Don't get derailed by Dingus Magee

A while back I read William Goldman's terrific Adventures in the Screen Trade, which is so packed with great writing advice, I had to make a list of things to blog about down the road. One particular passage came back to me when a recent proposal of mine was shot down. Discussing the process and production surrounding his script Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Goldman says that when it came time to market the screenplay, it was a "hot item" with interest from several studios, but it was rejected by MGM. Goldman says:
A Metro executive told me that the reason they didn't bid was this: "We've already got our joke western, The Ballad of Dingus Magee."

The fact is this: If Butch went out today, just as it did originally, a simple unencumbered screenplay available for purchase, it would never have sold.

I laughed out loud when I read this. The only time I'd ever heard of Dingus Magee was in an episode of MST3K. Meanwhile, Butch and Sundance went on to become a classic, and Goldman won an Oscar for the screenplay.

There's two things we can take from this. First, there's the eye-roll response to rejection. If they don't get it, they just don't get it. There's nothing you can do to change their mind. Second, Goldman makes the point that to everything there is a season. Timing is everything in the placement of a manuscript. A writer's only response in either case is to write what you want to write. It's a terrible mistake for an author to internalize rejection, change course, or abandon an idea simply because the market for it isn't (at this moment) ripe for it. Or because somebody just doesn't get it.

A universal truth in the writing life: rejection happens. So they sent you a thanks but no thanks. Let them have their Dingus Magee. You know who you are as an artist and what you're doing as a writer. To thine own self be true. Your time will come.


Great post. This reminds me of Nora Roberts, who tells of being rejected on an early submission to (I believe) a Harlequin office in Great Britain. Why?

"We already have an American author."

Years later, said author was found guilty of plagiarizing the work of the incredibly-success Roberts.

Irony in action!
Joni Rodgers said…
That's priceless.
Suzan Harden said…
And J.K. Rowling is still laughing all the way to the bank...

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