Tuesday, September 01, 2009

a writer's tale in second person

You send a story off to a magazine and it's rejected. Fine. Happens all the time. No big deal, you say to yourself.

The slush editor is kind enough to note some things about the story and why he rejected it. Not many do that. Good for him.

The problem is, what the slush editor describes in no way resembles the story you sent him. For example, he says, use fewer adverbs. Get right into your story, he says. He says, this is an interesting alternate history of Genghis Khan, but not really what I'm looking for.

So you go back and look at your story and you realize that the only way you could use fewer adverbs is if you used no adverbs. And somebody dies in the first paragraph. And it's not about Genghis Khan.

Where, you want to ask, are all these adverbs? How much sooner must you get into a story than the first paragraph? And Genghis Khan? Genghis H. Khan! But you dare not ask, because you don't want to get on the bad side of the editors. 

You realize this slush editor has probably spent too much time commenting on writing forums and attending workshops or (God forbid) leading workshops, and has had his head filled with all the textbook dos and don'ts that workshop leaders employ to fill time and justify the money and hope people expend attending them. He wants the monster to appear on the first page of your story. He thinks because you used Mongol-sounding names that your story is an alternate history of Genghis Khan. And he can't be bothered to overcome his lazy, mistaken first impressions because his attention span has been rotted to the thickness of a hair by texting and twitter.

But that's ok because the attention span of his readers is just as threadbare. 

And so you move along, quietly, smiling to yourself. It's a lovely day. You make ice cream and take a nap and after a while you're glad you deleted that pithy reply email before sending it. Because it's just not worth the trouble. When you argue with idiots, you always lose.

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