Saturday, December 1, 2012

Fight(ers), fight(ing), fight

The first round is done. I can't be sure, but I think I'm much closer to understanding the difference between good and bad editors. Not that the previous ones were bad, but the current person I'm working with feels better. Things are developing into what I could only describe as a working relationship. In the beginning of the manuscript, when she saw that I was going about something in a confusingly convoluted manner (for instance, using adverbs too much and/or not using strong enough verbs) she would say that things could be, or needed to be, tighter. Towards the end, the only comment was "tighter" and the arrow pointed to a highlighted sentence in track changes. I knew what she meant and went about things accordingly. She was explicit in that I didn't have to change things, but I needed to provide explanation. She wanted the back and forth. And I can admit that at points it was frustrating, but that's mostly because part of me wanted to be lazy, and all of her wanted me to be better.

We still came away disagreeing on some things, to be sure, but by the end of the first round I honestly felt like she respected what I was doing, and me, and that she was as committed as I was to making the novel as good as it could be given time constraints. She said she liked the book. I even got a handful of compliments in the comments section that had nothing to do with awkwardness or tightening or semicolons. Those felt especially good. I may not have come away with another fan from all of this, but hopefully a colleague.

"Please take this all with a freight car filled with salt," she wrote, "I have great respect for what you have accomplished."

And maybe I shouldn't be quoting her, but I wanted to get the words exactly right. It's cropped up lately again that while I am most certainly a writer, I might be writing about the wrong sorts of things. I never know what to do or say with that sort of thing. I can't think of a recent precedent, where an athlete chose the wrong sport or a musician the wrong genre (well, there was MJ but I will not be making that comparison). "Well, you can certainly sing, but... this isn't your wheelhouse." In all of these categories, the work is difficult, and at the beginnings of all these careers the compensation is low. The drive comes from love, I figure, in just about every case. The criticism, as a result, feels moot, and yet...

I met someone new last night, and she asked me what I liked writing about. Hm, no. She asked me what most of my stories were about, as if to establish a trend or quantify a track record. Speculative, was my reply. Stories which arise from wondering, as opposed to catharsis or purpose. What if, I always say to myself. But then of course when we dance into the specifics it all becomes terrestrial again. It would not be very inaccurate to say that I'm standing in line, miles and miles and miles behind Meyes and Rowling, but the only real differentiation would occur if someone picked up my books and read them after reading theirs. "Oh," the imaginary readers in my brain say, "it's similar, but not really." My editor compared the latest book to King's Dark Tower series. I may have already said that. I may say it again. Frequently.

So this is me, waiting for the second round to start, waving hello to December, and looking forward to 2013.  

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