Ways to Trash Your Writing Career: An Intermittent Series

You can be the best fiction writer in the world, unparalleled in your mastery of plot and character and theme.  And you can circle the toilet bowl and go down with a gurgle in spite of that.  How does this happen?  There are ninety-and-nine ways, for sure.  Here’s one:

Insult or offend the editor. Editors have extremely wide latitude in manuscript selection. That’s what they’re paid for — to be the gatekeeper into the publishing system.  They reject bad books, of course.  But they can also reject ms for a host of other reasons — too many writers from the West Coast in the stable; already bought a dynamite fantasy trilogy from Neil Gaiman and so cannot use your rather similar epic; didn’t like the fact that you drive a Hummer — any reason or no reason at all.  As a species editors are underpaid and overworked.  Rejecting ms is their only diversion.

So, you want to go down in flames?  Call this rejection power into play against your career, by meeting an editor and commenting loudly upon the size of her breasts.  This works even better if it is a male editor.   Get extra points by using the term ‘rack’.

In a similar vein you could make rude comments upon other editorial attributes — race, baldness, political persuasion and so on.  I have heard apocryphal stories of writers who were so foolish as to make sexual overtures to an editor’s spouse.  There is no way that anyone could possibly imagine this could end well.

If you want to be a professional writer, the assumed requirement is that you act professionally.  If you wouldn’t make that comment, or that pass, at your day job, don’t do it while pursuing your writing career.

Commit stupendous follies like this, and I guarantee you: your career will die on the vine.



About Brenda Clough

Brenda W. Clough spent much of her childhood overseas, courtesy of the U.S. government. Her first fantasy novel, The Crystal Crown, was published by DAW in 1984. She has also written The Dragon of Mishbil (1985), The Realm Beneath (1986), and The Name of the Sun (1988). Her children’s novel, An Impossumble Summer (1992), is set in her own house in Virginia, where she lives in a cottage at the edge of a forest. Her novel How Like a God, available from BVC, was published by Tor Books in 1997, and a sequel, Doors of Death and Life, was published in May 2000. Her latest novels from Book View Cafe include Revise the World (2009) and Speak to Our Desires. Her novel A Most Dangerous Woman is being serialized by Serial Box. Her novel The River Twice is newly available from BVC.


Ways to Trash Your Writing Career: An Intermittent Series — 4 Comments

  1. Wow. I’d hazard a guess that there more subtle ways to destroy my incipient career, but if I’m ever hankering to destroy it right quick, I’ll try to remember these beauts.

  2. One could do worse. There is a particular editor in science fiction who rejected a piece of mine (which is a long story in itself). After bottling the anger up for nearly three years, I finally exploded one day on the internet and typed words to the effect that I wished said editor would walk out in front of a bus.

    I didn’t say I’d be driving the bus nor did I personally threaten the editor, but it was pretty obvious that I did not wish this person well.

    In any event, it is probably not wise to type such things and I knew at the time it was not wise.

    The problem, for me at least, is that I am not all that sorry that I typed it. Nor has the sentiment passed in the interim.

    As it stands, I was at a lit fest last weekend and a fellow panelist, in respone to my bus comment said, “Why not wish that?”

    Anyway, probably shouldn’t do stuff like that.

    Funny thing is, it is the only rejection I have ever gotten angry over.

    S. F. Murphy
    Author of The Limb Knitter and Tearing Down Tuesday

  3. With rejections, it is important to remember that quite often it HAS NOTHING TO DO with you or your work. It has to do with the fact that corporate has cut ten titles from the list next quarter, or that they cannot buy your space opera having already bought three last year, or that the work does not fit in with the new editorial direction towards Vampire Romance that marketing has just decreed. Taking these things personally just leads to wear and tear on your stomach lining.

    If you MUST type a vehement rebuttal, for all love, do not hit send! Delete it immediately!

  4. Act professionally? Professionalism is a crutch for the untalented, those who lack the imagination and verve to be, uh, exceptional.

    And you call yourself a writer.