Once upon a time, in a land far, far away (well, in Tennesee), there lived three little authors, Speedily, Impatiently and Ploddingly. (Aside: it is unfortunate they all have adverbs as names). They all had a dream to build a publishing empire from their rather pithy words. Every week they’d get together to swap publishing nuggets, each parading his work before the other and sometimes welcoming comments, but mostly just wanting praise. They called their critique group The Three Musketeers.
Curious what went on in those meetings? Listen in:
“I can’t understand why Random House won’t buy my books,” said Speedily. “The moment the words leave my brain, I put them on the page for all the world to see. Once they leave me and imprint themselves on the page, they’re perfect, practically God’s words for today’s generation.”
“Um, well,” said Ploddingly. “Maybe if you polished your words first.”
“Nonsense,” said Impatiently. “No time for that in this workaday world. It’s all about word count, I tell you. Just poop out the word count day in and day out and send it hither and yon.”
“Um, two things.” Ploddingly took a pen from behind his ear and jotted a few words down into his moleskin. “First, you can’t use the word POOP. It doesn’t sell. And the gatekeepers won’t stand for it. You must take time to study your demographic! And another thing. I believe the metaphor you’re using for sending out submissions is the shotgun approach. Have you ever considered targeting your submissions so that your work matches what the publisher actually wants?”
“Boo,” said Speedily and Impatiently at the same time. They gave each other high fives.
“It’s the straw that broke the wolf’s back,” Speedily said.
“I believe it’s camel.” Ploddingly looked away, watched the mellowing sunset outside. He wrote “mellowing sunset” in his moleskin.
“Whatever. The camel that broke the wolf’s back.” Speedily quickly wrote a poem on the back of one of his “pieces of genius” as he called it. “Here. Read this. It’s beautiful!”
Impatiently snapped it away from Speedy. “I’ll do it.” He read:
“The sound of sticks is loud, loud, loud
In the sky there lives a puffy cloud
The sun is there and it looms proud
And through it all the heavens bowed.”
Impatiently smiled quickly. “Wow, Speedy. That is raw genius. I can’t for the life of me figure out why you aren’t America’s Poet Laureate.”
“It’ll come quickly, I know.” Speedily held the poem to his chest.
Ploddingly rolled his eyes. He’d heard this conversation before. “Listen, I gotta go.”
“Too good for us?” Impatiently asked. “You’re about as boring as a brick. You know that? That’s okay. I see how this goes. Mr. Boring Brick Man is too busy for both of us.”
“Nice alliteration,” Ploddlingly said.
“Alliter–what?” Speedily added. “I know what’s going on. You’re intimidated by us. You think you’re all smarty pants-ish. Whatever. All I can is this. YOU HAVE ISH!”
“What is ISH?” Ploddingly asked.
Speedily rolled his eyes. “Um, only the shortened form of ISSUES. And believe me, you have ISH.” He gave Impatiently another high five. They cackled together as Ploddingly snuck away, no doubt to write more words, and ask for more critique and target his submissions well. Dolt!
“Can you believe that nerd? He actually thinks working day in and day out on this writing gig is going to snatch him publishers. Ridiculous!” Impatiently tapped the table with his pencil. “I’m tired. You?”
“Yeah, I need a nap. Let’s go over our work next month.” Speedily smiled. Yes, indeed this publishing journey would be as easy as building a house of straw…or sticks.