Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass (Part 3)

This entry is part 3 of 27 in the series Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass

How I Discovered that I Sucked

I’d just spent six months writing a pack of highly stylized stories. People who read these stories, people I trusted, said they were beautiful. I hadn’t submitted anything for years, but on these words of encouragement I sent out the stories. Then I sent them out again. And again. It gets ridiculous after awhile, and I remembered why I stopped sending my stuff out.

I know that there’s nothing like guaranteeing failure by keeping your work all to yourself. You have to send it out again and again. But this perseverance only works if you believe in what you are doing, if you care about it. When I sat down with the latest round of rejection notices, I realized that I cared more about the rejections than I did the work. In fact, I couldn’t hardly remember what the hell I’d even written in those stories.

The Beautiful Boring Turns Ugly

Without bothering to lick another stamp, I took up the stories and I began to read them. It was painful, very painful. Halfway through the first page of the first story, I lost all interest. It was beautiful but boring.

It was like going out on a date with a six-foot blond, someone who might be on the cover of a magazine, certainly not someone you would ever be so lucky to actually date. Then, while you’re just getting cozy, she opens her mouth and nothing comes out. Oh sure, she’s saying something alright. You can hear her. But whatever she’s saying means absolutely nothing because it is god-awful boring.

Sorry to get all Chandleresque here but I like my dames with brains.

My stories, beautiful as they were, had no brains. They were slices of life, vignettes, literary snapshots. It was John Ruskin, painting with words and crap.

Only, on closer inspection, I discovered flaws. Lots of flaws. In fact, so many flaws that I realized my work only looked good. It was awful in fact, and I’d been doing it for years.

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