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Friday, March 1, 2013

The Fabulous and Amazing Writing Randy

Don't do it, Randy. They're not worth it. Those judges have no idea what they have done!
 This is the painfully true story about a guy named Randy. Randy has written the greatest novel EVER written. I found Randy in a forum at the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Competition, where one of my unpublished manuscripts, Losing Meadow Brook, is advancing.  Most of us spent as many weeks writing and polishing our pitch as we had our manuscripts.

Since this has consumed so much of my time already, I am dragging my blog readers in it with me, because there are some (rather obvious) lessons for writers in it. Randy has something to teach us all.

Randy was among the 8,000 people who were cut in the first round. This is his paraphrased (to save you the same anguish suffered by original readers of the lengthy exchange) story...

I feel I've written a really good, maybe even a great book. Several years ago, I was offered a contract to publish it. That means at least four, highly-trained readers and an editor read the book and said it was worthwhile. My lawyer found some problems with the contract...a 50 percent split on movie/TV development and while we were haggling, the contract was withdrawn because they were publishing something else. They said they'd come back to me after they'd dealt with him, but my editor left. So, yes, I do feel my book is better than the ones who advanced.

Not Buzz (yet)
My lawyer advised me against signing a huge book deal last week too, also because of the movie rights. It didn't have anything to do with split, but they were going to have Seth Rogan play me in the movie because George Clooney was busy, so we said absolutely not. No way.

So now, instead of counting hundred dollar bills out into stacks of fifty, I spend my days selling 'Big Ideas' on the street for a nickel a piece. 

"This is the greatest story ever written, Randy!"
"My minor success have caused me to try harder, but contests are judged subjectively and there's nothing we can do about that until robots do the judging."

Randy at his book launch.


RANDY'S BOOK (name changed to protect, well, Randy) is a masterpiece of spiritual exploration like Pilgrim's Progress, A Separate Peace, and The Catcher in the Rye. Profound, profane and consciousness stretching, RANDY'S BOOK is a life-altering reading experience.*

*note that the entire passage has been highlighted because it is, every word of it, just that good.

ill tempered Buzz. Jesus, that guy is fat.
Dear Randy,

Randy, Randy, Randy...where on earth shall I begin. Perhaps I should begin at the ending...your ending...the part where it says that reading your book "is a life-altering reading experience."

Really? Is it really, Randy? Here's the thing, and I'm only spit balling here, so I may be way out in left field, but...hearing that coming from you, the author, makes me think, "pretentious ass," and "I wouldn't read it now if I were stranded on an island for fifty years with nothing but a palm tree, the baking sun, and that book."

Try to imagine with me, for just a moment, that you aren't the smartest human being on the face of the earth and there is other intelligent life out there. Now imagine that there tens of thousands of brilliant souls on the planet, each of them hacking away on their keyboards, and each of them creating things.

NOW...and here's the kicker...now, just imagine that each of those equally intelligent souls has a mind of their own, and are unique, and some of them like books about strawberries, while others enjoy novels about teenage strawberry eating vampires. And perhaps sometimes, when you enter a competition, your book is read by someone who has different tastes than you or I do, and would find the act of taking a crap slightly more "life altering" than reading your novel. Is it possible? Or have you unraveled the mystery of individuality and written the very first universally worshiped work of art in the history of the planet?

Which is it, I wonder?

A) Randy has written the single most amazing piece of literature in the history of mankind and this competition has foolishly rejected it, thus angering the Gods, who are now hell bent on destroying the Earth and every form of life upon it.

or is it...

B) Maybe the reader, being an individual, didn't like something in Randy''s pitch, like the part where Randy said that reading his book was "a life-altering reading experience" that we can only assume is the equivalent of personally meeting Jesus.

I would have a hard time choosing between a and b. Since it looks like it's going to sit in a drawer for another year no one will know whether it's hype or real. The hook is a person who thinks he has a God-given mission and must deal with the burden of that vision. According to Buzz, it must be autobiographical. I do admit that the subject should appeal to writers who feel they have something to say. 

This is followed by more complaints about the inequities of life, etc, etc...

Buzz & his final effort to reach the unattainable Randy:

Writing is sacrifice. We write because we must. We have to. It is hard wired into our DNA, and there is nothing that we can do about it. Almost everyone who has written a manuscript has sacrificed to do it. I have sacrificed in the way of money, career, relationships, time with loved ones, etc.

What I have to show for it all is a few poorly edited, self-published novellas in my wake (that I plan on updating before I die), a few unedited first drafts, a bank account that is currently in the red, a pile of overdue bills, and a mountain of laundry.

By and large, we are all in the same boat. We are writers. There is no magic fairy tale at the end of the rainbow. There is only more writing to be done, and an eternity of editing and revisions, followed by death (which we pray will hold off until the next first draft has been completed, but not for fear of death so much as the fear that the damned book will never get finished).

I understand that you believe that your book is the greatest story ever written. It's important for us to believe in our work, or no one else ever will. BUT...it is equally as important for you to remember that to the world, you are a guy named Randy who wrote a book. There are a hundred thousand guys named Randy who wrote a book and believe in theirs as much as you do yours. Some of them are better writers than you are. Some of them are worse. Sometimes the only motivation that a reader (or agent, or judge, etc.) has to choose which Randy book they will ultimately read, is how well they associate with Randy, and his words, in a simple blurb, and how much they like him.

If I met a girl who I really liked and I wanted her to spend time with me, I would not open the conversation by telling her that I was the greatest lover on the planet (even if it is probably true). I would not tell her that being with me would change her world forever (even though it would...for better or for worse). I would introduce myself, show some humility and respect, and hope that she ultimately decided to invest some of her time with me. This is SHOWING versus TELLING, and it is what you need to work on.

Your pitch...for lack of a better word...sucks. It doesn't tell me how you write, or what your style is, or what sort of voice I should expect when I read the book. It is only some guy named Randy telling me how good he is in bed, or, rather, that this, his book, is the greatest thing since sliced bread. This leads me to believe (true or not) that the book probably sucks too. THINK. ABOUT. IT.

Please. Don't be a Randy.

Thanks for Reading.



  1. This post made me feel something, the sign of good writing I'm told. Here, in no particular order of profundity my 2:45AM thoughts (yeah I was up to pee, wanna make something of it, muscle guy, who's 2000 miles away?):
    My wife wanted to name our next child Randy. Now I'll say no.
    I haven't the patience to write for years and discover I've written the best of the crappiestly written shit. That's why I write short stories. I find out in 3 months that others were mildly amused or nauseated or anesthetized by what moved me to hysterics or tears.
    It's dangerous to be the alien from another space-time dimension with the highest intelligence on this planet and the most talent. Either you put a shotgun in your own mouth, or hang yourself where your loved ones will find you, or someone else wants to do those things to you.
    Jesus fought a losing battle and couldn't get all his stuff published either, even with a good editor.
    When I look at the pic of Buzz above (the one where he's not smiling, not the one where he wears the crown of thorns) I think, if Buzz says the corn is knee high by the Fourth of July, let it be. I ain't gonna measure it while he's looking at me like that.

  2. Without having read this particular conversation, I'm pretty sure I know who you're talking about.

    Oh, Randy... *shakes head*

    As always, thanks for the laugh!

  3. Jennifer,

    I will give you a hint. His name begins with an 'R' and ends with a 'Y' and there is an 'AND' in the middle.

    Thanks for reading.


  4. Replies
    1. If it is the same Randy (O'Irish), then you should consider yourself as blessed. Thank you for reading, Jennifer.


  5. the Randys of the world need a reality check.
    i think creative folks are always a little Randy. i think you have to be to get the nerve to put yourself out there for others to see your work. the trick is not to let on or to act like a Randy "hey look at me i have thoughts and express myself,look at it,now you should pay me and tell me how great I'm". i met my share of them. i have painted,played music and tried to write for the last 15 years or so and i cant decide out musicians,artist and writers who is the randiest of them all.

    good post btw

    1. Undereducated,

      That really is the trick, isn't it? You're right. But, to be taken seriously as any sort of artist, you must develop, at the very least, a feigned humility. I think the 'trick' is remaining outwardly modest, while simultaneously convincing someone else to brag on your behalf. BY the way, I really enjoyed reading your blogs and admire your artwork (see?).

      Thank you for reading,