Tag Archives: Frustration

My Year 2000 Valentine’s Day Rant

The following comes from an email I wrote February 13th in the year 2000 to address the many faults and problems with what is, in my opinion, the sorriest excuse for a “holiday” we celebrate. Most of this is still accurate. Parts of it were very personal. Read More →

Time for another preview.

I’m including the first scene again because it has been revised slightly to make the first paragraph (hopefully) a stronger hook.

My frustration with the second scene is that I was sorely tempted over and over again to rush through the dialog, because that’s the meat of the story. Yet each time I read it I find it lacking details; what are these guys wearing? Where are they? What are they doing? What time of day is it?

And every time I try to include those details, I feel that the pacing is becoming horribly bogged down. Maybe you guys can help.


The first sign of war was a single rider approaching Mekli’s camp, kicking up clouds of dust in its wake. Children paused to watch, while most of the adults feigned disinterest. Hundreds of tents huddled against the desert floor, dying campfires serving as loci for several families, casting large shadows in the failing light. Pots and clothes hung from lines stretched across the open.

Mekli walked beyond the boundary of his camp, duty-bound to receive the rider first and anxious to keep his conversation private. Good news was never delivered with urgency; this rider’s haste was an ill omen.

The rider arrived and dismounted smoothly. If his garments had once held color, it had faded in the sand and sun. He approached Mekli with a sure step despite his long ride. Mekli envied his youth.

“Honored Father,” the rider said with a bow, which Mekli returned.

“Tell me your name, messenger,” Mekli invited.

“I am called Viktin, of the Tektimti tribe.”

“You are welcomed here, Viktin. May our fires be home to you. But you did not come here to exchange formalities with an old man.”

“No,” Viktin admitted. “The Asoki prepare for war.”

“The Asoki always war,” Mekli said dismissively.

“No, Honored Father. Their tribes are united now. They mean to conquer us next.”

Mekli chewed the inside of his lip, considering. It was hard to imagine Asoko unified.

“Tell me everything,” he said.


As usual, Azai’s mind was impossible to read. Damek strained to perceive his brother’s thoughts, but the effort was futile.

“Give it up,” Azai advised. “You aren’t strong enough and you never will be.”

Azai was probably right. But Damek didn’t need the Sight to know his elder brother was excited.

“Something’s on your mind,” Damek said. “Even if I can’t tell what.”

Azai face lit with a grin, and he gave his white headband an unconscious tug.

“Honor and glory, little brother. We’re about to take our true place in the world.” He stopped pacing and sat across the campfire from Damek.

“Our true place?”

“As heroes,” Azai clarified, turning abruptly serious.

Damek snorted. “Heroes?”

“That’s right. The Asoki finally mean to conquer us.”

“I’ve heard the rumors,” Damek said. “I suppose you plan to become a great warrior?”

“Better,” Azai said. “You and I are going to stop their whole army.”

“A poor joke, Azai.”

“Little brother,” Azai said, “I have never been more serious in my life.”

It was EXACTLY what I wanted to know.

Several days ago, I got the first full-text reviewed/edited copy of Woman’s Best Friend back from a Hatrack reviewer.

It was beautiful.

To fully understand my satisfaction with having my own work ripped to shreds, you must first consider the palpable frustration of a rejection letter.

The whole aggravation of a rejected work isn’t that it simply wasn’t purchased; we’ve all had dates declined, interviews we didn’t get hired, a request denied. But in most of these circumstances, it is possible to determine why. In social circumstances, you can even ask:

Why didn’t you want to go on a date with me?

The immature lady will simply not return this call. The mature gal will admit, “Because you’re creepy, clingy, needy, you have no job, and you smell funny.” This may be painful, but it gives the guy (if he is mature) the opportunity to become less creepy and needy, get a job, and bathe more before asking the next girl.

When I get a rejection letter, my brain screams at the editor:


Based on the number of podcasts and books-on-writing I’ve devoured, I wonder:

Was my cover letter too short? Too long? Too dry? Too arrogant? Too humble? Did I misspell the editor’s name? Did the story remind them of a worse one they read in gradeschool? A better one? Did they just buy a story like this? Did they discover a misprint? Not like the title? Were they annoyed at the shade of white I printed on? Was there a smudge on the manuscript? Did they Google me and disagree with my politics? Religion? Choice of video games?

Did I give too little description? Too much? Did they not care about the characters? Did they find an element cliche? Did they finish the first page? The second? Was the ending trite? Was there a problem with the plot? The grammar? The style? Did I use too many echoes? Was my characterization thin? Or too heavy-handed? Were my hooks too trendy? Were my paragraphs too long? Too short? Was my dialog too vague? Too precise? Too true to life to be interesting? Not true enough?

…and on and on.

The frustration is not just that the work didn’t sell; even successful writers sometimes have that happen. The frustration is that to fix it, I don’t even know where to start.

Enter the anonymous critic, willing to read the whole story and pull no punches with his opinions.

I wish I could reproduce the full text including his comments for you here, but then I would have used my First North American publication rights to the story.

Suffice to say that the first total stranger to read Woman’s Best Friend found a whole host of echoes I never noticed in myriad readings. Nor did anyone else. He found whole paragraphs which could be cut, their whole meaning still evident in the sentence preceding them.

I am now working on a 5th draft of Woman’s Best Friend, which will be much tighter and more streamlined. Then if that one isn’t good enough, a 6th, and so forth.

That’s how you become perfect.