Writing And Torture

Behold the art of torture.  Pain, discomfort and fear are powerful motivators.  Extorting confessions and achieving compliance through coercion is a “tradition” dating back thousands of years, usually in the name of God, King, or Country.

Fast forward to the present and the “Bringers of Pain” continue to wage war on innocents, but the motivation for the torture is not as clear as it was during the Dark Ages.  No longer are these fearsome methods used in the name of religious uniformity.  Now, it’s for market share and corporate identity in the publishing industry.


from mike licht via flickr creative commons

from mike licht via flickr creative commons


We, the readers and writers are under the oppressive thumb of the gatekeepers of the publishing world.  They tell us what we can read, what we shall write and where we shall pick these corporate approved fruits of labor.  They treat us as heretics and drive us into unground enclaves of self publishing witchcraft, so that we may practice our dark arts.

from chris smart via flickr creative commons

Where The Writing Happens                      from chris smart via flickr creative commons

Self published authors are considered the great unclean stain in their world.  How dare we defy the Big 5 and venture into the light on our own.  We conjure our dark spirits in self imposed, but safe solitary confinement.  The danger arises from the swampy mist when we bring our work into the open and beg for entry into the kingdom.

Self Published Author peter via flickr creative commons

Self Published Author
peter via flickr creative commons


When one of our tribe ventures out into the wild savannah of publishing and dares to submit a manuscript, they are set upon by the little known, Fifth Horseman of the Apocalypse – The Horseman of the Page.  The Horseman subdues the wayward writer and punishes them for the audacity of showing a manuscript in public.  I don’t mean punishment by watching Sex in the City episodes on an endless loop.  God nothing that cruel, I mean real punishment.

via instanthumor.com

Writer exposed to his own manuscript   via instanthumor.com

The author is subject to hideous terrors in the publishing process:

Water-boarding – Preparing a one page synopsis of your one hundred fifty thousand word treatise is cruel and unusual punishment under any circumstance.  The author painted word masterpieces, vast landscapes of descriptive prose and all that is holy and pure must be compressed down into a veritable post-it note.  The author is left to drown in sorrow and adverbs.

The Dunking Stool – The publishing industry calls this a Query Letter.  The would be author sends off a story pitch and if it floats – Burn It!  Hey, it’s paper, of course it’s gonna float.

The Death of A Thousand Cuts – The Author is pelted by rejection letters, each one inflicting a paper cut, until that last impersonal, literary Dear John postcard slices into their soul.

The Rack – The Author submits the first five chapters of their lovingly crafted manuscript and waits.  And waits.  Each week passes and the tension increases until the author suffers a complete emotional breakdown.

The Iron Maiden –  A full manuscript is requested by a publisher and the author is tossed into a spike lined coffin and left to rot, exactly like their pages on the publisher’s slush pile.

Burning at the Stake – The publisher rejects the final manuscript as something that the agency can’t support in their current catalog.  The author attempts to explain their literary fictional account of the evolution of the platypus, entitled ,’What The Duck Am I?’ is, indeed a fit in the publisher’s collection of Y.A. paranormal romance.  The publisher pours copious amounts of lighter fluid on said manuscript and sets it ablaze.  The smoke does not announce the selection of a new pope, but it does signal other publishers of a heretic on the loose.

If you have met the Horseman of the Page, suffered and survived these torture methods, yet within you a dark spark remains; a spark of hope that your writing might one day see the light of day, then you, my friend, are an author.

writing is torture from kim p via flickr creative commons

writing is torture
from kim p via flickr creative commons

Heretics Unite!






  1. Great post James. So much to look forward to when my manuscript is complete but then again, I’m a glutton for pain.

    1. We’re all in it for the pain! Bring it!

  2. Oh, James, James: Can’t they see you’re a star? Or don’t any of your torturers speak French?

    1. Currently, Paula, none of my regular tormentors speak French and at most I’m a considered pretty dim in my own starless little universe. Thanks for dropping by and taking a peek at the blog!

    2. Thanks Paula. A star in my own little Galaxy…

  3. stephanie710 · · Reply

    I love it!!! Sorry I’m a little late to the party this week but I always mark your blogs to read. You make me laugh and think—not an easy thing to do. 🙂 You summed up the tortured life a a writer and wrapped it up in a dark and tortured package. Well done!! I am currently suffering the dismemberment of my manuscript, which I suppose is a step above the Iron Maiden. At least it isn’t lost in a slush pile—I hope. Good stuff, as always.

    1. Hi Stephanie! It’s not a party until you get there. I suppose we have a little masochist thing going on with the tortured writing lifestyle. There are times during the process where it feels more like 50 Shades of Suck. Keep pushing on…

      And give Autumn a hug for me.

  4. Hilarious port, thanks.
    And thank you so much for following me James.
    I dropped by to chew through some more of your recent posts.

    1. Thanks for chewing Mr. Teeth. Don’t forget to floss…

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