Sunday, June 9, 2013

Drive//train

The ghost writing project feels done. And not just because I got snippy with the client over when she could and could not call me and why. It feels done, even, for reasons she wasn't quite in a place to understand. It feels done because we had finally come to that place where she read the manuscript, and wanted a word changed here, or a sentence changed there. Then she read it again and wanted to call this person by a different name, or change the adjective used to describe this event. It was time to seal it up, format it, and see if it could fly on its own. All in all, it was an interesting project, one that I learned a lot from, and learned a lot about myself through doing. Career wise, I might not be anywhere near where I'd like to be, but by teaching someone else about the process of writing long fiction, and knowing something about how to navigate the peaks and valleys, I have come to believe I've traveled a far stretch myself. Somewhere in there, towards the end, I completed the first round of edits for the next novel.

Which is to say I've been busy working hard. I gave comparatively little effort to the following metaphor I'll be using to explain an idea I recently stumbled across. A car. In regards to accessibility and craftsmanship, there is a certain range of ratios that are more ideal than most. Style and functionality are not exactly mutually exclusive except when we consider their extremes. A car can be "like" a knife cutting the air down the open road, but it can't literally be a knife. It has to have seats, a steering wheel, the ability to brake. It has to be accessible.

My editor writes, following a moderate list of small items for me to address, "Again, this was a terrific novel and I enjoyed working on it," which made me feel good (something I realized that I learned later that my client had not: there will always be something wrong). She also wrote, "Your novel is light years improved in your skills as a writer," which made me feel confused. As I mentioned earlier, this is the woman I asked to work with me for this novel, who worked with me on the last novel, and whose work I found so outstanding. As I mentioned much earlier, I wrote the two books she edited at the same time (literally, the chapter of one, then the chapter of the other, then the chapter of a third, every week, for five months). Writing wise, my skills were at the same place, so how could one be "light years" ahead of the other?

And that isn't even the right question, because that answer is too obvious. One book's subject matter is about an introspective vampire who is used as a tool for happy ends. The world of the novel brings into play the idea that there are other worlds, fantastic ones, with dragons and demons and faeries. The other book's subject matter is about a shape-shifter playing a police officer. The world of the novel brings nothing new to the table, only the same sirens and criminals and lies. Accessibility is the answer. One novel "makes more sense" than the other. The difficult question is to what degree does accessibility matter.

It never occurred to me that there would be such a night and day reception. I knew that the third book of the series, the one with the vampire, would be a fulcrum. With two books under their belt, readers who had stomached the first one and made it through the second would be shaken and tossed and challenged by the third. Common ideas about how even supernatural worlds exist and function would be thrown out stained glass windows. I told it in the order that I did knowing this, hoping that two books in, a third might not be so terribly jarring. I felt that accessibility would be an incline, but never wondered that maybe it was more like a cliff. I had always sort of imagined that reading something was the point of picking up the next book at all. Else, one would just re-read the book they already had in hand (and in truth, I've done that).

But then, other things were mentioned during this first round that were even more eye-opening. I shall have to think more on them before I decide whether or not to bring them to light, but suffice to say that I have finally gained the understanding of why an author would start their own publishing house, or leave one they were already with. And it has nothing to do with things like style and functionality. More with trend and popularity.

In short, since the last blogging, it's been a winding road of tunnels and mountain passes, but I've got some time to coast now, and enjoy the scenery. Of course, being able to see so far ahead of me also means that I can clearly make out the road conditions ahead. And question why so much construction is necessary.

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