Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Revenge Is Best Served With Success

Just a reminder...bzzt...Declan...bzzt...vacation...bzzt...hey...bzzt...what...bzzzzzzzttttttt...

Hi there my fellow Finnians (fans of Declan Finn of course, and you have to admit it sounds better than my fellow Pius Geekians, right?) my name is Richard Paolinelli and I’ve commandeered Declan’s blog today.

I’ve been a professional writer in one form or another for over thirty years now – and yes I swear I just felt at least six more grey hairs sprout out of the top of my head – and for the last couple of years I’ve been focusing most of my efforts on writing novels.

As part of the marketing strategy for my recent releases I’ve been hitting several circuits, radio shows, online webzine interviews and the occasional guest blog post, like this one. At almost all of the stops I’ve made I’m asked the same question: “What motivated you to write?”

What they are asking is what made me start writing and my stock answer has been that I began writing little stories as a very young child as my dad’s drilling business moved us from one state to the next all across the United States and just kept on writing as I got older.

I started writing professionally as a freelancer back in 1984, got my first fiction credit as the lead writer for a comic book, Seadragon, in 1986 and became a sportswriter for daily newspapers in 1991. In 2013 I retired from sports writing and spent two years researching and writing a sports non-fiction book before turning to fiction in 2015.

So, what I’d like to do here on this blog today is address the question that they should be asking instead: What motivates me to continue to write after over three decades of pounding typewriter keys and computer keyboards?

Mostly, it’s because I love storytelling. Whether it was a game story or a feature on an athlete or a fictional tale conjured up from my imagination, I love putting together a story to inform or entertain. And while the three awards I have picked up along the way were very nice, hearing from readers how much they enjoyed reading something I wrote is a whole lot better.

But what about the times I got the negative reviews – the honest ones from readers that just didn’t like what I wrote as well as the politically motivated ones from people who can’t separate politics from any aspect of their life – or the rejection letters/e-mails saying my work didn’t meet a publisher’s standards?

Nowadays, I’m not bothered so much by the rejections, or even the criticisms. More often than not I can find a nugget within that I can use to improve my writing. But in the early days the “no thanks” letters and the negative critiques cut deep. And while I was, and still am, too stubborn to give it up, I can certainly understand why some would-be writers packed up their typewriters or deleted their word processors from their computer when presented with a rejection letter or two.

It isn’t easy to put yourself out there and it is certainly no fun to take the kind of hits you take when the answer is in the negative.

In my case, I was introduced to the dark side of writing early on. At the tender age of 14 I wrote what I thought was a nice little sci-fi/horror short story about a Coast Guard ship sailing through a thick bank of fog. The ship picks up a distress call from another vessel but is unable to locate the ship. The signal is lost as the fog bank dissipates an hen the ship docks at its home base, the crew is stunned to discover the ship they head from had been lost at sea – twenty years before. The story ends with the captain of the lost ship, still trapped in the fog, still calling for help that will never come.

I typed up the final draft, neatly double spaced on 20-lb paper and sent it off in the mail to a magazine that published such stories. Three weeks later I received a letter, a rejection letter, of course.

But instead of your standard “thanks-for-submitting-but-your-story-isn’t-what-we’re looking-for-and-good-luck-with-your-future-writing” letter, I instead got a long-distance beaten-to-a-pulp-in-a-dark-alley rejection letter from the magazine’s editor.

Basically, the letter stated that my story was the worst thing he’d ever seen hit his desk in his career and I should cease insulting the craft of writing by attempting to do it any longer and apply myself to something I was clearly more suited for – flipping burgers.

Now, about 99.9% of people on this planet would have been completely crushed and would have packed it in at that point. I got mad. Then I got even.

For years I kept that rejection letter – the only one I ever kept at all – pinned on a corkboard above my typewriter and later over my PC. Whenever I began to even slightly doubt my chosen career path I’d take a long look at that letter and keep on writing.

I finally tossed that letter – about 10 years into my sports writing career and after my first award (voted on by my peers) from a state newspaper association – when I realized that I no longer needed it as a motivation. At that point I had discovered what it is that motivates me to keep on writing, even after three decades.

I continue to write because there is nothing else in this world I can see myself doing professionally and because I enjoy every aspect of it. Most importantly, even if no one else ever reads another word I write, I can’t wait to see what new world, what new collection of characters I will create next and what new adventure they will take me on.

I can’t think of a better motivation for any writer than that.

Find out more about Richard and his books at including updates on when his new blog, Scribes Scribbles, will launch.

For good storylines with some great romantic tension, check out the Love At First Bite Series


  1. Thanks for letting me fill in for a day Declan. Hope you make the most of your time off.

  2. I love rejection letters like that. A long time ago I failed to do my research and sent a fiction story to a nonfiction magazine. I received a 3 page rejection letter ripping my story apart. I giggled over it, because for someone who hated the story, he read the whole thing.

  3. I got a rejection letter of the same sort when I was seventeen, on a story that had been generally well received elsewhere (and not just by my family). I understand now that it was too superversive, perhaps is the correct term? It was not message fic and the person was terribly rude about it. I didn't submit anything else for publishing (outside side of a small piece I wrote that landed me a job at a small game company) for many years. I decided that I'd just publish it all myself instead of dealing with people who were taking the time to be cruel.


Please, by all means, leave a message below. I welcome any and all comments. However, language that could not make it to network television will result in your comment being deleted. I don';t like saying it, but prior events have shown me that I need to. Thanks.