Tuesday, October 7, 2014

I Suffer for My Fiction. Now It's Someone Else's Turn

Sometimes I’m not at all sure that it’s really myself I loathe. Often I think it’s actually the rest of humanity, or at least that portion thereof that (with lots of help from me, of course) keeps me lonely, frustrated, and bored senseless. 
I loathe with particular ardor the 185 of the 186 literary agents I laboriously emailed individually 10 days ago regarding my latest novel, the comic masterpiece Who Is Keri Fetherwaite? One said yes. The rest either sent me emails advising that the book Didn’t Seem Right for Them or ignored me entirely. 
Maybe I should count my blessings. If a dozen had agreed to have a look at the manuscript (on which I worked especially hard, more about which in a paragraph or two), I know from past experience that at least 10 would have written back by now  to say that they didn’t like my writing. Better to be ignored, probably, than to have one of my core beliefs about myself placed in mortal jeopardy. I’ve always thought I could write, except during the days of my wealth ’n’ fame, when I lived in perpetual dread of someone jumping out of the shadows snickering, “You didn’t honestly imagine you were going to get away with this, did you?”
As for having worked especially hard on Keri…When writing fiction, which is huge fun around one percent of the time, and lonely drudgery the other 99, I very commonly ask myself, “You don’t honestly imagine you’re going to get away with this, do you?” Forcing myself to write a couple of thousand words per day, I commonly feel that maybe 1800 reek of the boredom I felt while composing them. And yet, when I’ve bled enough words for a book, I typically remind myself that I’m John Mendelssohn, whose brilliance is such that three or four perfect (or perhaps deeply flawed) strangers request my Facebook friendship each month based on something I wrote 41 years ago that Changed Their Lives (like a record review that introduced them to a group they wound up enjoying). 
What’s more, I can’t trim the rotten parts very well, not in view of the endless hours of forcing myself to sit here at my laptop, writing a sentence, checking Facebook in (usually vain) hope of someone having liked something I said, checking my email, filing what’s left of my fingernails, checking Facebook and my email again, revising the sentence, deciding that the sentence is unsalvageable, and then repeating the process 400 times per hour. I suffered awfully to get those words down on paper, or into computer memory. Now I’m supposed to discard them?
I used to think that the next stap — editing — very pleasurable compared to the actual writing. Here pick an even better word. There reconstruct a sentence to enhance its comprehensibility (and let no one muse aloud, “He does that?”). Burnish the wit. Lately, though, I’ve found the editing stage no less grueling than the writing. Nonetheless, I reworked Keri no fewer than three times, a new land record, and excised a couple of paragraphs. And where did it get me, my dears? Where? One kind, prescient agent’s tender accession. One! Of 186!

Stop hurting me, world. This instant! Stop it, I say!


  1. Try unfriending a few people on FB to those who've earned it. There are always some. I've only a few handfuls and do it regularly. Mentally, it's often better than handing out a like.

  2. You're a writer's writer. Fiction is a bitch. Publishing is going the way of music economy. Yup.It's definitely tough to be a writer in this day and age, unless you write for free.