Kootenai River in NW Montana, near Canadian Border

Kootenai River in NW Montana, near Canadian Border
photo by Gene Tunick of Eureka, Montana

Monday, August 20, 2012

Tip O'Day #381 - Hone Your Craft

Guest blogger Warren Bull on persistence.

Dixon Rice, whose novel The Assassins Club can be downloaded from Kindle, was kind enough to ask if I would write a post for his blog. He noted that his goal is, “writing well enough to be published, whether it actually happens or not.”

It struck me that Dixon’s goal is similar to mine. I wrote my-all time favorite short story for author readings, “The Wrong Man,” in response to a call for submissions from a magazine. Sometimes writing is as painful as self-dentistry. Writing this story was fun. I borrowed a friend’s fictitious setting, with his permission of course, plopped my character in the middle of it and typed away. I even added a few details to the biography of my friend’s main character, again with his permission, although that character never appeared in the story.

Of course in the writing world having too much fun arouses the ire of the muse who must be wooed and gently persuaded into being helpful. She cannot be rushed. Thus it came as no great surprise that the magazine went out of business before I could send the story in.

For the next three or four years every time I submitted “The Wrong Man” to other venues I got absolutely great rejection letters. Trust me. I’ve had acceptances that were much less enthusiastic. Like Odysseus, “The Wrong Man” sailed across the writing world and ended up in a safe harbor on a webzine on the far side of the globe — in this case, Australia.

By now, “The Wrong Man” is available online, in print and for audio download. I plan to read it aloud at Killer Nashville later this month. I’ve read it to different audiences half a dozen times. Each time it evoked laughter and applause.

I could have given up on the story, of course, but I persisted. In part, I was curious about how many wonderful rejections it could rack up. In part, it served and still serves as a metaphor for what it’s like to be a writer. I cannot control when or if anything I write will ever be accepted for publication. It does not matter how much schlock gets published from other writers. It does not matter that my work is better than theirs. What matters is that I put in the time and effort to continue to hone my craft, that I remain open to feedback, especially negative feedback, and that I continue to write.

Warren Bull is a multiple award-winning author and a Derringer Award finalist. He has more than forty short stories published, as well as novels, Abraham Lincoln for the Defense, Heartland, and Murder in the Moonlight (all available here) and a short story collection, Murder Manhattan Style (available here). Also check out his blog.


  1. Thanks for inviting me to your blog.

  2. Absolutely true, Warren! You've got your priorities set exactly right! Congrats on the story finally making its way.

  3. I'm glad that you were persistent, and kept at it. How wonderful that you will be presenting your work at Killer Nashville. I hope to get to that conference one day, but this year, not happening. I'd also like to get to the New England Clam Bake, but again, not this year. Keep at it, Warren. Your work is great. The short story market is wonderful, but it seems, no one pays attention until there is that first novel. Good luck in Nashville, and write us a blog!

  4. Congratulations, Warren. I'd love to go to Nashville and hear the story, but I'm not going to that conference, at least not this year. Hope you "wow" them.

  5. Persistence has continued to allow me to learn how-to write well enough to get paid. Someday I'll arrive at the paid part of that statement. Over this past year my voice has become consistent and my story lines have changed, who knew I would write mystery :) Again, I contribute this to persistence. Thank you for sharing your experience with "The Wrong Man."

  6. I very much agree with you, Warren. The important thing is for writers to create the very best work possible whether it sells or not.

    Jacqueline Seewald
    DEATH LEGACY--request it at your local library

  7. Your story of persistence....and your successes are great fodder for those struggling behind you. Thanks for a well-written blog.