(This is the fourth installment of How I Found Flash Fiction, the fascinating tale of a close friend of mine, Cory Bradley.)
And write a novel I did! Eventually.
Over the next two years I halfheartedly worked on a fantasy book set in an Ireland-esque world; I incorporated experiences I had there, places I had visited and based characters on persons I had met. I thought the plot was solid, but the writing process was a sloppy affair, given that those two years began with me starting a new relationship, moving to a new state, getting a new job and trying to make new friends. Naturally, my time for writing was minimal, but when I finally managed to make it back to school I had no time at all.
Focused completely on supporting myself and keeping my grades up, an additional two years would pass without me writing another word. In fact, all that I managed during my schooling was to submit “I Wake Up Running” again for publication with my school’s literary journal. It was accepted, which should have been a significant hint for me. Sadly, I didn’t allow another publication credit to convince me to abandon my novel and return to my glorious career as a short story writer. I should have, because my novel was a monstrosity, though I wouldn’t learn that for yet another two years.
After graduating with a useless degree in Business Marketing, I found myself working odd jobs to keep my apartment. Eventually, though, my lease ran out and I wasn’t able to afford the increased rent, so I embarked on a one year couch-surfing tour, staying with no fewer than 8 different families. I slept in attics and basements and trailers, accepting any offer that would keep me warm at night (or simply alive). It was a character-building experience to be sure, but of most benefit was that the limited cost of bumming off my friends meant having to work less, resulting in more time for writing, which I used to finally finish my book.
Eventually my vagrancy came to an end and I secured a job that allowed me the constancy of sleeping in the same bed every night. It was finally time for me to pursue publication for my novel. Vast amounts of research convinced me of the need to first secure representation from a literary agent. It was a tedious process, but I was willing to pay my dues. After a year and a half, however, my patience was rewarded with nothing but an inbox full of rejections from what seemed like every agent in the literary industry. For the first time, I wondered if I had made a mistake spending six years on a project that no one wanted to represent. The very thought was disheartening, to say the least. No, I wouldn’t let myself believe it. Surely it must be my query letters or synopsis or minimal publication credits that were dissuading agents from brawling for the opportunity to add me to their client list! It couldn’t possibly be my novel…could it?
Though I kicked and screamed and clawed at the idea that my book was anything less than brilliant, I was ultimately forced to face the reality that it was simply a festering turd. The writing was juvenile, the plot wandered aimlessly for near 500 pages, there were far too many characters to keep straight, and the entire story resolved itself perfectly in a nauseatingly heartwarming fashion. Moreover, whatever original ideas it may have contained 6 years ago were original no longer. It was heartbreaking to admit the possibility that the book was unsalvageable and that my career as a novelist was over before it even began.
Cory has recently published several pieces of flash fiction, each taking place within the literary landscape of Auditorium, a city that holds a larger, overarching story. You can find his flash fiction here, here and, most recently, here. Please let us know what you think.