Usuki Singing Stars #25: Publishing Problems
"At last, I’ve finally finished!!” Sparkles shrieked, waving five sheets of paper above her head triumphantly. The pink Bruce dashed out of her bedroom, clambered down the stairs and stormed into the living room with her finished piece of work gripped firmly in her hands. “Oh Scary, you won’t believe what just happened!” she exclaimed, her voice squeaking excitedly.
Scary looked up from her fashion magazine. “Did you finally fix all of Snaw’s grammatical errors again?” asked the purple Bruce.
Sparkles shook her head and squealed. “I’ve finally finished that short story I was telling you about! You know the one I said I wanted to publish in the NT?” The Bruce had dreamt of being featured in the Neopian Times for months, ever since she began editing the stories her owner wrote to increase his submission count. Now that she finished writing her very first story, she was confident it would be admired by those who would read it. “Oh Scary, do you think the NT editor will accept my story and decide to publish it next week?” Sparkles asked hopefully.
“Don’t know and don’t care,” Scary replied. “Besides, don’t you remember that ridiculous interview you wrote for the NT ages ago? Because I’m pretty sure it got held over and was never seen by the light of day again.”
“I’ve forgotten all about that interview-thing,” Sparkles insisted passively, “and I don’t really care for it anymore. It probably got rejected by now.” She waved her story in front of Scary’s face. “But this entry will surely get in! I’m positive. After all, who could resist the endearing tale of a princess Zafara and her quest to find her beloved Uni?”
“Non-baby pets,” Scary retorted.
Pulling an envelope from her skirt pocket, Sparkles folded her five page story, placed it into the envelope, and seal it with a heart shaped sticker. “All done,” she said triumphantly. “Now all I need to do is mail it and wait for my acceptance letter to arrive. I hope it’ll come next week, maybe on Tuesday.”
“Eh,” said Scary, flipping through her magazine. “Just keep your mouth shut if you receive a rejection letter instead. And don’t you dare pull any temper tantrums like Snaw! The last one he pulled cost us our only toaster and second blender.”
“Don’t worry, Scare,” Sparkles insisted. “I won’t get upset. Besides, why in Neopia would they ever think of not accepting my perfect story?” Still grasping her sealed submission, she skipped happily towards the kitchen and placed a stamp on the top right corner of the envelope. I really do hope they give me a custom picture for this story! That would be so cool, Sparkles thought, gazing at her entry with endearment. Now she was ready to mail it!***
For the next nine days, Sparkles waited anxiously for any responses regarding her story. Whenever Snaw entered the neohome with their daily mail haul, she would paw her way through the bills and free samples for any envelopes addressed from the Neopian Times office. Every day came a new stack of mail, yet none of them were addressed to Sparkles. “This is going to take forever!” Sparkles moaned on her ninth day of waiting. “Even Snaw got a faster reply than me, and he only submitted his entry two days before I sent mine!”
“Life’s never fair, so deal with it,” said Scary. “Besides, everything Snaw writes is boring and too predictable.”
“But I don’t think I can wait any longer,” Sparkles whined. “I’m too afraid my story got lost and a Weewoo may have eaten it by mistake.”
“Wouldn’t that be something,” Scary sighed.
On the tenth day of waiting, Sparkles was finally able to relax: her NT response had finally arrived! Too excited to say anything, she ripped the envelope open and quickly scanned over her awaited response with eager eyes:
"Your Neopian Times submission (The Pretty, Pretty Princess) was rejected because we had too many good entries in this category this week and there was not enough room for them all. Please try again next week."
Sparkles’ mouth dropped and she re-read the reply again. Too many good entries? What did that even mean? And why wasn’t her submission among the many good entries? “This must be some sort of mistake,” Sparkles fumed to Scary. “Perhaps this was meant to go to someone else, and my reply was actually an acceptance letter.”
“Pfft, what an idiotic title,” Scary scoffed. “What kind of ninny would call their story ‘The Pretty, Pretty Princess’?”
“I did…” Sparkles’ voice trailed off. She was still too surprised to believe her story has been rejected by the editor of the Neopian Times. And if her story was rejected, that meant nobody else in Neopia would be able to read and fawn over it! Taking a few breaths, Sparkles asked Scary, “Perhaps if I submit it again, they’ll accept it and I’ll receive an acceptance letter next time. This week must have been too busy for the editor.”
Unfortunately, the second attempt received the exact same message. Sparkles was flabbergasted when Scary read the response out loud and handed the reply to her to read. The third attempt also ended with a rejection letter, as did the fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth attempts. “There has to be something wrong with the Neopian Times!!” Sparkles exclaimed as she ripped up her eighth rejection letter.
Scary yawned. “Do you really have no idea why your story got rejected?” she wondered.
“Not really,” Sparkles admitted.
“Well it’s a very simple explanation,” said Scary confidently.
”What is it?” asked Sparkles.
After a dramatic pause, Scary uttered in a casual tone, “Your story was terrible.”
“But that’s what you think!” Sparkles insisted. “Surely the NT would have loved it and decided to publish it if they knew–”
“Your story was BORING!” Scary moaned, flopping onto the living room sofa. “Boring as bread and just as dry, Sparkles!”
Her face growing warm, Sparkles looked over her NT response one more and approached Scary, pointing to the phrase ‘too many good entries’. “See, the reply said nothing about my story being boring or poorly written. It had no typos and no grammatical errors, either.”
Scary rolled her eyes and asked, “But have you actually re-read your story?”
“Why would I? My story was perfectly written,” Sparkles insisted.
“Yet the plot was dry and the characters were all boring,” Scary countered. “I bet you didn’t even bother to rewrite anything in your precious faerie-tale, haven’t you?”
“And why would I?” Sparkles demanded.
“Duh, to make it more interesting,” Scary explained. “Your story’s so dull and it lacks any exciting scenes. Why not have princess what’s-her-name jump off a cliff rather than ride an enchanted Uni around Brightvale? Then have her rescue a Jubjub from a witch’s curse and eliminate her frilly tea party scene. And rather than giving the princess a happily ever after, have her die.”
Sparkles gasped. “Scary, I can’t allow my protagonist to die! That would be too cruel!”
"And it's what the readers would want to happen," said Scary. "After all, the best NT stories are always those with dark plot elements, poisonings and oddly written dialogue that makes the readers re-read the story multiple times before they understand what was going on...of course, I never expected you to know all this, anyways."
Sparkles shook her head. "I could never have my protagonist's life be ruined for attention seeking reasons. It would make too many sad." She glared at Scary. "Besides, who are you to judge a story you never even read yet?”
“I snuck in a reading while you were helping Snaw find that plushie he lost in the kitchen,” Scary confessed. “Never told you because I knew you’d be an emotional wreck if I gave you any of my honest feedback.”
“Well…” Sparkles began, and she didn't finish her sentence. Was Scary telling the truth? Had she been so wrapped up with her story that she never thought about editing the story itself? I can’t allow Scary to think she’s won just yet, Sparkles thought. I’ll just sneak in a quick re-read before I go to bed. Then I’ll decide whether or not my story needs any revisions.
The following night, Sparkles stuck to her word and stayed up a few extra minutes to reread her short story. After she was done, however, she felt her heartbeat increase and her mouth suddenly drying up. The story she thought was so perfect, was so proud of, so confident with…was boring! The character was such a goody-two-shoes and everything she did was ever-so-perfect and thoughtful. Sparkles had to admit that if somebody else had written this story, she would also have to give it a tough critique. And there’s no exciting plot in here, either. No wonder Scary thought this was nothing but boring dribble.
Feeling anxious, Sparkles straightened her posture, sat down on her chair and began writing out her first revision, her desk lamp guiding her until she felt too tired and needed sleep. She then tucked herself in bed and closed her eyes, promising to continue her revision in the morning. ***
After spending the next three days rereading and editing her final draft, Sparkles clambered down the stairs, cheering, “I did it! Finally, I’m done!” She entered the kitchen and waved her new short story in front of Scary. “See? I’ve finally finished rewriting the whole thing!”
“Big whoop,” Scary replied, uninterested.
Sparkles smiled at her new six page story and hugged it tightly. “Now I can finally send it to the NT editor. I’ll mail it after breakfast, of course.”
“And what if the ‘evil editor’ rejects it again?” asked Scary as she peeled a banana.
“Then I’ll revise it,” said Sparkles. “And if it gets rejected again, I’ll have to revise it again. I’ll just keep revising until it pleases the NT editor, though I still need to make sure it suits my personality.”
“Whatever floats your boat,” Scary sighed. “Just don’t come crying to me when you receive your ninth rejection letter.”
Sparkles nodded and looked down at her story once more. This time I’m sure it won’t get rejected, she told herself. I just know it!