Recently my old acquaintance Tenebra came to visit. I came across her sitting by the fish pond.
“How come you always show up when I’m three-quarters done with a first draft?”
“It’s the perfect time to visit you,” she said. “If you listen to me, not only will you stop writing this book, but you’ll have wasted the time you already put in on research, plotting and writing.”
“That doesn’t make me more inclined to listen to you.”
“No? Then why are you sitting by this pool, chatting, instead of going indoors and writing?”
“Ohhhh… I don’t kid myself that everything I write is perfect. Maybe I ought to listen to you. You might point out how I can improve the book.”
“Frankly,” Tenebra said, “it’s too late for that. The whole concept behind this book is weak and wildly implausible.”
“Other people have based stories on a similar concept without being laughed out of literate society.”
“Yes, that’s another thing. It’s terribly overdone. But then, you never do come up with original ideas, do you? If you didn’t have better writers to imitate, you wouldn’t be able to write anything at all. Why are you spending your life writing bad stories that nobody will read? You should drop this writing nonsense and do something you’re more suited for. Maybe you could get a job at the post office.”
“Thanks for the advice! But I think I’ll keep writing.”
“Well…” She shrugged. “It’s your life. I’m just trying to help you out of the hole you’ve dug for yourself. How many novels have you written now?”
“Counting the bodice-rippers under pseudonyms? About thirty-five, I think.”
“And you still haven’t learned how to construct and tell a story! Isn’t it time to give up?”
She was getting me down. “Maybe…”
“Take your current book, for example. The clichéd and unbelievable concept is only the beginning of what’s wrong with it. The characters are not even cardboard, they’re construction paper. They all talk alike. Your protagonist is a typical Mary Sue. The prose is awkward—”
“Oh, no, it isn’t!” I’ll swallow a lot of insults, but with this one she’d strayed into territory where I felt completely confident.
“Okay, I’ll concede that you can write reasonable sentences. But that’s not worth much, is it? Look at all the writers out there who are getting 5-star reviews for books full of clunky prose. The only thing you’re actually good at is something nobody cares about any more. Also, you use too many obscure words.”
“I’m writing for literate people, Tenebra!”
“Who will never even find your work among the flood of indie publications on Amazon.”
“See you later, Tenebra.” I stood up. It had been a mistake to listen to her; she has never had anything helpful to say.
“Wait! Where are you going?”
“Indoors. To finish this book.”
“It’s a waste of your time! It’ll be terrible! Just read over that last chapter you wrote before I came to save you from yourself. Do you honestly feel that it’s any good?”
“No, but I never do like my work when you’re reading over my shoulder. I’m just going to finish this book anyway, and then I’ll decide what I think of it.”
“Aaaaaah! It burns! The one thing I can’t stand is a determined writer!” Tenebra slipped into the fish pond and dissolved into a cloud of algae.
With any luck, she won’t be back until I’m three-quarters of the way through the next book.