Thursday, May 26, 2005

How to Get Published Fast,
Part I: Writing Gooder

Maybe it’s the postal carrier’s fault.

Dear Writer,

We are unable to accept your manuscript at this time. Vaguely, it might be a problem with your manuscript. Or it could be that we just don’t have space. Maybe we didn’t even read it. You’ll never know.

Perhaps you’ve assumed, irresponsibly and without adequate feedback, that the writing life is for you. Anyway, good luck and please enjoy the complimentary cyanide tablets. For instructions on administrating the tablets, please send an SASE to our Dashed Dreams editor at the mailing address provided, and be advised that due to the abundance of requests, it may take up to 6 months to respond.

What’s wrong with my manuscript? It’s neat and tidy, the pages numbered sequentially. I have adhered to everything I’ve learned in my writing classes and workshops. I’ve applied every trick and strategy advised by the copious number of books on writing I’ve devoured. I’ve stalked metaphor usage like a ferocious and hungry bear. Where have I failed? Does the problem lie with the sophisticationess of my vocabulary? Is it my fact checking? The Space Needle isn’t the Washington Monument? Don’t I have license, being the creative soul I am to embellishize my story?

I’ve taken great care in limiting ly words, just like the expert writers advise. I’ve all but banished lying, lynch, lyric, lymph, lyceum, and as those rejection letters pile up, I’m thinking of going after the li words too. I’m simply running out of ways to improve my writing.

I miss those formative years when I was just learning the rudiments of English. I made the best lowercase ‘f’s in Mrs. McCuscker’s first grade class. Ready and abundant praise was mine for the taking, and all I had to do was draw a crook with a horizontal line through it. After my first victory, I became self-conscious in my efforts to repeat my success. I’d find my starting point, then dotted the blackboard with several false starts before committing the velvet stub of chalk. My hand grew less steady at every turn, but once finished, I couldn’t help but admire the buttery glyph. If only validation still came that easily.

Now that I've decided to earn my livlihood from writing, in addition to having to make sure that commas and semi-colons are used correctly, I have to worry about redundancies and clichés. I’ve got the ‘i before e’ rule down,’ but must also take care to avoid tense shifts and verb/noun disagreements.

And all those beautiful, descriptive, frilly adjectives and adverbs that I spent a lifetime accumulating—worthless. Had to get rid of them. They’re utterly, completely, disappointingly, bloody useless.

Editors and the folks at the Modern Language Institute may puzzle over my sentences, but I know what my dangling modifiers are trying to say, and I’m not convinced that willn’t isn’t a word.

Sure, I prefer to write in the abstract, because describing the world in its naked, concrete palpability is just too painful. Editors may yawn, but sensitive, over-stimulated readers will thank me later.

I may never figure out what it is I’m doing wrong, and unless I change my name, I’ll never be an Annie Dillard or Margaret Atwood. I suppose I could find an easier way to make money for the time being. Something to tide me over until that blessed day arrives, when I write way more betterly than anyone.



Blogger Queen of the Inane said...

Here, I'll make you feel smarter w/my praise. I surely do enjoy yer blogish thing that I read it every day and i think its creative and greatness fun and yer cynisism and whit are just so dern cute. If yer real writins are anythin like yer day 2 day shit, then Im not sure what the promblem be either.

-me as a dumb hick

3:21 PM  
Blogger Cindy St. Onge said...

Thank you Hannah!
I got a kick out of reading your comment, and then and even bigger kick when I read it out loud with a hick dialect.

You crack me up!

3:54 PM  

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