New BackstoryI just posted a new backstory from Jacqueline Winspear, author of two Masie Dobbs novels, over at my Backstory Blog, please check it out.
Call to Arms
Over at a very active writer's site, one writer posted a story about her editor who had an option on her second novel and exercised it on the basis of a one-page proposal.
She delivered it on time and felt she wrote what her proposal suggested she was going to write. But in his notes her editor has basically rejected the novel unless she takes a 500 word section and turns that into 1/3 of the book, changes the narrator, and gives the book a different (happy) ending.
It's not an unusual story. I've heard at least five variations of it in the last month.
But what I am finding unusual is the advice this writer and the others I know have been getting from other writers.
No one tells the writer to fight for the book. No one suggests the editor might be wrong. Or that if the writer and the editor really argued it out there might be a better book altogether to come out it. No one suggests that perhaps the editor didn't "get" the book if he could make those suggestions. No one wonders if perhaps the writer might have taken a leap and is ready to move onward.
No one talks about the writing.
It's yet another example of a phenomena I've been noticing lately and wrote about just last week when I asked, "What Won't You Do?" and wondered if our being so willing to focus on the business of publishing is having an effect on our creativity.
When I was in advertising we fought insanely vehemently, passionately and vociferously with our bosses and our clients to protect the creative vision we had for our commercials.
We were writing f*cking 30 second commercials. No pretense of art. Not even any whisper of art. Any yet we quit over too much interference. I left a 100K plus job because my boss recut my commercial. We were always putting out our portfolios and applying to more creative shops hoping to work for a boss who would be more protective of our visions.
Now we're novelists putting our own visions onto paper, telling our own stories, trying to create something beautiful, or meaningful, or powerful, or emotional, or so entertaining that you can't stop turning pages - and yet we're not fighting one quarter as hard for our novels as we fought for those commercials at the agency.
I know publishing is a business. I know we want to make a living at it. I know those of us who do, often feel lucky and grateful. I know we are all petrified that this book will be our last. I know we should be educated about the business. Jeeze, I've said that at every writer's conference and written it in every one of my articles. But maybe the pendulum is swinging a little too far in one direction.
Our books are not commodities until they are printed on paper and bound into galleys by our publishers.
While they are in manuscript form they are still our own creative expressions.
They are bits of our souls. And it is okay if we want to fight for them. In the fight might be the discovery of whether or not what you are writing about really matters to you. In the fight might be the discovery of whether or not what you are writing has some truth in it.
I'm not advocating war. I don't see editors or publishers as the enemy. (Far from it, I am really thrilled with both my editor and my publisher.) I'm not even saying that we shouldn't change every single thing our editors ask us to change. That may be exactly what we should do.
But not first.
Not right off the bat.
I am simply suggesting that maybe we have more passion for being published than we do for our writing and maybe that's backward.