Friday Fable: The Ass with the Draft Manuscript

You may know the old story of The Ass in the Lion’s Skin:

donkeyOne day, an ass spotted a lion’s skin that some hunters had left on the ground. The ass was tired of being treated like an ass, so he draped the lion’s skin over his back and pranced through the countryside scaring all the rabbits and ducks. It felt so awesome, he got carried away and began running and snarling at everyone in his path, even the predators.

A  fox thought something wasn’t quite right with this funny-looking nasty-smelling lion, so he put him to a test. “You’ve terrorized the whole countryside with your fearful appearance,” the fox said. “I bet you could freeze our blood with your roar.”

The ass, who was so enjoying his newfound power that he’d forgotten he was an ass, let loose a loud nasal hee-haw that everyone in earshot recognized as a donkey’s bray. All the animals came out of hiding to point and laugh at the poor old ass in the lion’s skin. “What an ass,” they all said. (They’d said that when they thought he was a lion, too, but now they meant it twice as much.)

And the moral is: No disguise will hide one’s true character for long.

That is a good old tale. But if Aesop were a modern slave to the written word, he may have called his fable, The Writer with the Draft Manuscript:

One day, a writer who’d just finished the first draft of his first book read about an authors’ convention in the big city, attended by wheelers and dealers in the world of publishing. The writer was tired of being treated like a wannabe, so he forked out five hundred bucks in registration fees and another fifty for business cards that read, Author at Large, and he draped himself in a tweed jacket and reading glasses, and off he went.

He pranced through the workshops talking with other writers and editors about literary craft. It felt so awesome, he began to boast about his unconventional villain, his reluctant hero, his nail-biting plot and his polished-to-perfection prose. Then he bragged about his platform and marketability–at which words, all the authors around him ran and hid, leaving him face to face with the agents. 

One junior agent wanted to scoop up this dreamy writer and start earning her 15%, so she elbowed two other agents out of the way and asked, “Can I have a two-week exclusive?”

"Ha ha, what an ass!"
“Ha ha, what an ass!”

The writer, who was so enjoying his dream that he’d forgotten the rough shape of his draft, opened his laptop and emailed the agent his manuscript on the spot. She downloaded the file and read the first two pages. Then she sent it round to the other agents at her table and they all had a good laugh at the poor writer and his crappy draft. “What an ass,” they all said. (They’d said that when they thought he was a sellable braggart, too, but now they meant it twice as much.)

The writer went home and cried, then he revised his manuscript and sold it under a pseudonym.

And the moral is: Don’t sell your story until it’s done. 

I’m not even saying why I wrote this fable today. Hope you liked it. I have to go do some edits now. Happy Friday.

(Photos: the donkey picture is my own but the lion is from tratong at Thanks.)

2 Comments on “Friday Fable: The Ass with the Draft Manuscript

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