road. And I love that the author creates a character to help “fix” his publishing issues. Nicely done!

    Liked by 2 people

    • I haven’t heard from any big producers yet. Glad you liked it Ted. You got an awesome one in this week too. (too? or to? maybe two? well, you know what I’m trying to say… I hope).
      Thanks Ted

      Like

  5. Have you seen the movie “Stranger Than Fiction”? Your story reminded me of it, only crossed with The Shining. I’m always amazed at how fast you respond to writing prompts while still keeping your stories at a top-notch level.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I drew a blank on “Stranger Than Fiction” so I googled and now I remember the ads when it came out. I haven’t seen it though. “The Shining”? But of course I know that one. Glad you liked it Nate and “top-notch”? I’m glad you think so. Gracias.

      Like

    • I think “unexpected” is a good thing. You followed that up with “good read” I’m encouraged. I think you are a discriminating reader so “good read” from you seems high praise. Thanks so much.

      Like

      • Ouch! I just don’t often have much to say or usually what I wanted to say has already been said. I usually like what I read even if I don’t always say so, of course there are some subjects or genres that I prefer but I try to stay open minded.
        And yes, unexpected is a good thing, it keeps me on edge; I usually like to think ahead and always be guessing what will happen next whether for stories or films (which are another kind of story) and a predictable story is no fun. That’s why “you kept me guessing until the end” was very good: I had no idea where you were going until you got there!

        Liked by 1 person

  6. I’ve not had the experience much of rejection letters, since I went the self-publishing route. I sometimes wondered if I missed out. On the other hand, self-publishing usually doesn’t involve violent editor deaths. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Ah you really had me going there – the characters (both narrator and his fictional stand-in) drew me in; the plot was nicely foreshadowed yet made to twist nicely – it all had a quasi realistic, confessional atmosphere – right up until the line “A contract with very favorable terms, I might add” – from a publisher? for a first-time author?? nah, sorry, at that point the story tipped over into outright fantasy and, frankly, I’m not buying it!

    Liked by 1 person

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