Paperback Writer

When I started writing my Reflections posts on Facebook, many of the people that read them said, You should write a book!

My response was something like unto, Forgive them. They know not what they say.

Writing, like cunnilingus, is dark and lonely work. If you don’t believe me, try doing either one of them exclusively for a year or two. A writer spends hours, days, weeks and months doing nothing but writing. On the Fun Scale, it doesn’t even register.

For starters, no one writes everything perfectly the first time. I sure as hell don’t. I have to edit and rewrite almost everything I write, even grocery lists, and that includes these posts. When I was trying to become a published author, I spent eight to ten hours a day or more parked in front of my computer monitor almost every day for two years. My only companion was a glass and a bottle of scotch.

I’m probably not a very good writer. I doubt I could tell you the difference between an adverb and an adjective. I mix past, present and future tenses. I leave participles dangling all the time. The only reason I know what a conjunction is is because I watched Schoolhouse Rock when I was a kid. I wrote what popped into my creative mind, irregardless of its grammatical correctness. And yes, I know irregardless isn’t a real word.

I’ve written a book before. It was a monster; over 1500 pages. After a lots of discussion with other hopeful authors and people in the publishing business, I broke my magnum opus into three smaller books. If you’ve never heard of me, or any of my books, there’s a simple reason. None of them were ever published.

I titled my book Seven Trumpets. It was a fictional interpretation of the Book of Revelation, the Two Witnesses, and the End of Times. And you have never seen a more pissed off person than I was when Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins came out with their Left Behind series.

still hate those two fucking fucks.

I wanted to be a rich and famous author back in the 1990’s. And a prophet–I really wanted to be a prophet, too. Granted, the publishing business has changed a lots since then, but what hasn’t. Would I have a better chance of successfully being published now?

Possibly. But the publishing business isn’t the only thing that’s changed since then. I no longer have the desire to be a rich. I no longer desire to be famous. Okay, I still want to be a prophet. That part hasn’t changed much.

And I still like writing–writing is a creative process, and I’m a fairly creative guy. But I have no desire to write another book. And that’s all because of the publishing process. Publishing is a business. Publishers aren’t interested in creativity. Publishers are interested in making money.

Back in the 1990’s, once you wrote something you wanted to see in your local bookstore, you needed a publisher. To procure a publisher, you wrote a query letter that briefly described your book and why it should be published, and sent it out to every publishing company you could find an address for. I’m going to take a wild guess here, but publishing companies probably received hundreds of query letters from guys and gals like me every day. I don’t know the statistics of novels published based on a query letter, but I’m going to take another guess here and say not very damn many.

There were actual published books that were little more than lists of publishing companies and their addresses, and you could find them in bookstores. Publishers probably loved them because potential authors bought them by the ton.

I know this because I bought a few/several of them. I wrote query letters by the dozen and mailed them out every week. And I received a lots of letters in return. I can still remember the excitement I felt when I saw my first response from a publishing company I had queried in my mailbox. My hands were shaking so badly I could hardly open it. Good thing it wasn’t an engagement ring!

Alas, the first letter I received from a publishing company was a what authors referred to as a rejection letter. Come to think of it, the last letter I received was a rejection letter, as well as all the letters in between. I had a stack of them over a foot high.

I’m not the only author that has experienced this. Norman Vincent Peale received so many rejection letters he threw his manuscript in the garbage. His wife pulled it out of the trash and convinced him to try, one more time. You might have heard of his book, The Power of Positive Thinking.

Robert M. Pirsig received over one hundred rejection letters before his manuscript was published. Maybe you’ve heard of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. If you haven’t, read it. It’s one of my favorite books.

Rejection is part of the publishing process. My experience certainly wasn’t/isn’t/will be unique. As I was to learn from the mountain of rejection letters I received, publishing is a very subjective business, and just because Random House wasn’t interested in publishing my manuscript didn’t mean another company wouldn’t be. Good luck with your career…

After two years of writing, and editing, and rewriting almost every sentence I wrote, thanks in part to double vision from the scotch I was drinking. After another three years of writing query letters, and attending seminars on getting published, and making follow up calls to any publishing company that would talk to me, I finally decided I’d had enough and quit. I threw every copy of my manuscript I had in the garbage. I trashed every note of research I had done. Any scrap of paper even remotely related to my writing got tossed. Even my pile of rejection letters.

I have no desire to go back down that road again. I like to think that all of you who encouraged me to write a book did so because you enjoyed reading my stories, and I appreciate that more than I can say. A writer lives to have his or her work read. A comedian lives to make people laugh. I have at least two reasons to live right now. Writing a few humorous and perhaps poignant short stories every week has fit into my new lifestyle very well so far.

Lea would never tell me, but I think she was overjoyed when I finally gave up trying to be a rich and famous author. And a prophet, though I’m still holding on to the slight possibility it could still happen. I look upon it as my last chance at redemption and recompense. I’m sure I ignored my lovely wife terribly during my writing days. She was one of the few people that actually read my monster manuscript from start to finish, and I know I didn’t take anything that sounded like criticism or correction from her gracefully. I don’t know how she put up with me. I could be a real bastard to live with back then.

Thanks for not divorcing me, honey.

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