Friday, May 31, 2013

Editing Gets Scary

Yesterday was kind of crazy, what with last second preparations for graduation and a variety of students in my room for in-school suspension (the bane of every senior teacher's existence) and credit recovery, so I didn't get any editing done, but I did the day before.  I stopped at a pivotal chapter where my editor wants me to make some rather substantive changes and I'm not sure I'm ready to make them yet.

I've tried to set aside my ego up to now, allowing her to lead me in terms of what is best for making my book saleable, despite some misgivings--about the process, not about my editor, who is a lovely, brilliant woman.  But she has asked me to take out some things that I feel are pivotal to knowing who my main characters are.  The pace things and the spots where I'm simply not following the rules of formatting are a non-issue.  I can definitely see where my prose is tighter and smoother than it was.  But there's one early scene where Harry makes his breakfast.  Harry is a foodie.  The process of cooking and enjoying food are significant to knowing who he is.  But she says that this drags the pace down and that readers want action.  I'll give her that, to a point, but Harry's a gourmand because I think of myself as one and one of the things I love about my hero, Robert B. Parker's, Spenser books is how much love he gives to the food.  It's integral.  But I cut that scene to the bone, just as she suggested.  Maybe I have to earn the right to go into such detail.  Like J. K. Rowling earned the right to write long, dizzyingly detailed books by writing compact, efficient ones that got her readers hooked enough not just to stand for, but even clamor for more and more in each book.  Again, I make no comparisons between Ms. Rowling and myself in terms of skill or potential success.  Just illustrating a concept.

But that leads to the spot in the book where I'm a little scared to go on.  Part of her comments are perfectly sensible--well, all of them are.  But she says we spend too much time in Harry's head.  That kind of hits home for me.  That's me as a writer.  Harry is a thoughtful guy.  He's even a bit of a worrier.  He overthinks things and his mind wanders around an issue for a while before he figures things out.  If spending too much time in his head is a fatal flaw, I fear I am just fatally flawed as a writer.  At what point do I say this is who I am and I will either get my book sold writing this way or I won't, but I'm not changing the essence of who I am as a writer just to sell a book.  Or is there a point where I do that?

I guess I need to stop and think about what I want to do with my writing.  Do I want to write for myself and hold to a high-minded (which probably means unreasonable) standard and not budge even if it means I'm a commercial failure?  Is it possible to write for myself but find a way to still succeed in selling to the public?  Do I need to "give in to the man" to start in order to gain the right to be myself with subsequent works?  The short answer is I don't know.  But I think that what I'm going to do is, for the most part, trust my editor and make the changes she suggests.  I may decide once in awhile that something is just too important to knowing Harry and/or Dee and the readers are just going to have wait a little longer to get to the next shootout and believe that they will appreciate them a bit more when they know my heroes a little more fully.

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