Saturday, August 31, 2013

Bent Nail Publishing Rejects Truman Capote's In Cold Blood

114 Major League baseball players hit homes runs in their first at bat. Four of these --Bill Duggleby, Jeremy Hermida, Kevin Kouzmanoff and Daniel Nava -- whose names are now little more than statistics, hit grand slams.Would that the writer's life were so conspicuously successful.

Yes, we all love reading about the newly discovered superstar author whose first novel turns the world upside down. It is only later that we learn, if ever, that Stephen King's Carrie was rejected by as many as 30 publishing houses before it reached publication.

Novelists spend years developing their craft, with first second and fourth drafts. I myself spent more than ten years working on my first novel The Red Scorpion, agonizing over decisions such as whether the professor's segment should be presented as a diary, or written in first person or third person.

James Joyce
If you are writer I don't really know if this information will be comforting or discouraging to you, but James Joyce received 22 rejections before he found a publisher. Zen & the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance  was rejected 121times before being picked up by Bantam. Gone with the Wind achieved 38 rejections and Madeleine L'Engle's award-winning A Wrinkle In Time experienced 38 rejections. Frank Herbert's Dune: 23 rejections. Kon-Tiki by Thor Heyerdahl 20 rejections, a book that has now been translated into 66 languages.

I mention all this to suggest that you might enjoy writing an imaginary "rejection letter" of your own sometime. If so, Writer's Digest magazine, available in most places where a wide array of mags can be found (such as Barnes & Noble) has a regular back page feature in which you can write your own imaginative rejection letter of a famous novel. Be sure to pick up a copy of the mag to find the submission instructions. 300 word max. No attachments. If they "reject" your rejection, you can always send it to Ennyman's Territory. If imaginative enough, it just might find a home here.

Here's what I submitted....

Bent Nail Publishing

June 7, 1965

Dear Mr. Capote:

I have good news for you. Our editorial board has decided not to publish your book. We believe it is in your best interest for a book like this to remain unpublished inasmuch as publication would be certain to end your career and ruin any literary aspirations you have going forward. We’re certain that being so close to the subject matter has distorted your ability to think clearly on this, but once you get on with your next project you’ll appreciate the favor we’re doing for you.

Your first major faux pas here was to mix fictional storytelling technique with journalism. This approach is simply too radical and will be confusing to your readers. It’s an approach that will most assuredly never catch on. Clearly you’ve done your homework and we applaud you for that. But to blend novel and nonfiction in the same story is simply impossible. On which shelf will booksellers put it in their stores?

Many of us here find the crime itself as simply too horrible. Hemingway could get away with it in For Whom the Bell Tolls because that was fiction. The high profile nature of this crime cannot help but clutter the reader’s mind with questions. Why would you even write a book like this?

Here’s my recommendation: Change it around a little and give it a more interesting setting. As soon as we hear Kansas readers will be expecting The Wizard of Oz. And please, change the names. Hickok is OK, but Smith is so boring. I know you think you’re famous and can get away with it, but why risk it. Please don’t see this as a rejection. Look on it as a favor.

Respectfully, Roscoe Bankshot
Bent Nail Publishing

No comments: