JimWould you like to play a game?

Sure, I love games.

 

You can be a writer, sailor, punk rocker, or rat. Which character would you like to play?

Writer, please.

 

You are alone in a room. You aren’t carrying anything and there’s nothing in your pockets. There are doors in front of you and behind you. You are 25 years old and have just completed a novel.

Open the door in front of me.

 

The door is locked. This door represents your future.

Turn around and open the other door.

 

The door is locked. This door represents your past.

Turn around and try the first door again.

 

This door is still locked.

Knock on the door.

 

A piece of paper slides under the door.

Pick up the paper.

 

It’s a note.

Read note.

 

It says TRY AGAIN IN 20 YEARS

Crumple note.

 

Feel better?

Explore room.

 

You are in a room. It has four walls, two doors, and no windows. There is a cot on the wall adjacent to the door and a desk across from it.

Sit down at desk.

 

You are at a desk. There is typewriter and a ream of paper.

Write novel.

 

You have written a novel. You have used seven years of life force.

Write memoir.

 

Are you sure about that?

Write memoir.

 

You have written a memoir. You have no dignity points left.

Write another novel.

 

You have written a novel. You have used two years of life force and your agent has invited you to explore other opportunities.  

Write another novel.

 

You have written a novel. You have used three months of life force. You hate your job and are an alcoholic.

This game sucks.

 

You’re the one who wanted to be a writer.

Revise novel.

 

You have revised your novel. You have used one year of life force and two members of your writer’s group have gotten book deals.

Revise novel again.

 

You have revised your novel. You have used six months of life force and accrued dignity points and a new agent.

Revise novel again.

 

You have revised your novel. You only have so much life force, you know.

Submit novel.

 

You have been rejected.

Oh no.

 

You have been rejected.

Aw shit.

 

You have been rejected.

Now wait a minute.

 

Time passes.

Search soul.

 

It is a soul.

Revise novel.

 

You have revised your novel. You have used six months of life force.

Resubmit novel.

 

Your novel has been accepted.  The first door opens.

Walk through door.

 

You are middle-aged. Your book is being published but nothing else has changed. You are the same person with the same problems. You have worked hard. You have caught breaks. Fortune smiles down on you, but fate is waiting with its mighty bitch slap. There are people lining up to knock you down. There are many more who share their love with you and are eager to hear you tell your story.

Did I win the game?

 

Don’t be ridiculous.

Now what?

 

There’s a great glimmering world out there waiting to be explored. Your move.

 

_________________________

JIM RULAND is a veteran of the U.S. Navy, author of the novel Forest of Fortune, the short story collection Big Lonesome and co-author of Giving the Finger (with Scott Campbell, Jr. of Discovery Channel’s Deadliest Catch). He runs the Southern California-based reading series Vermin on the Mount, now in its tenth year.

 

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TNB FICTION is proud to showcase book excerpts and original short fiction from some of the finest writers in the world. Features have included work by Aimee Bender, Dan Chaon, Stuart Dybek, Jennifer Egan, Bret Easton Ellis, Roxane Gay, Etgar Keret, Antonya Nelson, and hundreds of other internationally acclaimed and emerging writers. Spotlighting a recent book release each week, TNB Fiction helps bring awareness of new literary fiction, from both trade and independent publishers, to readers around the world, providing a global, free-access arena for spotlighting the genre in an era of shrinking coverage among mainstream print publications. TNB Fiction has its finger on the pulse of a vibrant new generation of writers, as well as established literary greats whose work continues to shape the future dialogue of literary culture. Fiction Editor Rachael Warecki lives in Los Angeles. Her work has appeared in The Los Angeles Review, The Masters Review, Midwestern Gothic, and elsewhere, and has received residency invitations from the Wellstone Center and Ragdale. She holds an MFA in Fiction from Antioch University Los Angeles and is currently at work on a novel.

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