The adventures of a wannabe writer (a very short story)

Jack had always wanted to be a writer, ever since he was little. When his fifty•something friends— many laid off in the last recession—took time out to write their novels, Jack did not want to be left behind. Besides, his back was hurting from playing golf on weekends and he needed a more sedentary pursuit.

First, he was told that he needed a writing credential, an MFA or something. So he enrolled and went out for a three•week retreat with other writers, where he got drunk, swapped stories and slept with some of his fellow alumni (and even a loose faculty member who came out to these events just to get laid) and received a diploma for his efforts at the end of the orgy. He came away with three things he had learned: (1) write daily, at least three pages, (2) write great one•page query letters until you find a publisher or agent, (c) and market, market, market yourself.

Jack followed the formula. He wrote three pages every day; most of it was junk, so he trashed them at the end of the day. He developed 100 versions of a query letter and sent out at least three queries a day, flogging this novel that he hadn’t yet written because his three•pages•a•day output was ending up in the waste basket. He built a website, posted his un•trashed sample writing on it, blogged and twittered. He shot a home movie of himself typing away at his computer and posted it on You Tube, where he got lots of hits because it was a movie about “nothing”. He went to writers conferences where he took umpteen “how to write” workshops that all told him to lock himself away in a room and write because writing was a noble occupation and that family and friends were distractions. He locked himself in a room and wrote until his wife left him because she had graduated from being a golf widow to a writer’s widow and was sick of both.

When his novel was finally completed—1050 pages—he went in search of an editor to make sense of what he had written. The editor, highly paid, and who made a living on people like Jack, whittled his story down to 45 pages and said that it was insufficient to stand alone as a novel but could be entered in a novella contest.

Jack entered every literary contest for novellas that he could find on the internet, sending out about 100 submissions over six months. He won nothing.

He met several other writers who were in the same boat while at the many conferences he still continued to attend in the hope of meeting that elusive agent or publisher who would glimpse the spark in him. Since no sparks ignited, he suggested to his hapless colleagues that they publish an anthology under a no•name publishing company that could be floated for just that purpose—who would know the difference? They did, and between the 25 writers in the anthology, each bought 500 copies to sell, gift or burden their friends and relatives with. The book was ranked a bestseller in Canada.

Jack finally realized his ambition. He changed his website to “writing instructor”; after all he was published in a bestseller—that was credential enough—and started teaching other hapless wannabes how to write, especially query letters. Last heard, he has written nothing himself since the solitary novella, but I am told that he is making a lot of money. Do you know this guy?

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