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Posted in Writing

I Always Knew He Was A Dick!


I had a weird experience this week. It happened the day before I read this article by Josh Olson. The incident amazed me and then I read Olson’s article and felt compelled to blog. I was talking with someone where I work about my writing. This person knew that I was sending my book out to agents and had asked how it was going. I told her it was going about like I expected, I was getting rejections. I wasn’t heart broken I knew going in how much work this was going to be.

My conversation was overheard by someone else who I work with (not a friend) and he cornered me out in the hallway and proceeded to tell me about this great half finished story he had written. The person was sure the idea was spectacular and that this would be the perfect time to sell said concept. I nodded my head and tried to smile. Inside I just wanted to escape. Then I was stunned into silence (if you know me, then you know that this is rare).

The person actually looked at me with a straight face and asked me if I could help them get it published. Nervous laughter ensued, I was sure that he was joking. He was not. He began to regal me with the greatness of his story and all I could think of was you have to finish the damn book before I am even going to remotely take you serious. I know I shouldn’t have been insulted but I was.

Writing is not something I take lightly. It is my second job. I work all day and then I come home and spend a few hours with my wife. My wife then goes to sleep like a normal person and my second job starts with work hours that are horrendous and the pay is for shit.

I tried to explain this as politely as I could. I told him about a few magazines and websites he might check out but he kept yammering at me like one of those little dogs that should have their vocal chords removed. I was starting to get annoyed. I asked him what he was going to be doing this weekend and he said golfing. I explained that I would be writing, looking for an agent, researching publishers. Even with all of that work I knew that my novel was almost certainly destined to be a learning experience. One more book under the belt to being a better writer.

It was amazing that he didn’t get it. The conversation was like some kind of Bizaro World nightmare. I work with this person, I really didn’t want to be rude. That was until he asked the next question. “Do you have any friends that are authors?” I looked at him with astonishment. My brain said don’t answer but I did. I told him yes. “Well if you can’t help me maybe you could give me their names and they can.”

I am sure that I looked stunned. You could have hit me with a hammer and drove over me with a tank and I wouldn’t have looked more astonished. I gave him the only answer I could think of, “Not a chance.” It was time to walk away but like a fly in a web I could not escape. He did not like my answer. He was actually angry.

I tried to keep it together but I failed. “Are you fucking serious? They’re my friends. I don’t even ask them to read my writing. I would like to keep them as friends and turning you loose on them is going to go along way to ending that prospect. They’re busy having a career. A career I hope to enter some day through hard work, talent, and persistence. Now leave me alone and we shall never speak of this again.”

So now like Josh Olson above, I am a dick. He walked away mad. It was of course my fault that his novel will remain unpublished because clearly I hold the magic key to publication. It is a good thing that I don’t really care what the people at my work place think about me. The ones who like me will think this is hilarious. The ones who don’t will think, “I knew he was a dick.”

People are delusional. I want to be a writer so bad that I see words while I sleep but I am going to have to write, write, and write some more. It might happen and if it does I will gladly talk to you about process, how hard it is to get published, all the years of toiling on the side line wondering if I was good enough. How hard it is to work in isolation. I will show you my box of rejection letters and explain what a thick skin you are going to need. I will point you in the direction of good books and web sites but I will never get you published. Only your writing and hard work will get that done.

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9 Responses to “I Always Knew He Was A Dick!”

  1. Anne Lyle says:

    >Fantastic post, Chris – and just one of the reasons I don't tell my work colleagues that I write (the other one is the "so, when is your book being published?" cluelessness *sigh*).

  2. >Reminds me of the time, back when I had a soul-destroying day-job, when I had a tiny, niche-market, small-press book published. Colleagues said, 'So, you'll be leaving work then?' Yes, I will, because as soon as you put pen to paper, gold falls from the sky. 😉

  3. Precision says:

    >Sheesh, next time just say Sure! No problem, go to http://www.publishamerica.com/ and say I've sent you – they will defo publish you. Problem solved.(am I being too mean?)

  4. >The truth about writing professionally–that it's 90% perseverance and hard work, 9% talent, and 1% luck–isn't sexy, so it's not what people want to hear or are willing to believe. Most people hold fast to the Hollywood version: Upon getting a few pages of prose under the nose of a professional writer (er, someone not actually in a position to buy and publish the MS, nor to market and represent it), the misunderstood individual's genius is finally recognized and his life instantly changes (improves) by leaps and bounds.This is such a powerful fantasy that it's not only remarkably persistent, but people can be INCREDIBLY venomous to anyone who challenges it. Mostly, of course, such an individual hangs out with other people who ALSO know nothing about the publishing business or writing professionally, and who therefore do NOT challenge it. Encountering someone who introduces reality into that fantasy usually causes the person to rear up, hiss, and spew poison like a spitting cobra.One solution I've come up with that has so far worked well for me, and I encourage others to take advantage of it (because spitting cobras a VERY dangerous) is to recommend my Writer's Resource page, which is a huge set of links to articles, websites, workshops, REPUTABLE freelance editors, books about the craft and the biz. =All= resources therein recommended either personally by me (author of abou 20 published books) or by other working writers whom I'm know personally, so this is good stuff:http://www.sff.net/people/laresnick/About%20Writing/Writers%20Resource.htmIn fact, the page is useless to such people, but I find they're less likely to spit if one points to a shiny object (such as this pagee) when saying no.Meanwhile, the page is actually (if I do say so myself) a terrific resource for serious writers, so take a look sometime!Anyhow, sympatheties on that event. All too common, alas.Laura Resnick

  5. Mick Parker says:

    >Yes, it is hard. It took me 26 years to get my novel HELL'S GATE published. Want to know more? See my web site http://www.michaeljparker.com

  6. Dan says:

    >Bravo!Now that you have the "Being a Dick" part down pat, you are sure to be a big success! (Just kidding!)The reason you will be a success is that you have a realistic outlook on writing. I've been writing for almost four years and am now only starting to get little nibbles of interest.Enjoy writing while you can, there's many more of those yayhoos waiting in the wings!!!

  7. syrimne says:

    >great post (I found by following from the scalzi blog). I'm about in the same place as you, it sounds like…just finished my first (well, first potentially publishable) novel and am just now venturing into the work of trying to sell it. It is pretty amazing how people do this with writing…both 1) the assumption that "my great idea" is enough and that the writing part is a detail, and 2) that it's okay to ask writers to essentially work for free. I do a lot of editing work for friends, etc., but I've had to lose a few people who were incredibly uncool about this, and/or approached the favor I was doing them with a sense of entitlement. I'm backing off doing a lot of reading for others right now as a result…and for the simple reason that, like you, I have a day job and there are only so many hours in the day. Also like you, my days are very, very long. I write before and after work and every weekend, and still have to carve out time to do the business side of the writing.Thanks for posting!

  8. Mick Parker says:

    >I call writing a 'sweet curse'. Have done for years because I have been writing for years. The 'sweet' bit is writig. I love making up stories; something I used to do as a kid. Now I'm grown up and still love doing it. The 'curse' is the apparent indifference from pulishers and agents. So what? they say. You've written a book? And the rejections come piling in. We are a hardy bunch, but for some it is a long road full of, ah, I was going to say 'promise'. Silly me. I did get there in the end. Have a look at my website and you'll see. http://www.michaeljparker.com.

  9. Anonymous says:

    >Great post. You have now been initiated into the club. The sad part is, jerks like this don't understand that they're putting you in a no win situation. They're asking you to make them famous, and if you say anything other than "Yes! Where has your genius been all these years? Let me call my editor this minute and tell him all about you!" you're a dick. I've gotten to the point where all I say is "I can't." And I repeat it no matter what they ask. They still think I'm a dick, but at least I haven't wasted my time trying to explain the facts of life to them.

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