The mailman recently delivered a blurb sheet for a new book on writing for money. It promised to show me how to turn out 10,000 words a week for as much as 30¢ a word. Editors will buy this stuff by the ton, I learned, even if it isn’t grammatically correct and lacks any “unusual inspiration.” For a moment or two I was tempted to switch rather than struggle. Then I recalled advice by a former fiction editor of Collier’s, Thomas Uzzell, who taught narrative techniques to a small group of us in the thirties. The very first night he said: “If you want to write for the public, turn out a million words of your best and toss them into the wastebasket; then you’re ready to begin.”
Somewhere between these extremes there’s probably a happy hunting ground for success in the word business. But if as a beginner I had to choose between these two lines of approach, I’d buy the giant wastebasket before opening the bank account. At CHRISTIANITY TODAY we receive hundreds of manuscripts a month, and we get both kinds of copy daily.
There’s a difference between literary hacks and literary artists. The essayists who are out in front with our editorial readers are almost always those who search patiently for words to fit the theme. Some of the losers, however, think that if a religion editor doesn’t accept material on a “first come” basis, he forfeits his right to survival in this age of equality, tolerance, and bloody murder of the king’s English.1
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