Rookie Mistake: Juvenilia

Drunk Jeff Working Hard at "writing"

Drunk Jeff Working Hard at “writing”

You’d think that by now I’d have this writing game down pat. Six novels with two more due out soon, over twenty-five short stories published, a few anthologies – I may not be a genius, or a bestseller, but I’ve done this for a while now. You’d think I’d have figured out how to not humiliate myself any more.

You’d think.

You have to remember, I am a lazy man. Lazy, lazy, lazy. Like, seriously lazy. Lazy Men like me have a lot of really bad habits born out of this laziness and we’re always getting ourselves into pickles because we try to be lazy and shit gets real and then we end up working twice as hard in order to pull things back together. Lazy Men are probably pretty much responsible for every tragedy and horror in history, just a long series of guys who’ve been wearing the same pants for six days shrugging and neglecting to do something.

So, my most recent laziness-related humiliation came from submitting a story. I write a lot of stories. Most are crap, but a few linger in my memory as pretty good. Sometimes I go back through the archives and find a few gems — pieces I didn’t appreciate at the time, but which have something to them. A more mature, diligent author would revise these. I prefer to just submit them.

Sometimes this works out. I’ve sold a few, much to my surprise. But then I’m always surprised when I sell something. When my agent called to tell me we’d sold Trickster last year I spent several weeks chuckling at her excellent joke. When the advance check arrived I was puzzled for a while, then assumed it was a hoax. So selling a few pieces of juvenilia doesn’t rattle me: Sometimes I think the central idea is good, but the execution is kind of meh, so I can see how it happens.

Recently, though, I submitted an old story with a nice idea and I didn’t really read it through very closely. I’m far too Rock Star for that, as long as we agree to define Rock Star as very drunk. It was recently rejected, and the comments from the editors were … not kind. They were also: Not inaccurate. I re-read the piece and frankly I’m a little ashamed of myself. Note the emphasis on little. I remain pretty much in love with myself.

The story can be saved with a bit of revision, and I’ll be dumb enough to submit it again. Lessons: none. I make it my business to never ever learn anything. So far it’s worked out remarkably well. And if you allow yourself to learn lessons from your writing career you’ll end up giving up writing because the lessons are always along the lines of you will never be able to quit your day job or your author photo makes you look like a dweeb because you are a dweeb. Still, this could be a lesson for all of you: Be careful when submitting your juvenilia, kids. There’s probably a reason you let it rot all those years.

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