Genetic Bonds & Writing Magic Wands

Hefner Publications

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My father is sending me his second book to edit and format for publication of Smashwords. I’ve read and given him suggestions on a couple of the individual chapters before, so I’m pretty well aware of the topics and subjects he’s covered. However, this will be a completely different book than those first attempts suggested.

My father started out writing a book about relationships with a Christian slant. There were, as in his previous books, Bible passages and examples used to illustrate points and make connections between the idea and the practice or application. But over time, this began to change. Hoping to appeal to a broader audience and better focus his book, my dad began to scale back on the Biblical angle. From a marketing standpoint, this was probably a good move. From a writing standpoint, it pushed his book in a new direction, necessitating rewrites and pushing his release date back from a possibly more profitable Valentine’s Day release.

I don’t know how critically taking out the Biblical emphasis changed my dad’s book (I’ll know when I read it), yet I understand why he did it. It does bring up an interesting question. What am I willing to change about my work to get it published?

This is something I’ve been pondering for a while. Always two or three steps ahead of myself, I’ve thought about my book being accepted for publication. After listening to many writers in the industry tell their stories, there’s been one step in the process that has always caused me trepidation: the editing stage. Ironically, these are the duties I’m expected to perform for my father’s book.

It’s odd to me that I can labor through writing a book, revising and rewriting my way to a “finished” product, as well as the query process, and then find myself doing further rewriting, quibbling with an editor over proposed changes. It’s hard to imagine having to change my title or switch the order of something. I know that editing is largely beneficial. It’s always good to have another set of eyes go over it. My own experience with having a teacher I respected edit my work led to a far better piece than I had initially had, even though we butted heads a bit at first. But this relationship still makes me a little queasy.

It’s a daunting prospect, editing my father’s book. My father and I have different, distinctive voices in our writing. His organization is different than how I would order things. There are probably going to be structural changes and word choices that I will disagree with. At the same time, I don’t want to translate his work into my voice–which is, I think, what scares me most about editors. This should still be his work, his creation at the end of the process.

I guess, then, that what scares me about the editing process (in the publication realm) is that I will lose the creative power I’ve had over my work up to that point. It’s the fear that I’ll have this beautiful healthy baby, and when they bring it to me after cleaning it up, it will be unrecognizable as mine. It won’t have any of the expected features like my doe in headlights brown eyes or the whimsical upward tilt of the tip of my nose. Whose book is this? Where’s my book? (Ooh, that would be a good story!…sorry, got side tracked)

So far, I haven’t had much contact with my NaNoWriYear buddy, so my issues with sharing work and editing haven’t come up. But now that I have my dad’s book being emailed to me, the question returns. Being a writer myself, I will of course be firm but gentle with his book. I will have the disposition of a parent. I will use the skill of a surgeon. I will be a fairy Godmother with a magic wand, simply allowing the opportunity for this Cinderella book to go to the ball. I can only hope my manuscripts fare as well.

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Feeding the Beast

Creative writing class-fine arts center (40269...

My name is Copywrite1985, and I can't stop expanding on my stories... Image via Wikipedia

“How’s your writing going?” My dad asks me. I’m trolling Books A Million, my third book related stop of the day. I’ve already been to the public library to get my library card, as well as to the used book shop in the quaint little downtown area I finally got a little time to explore. I still haven’t found the book club book that I’m looking for, but I’ve found a lot of other books that I find equally enticing.

“I’ve been busy with my blog–the content and learning about hosting my own site,” I respond, surveying thick computer books with a critical eye. I’m looking for a book on Java, which, my boyfriend has explained to me, is completely different from Java Script. Who knew? It’s a birthday present for the boyfriend; I hope he likes it. I want to show that I’m interested in helping him progress as a person, that I actually am listening when he goes into tech speak.

“I have to buckle down and work on my book. I don’t know when it’s coming out now,” my dad laments. He was shooting for a Valentine’s Day release, as his book centers on relationships. I’ve recently introduced him to the wonders of Smashwords, a program I myself haven’t had the opportunity to use, but is highly recommended for self-publishing. “Everytime I get close to finishing, there’s something else. The book keeps changing at the eleventh hour.”

I know how that feels. You think you know where you’re going, then all of a sudden, there’s a detour. Has this ever happened to you? You’ve thought you were done with a story, then you go back to revise and find yourself going in another direction entirely?

I have a short story that I wrote for a creative writing class. Our teacher required us to make a large revision (we had to change/refine at least fifty percent of the story, I believe. These were significant changes, not merely proofreading and adding a sentence). I don’t write that way. Usually, when I finish writing, aside from proofreading and revisions for clarity and style, it’s done. So I wasn’t excited about having to change my story.

After taking into account some of the things that people in class pointed out weren’t working, I see an entirely different angle that makes one character’s agreement to even meet for the climactic moment more believable. I add in backstory on another character that explains a bit of her brass attitude.

The revisions go well and my teacher asks me if I considered publication for it. I put the story away for a while, intending to give it one more fresh look before I sent it out for possible publication. When I pulled it out again, I found even more areas to expand upon, more places where I wanted the writing to be more concise. I wanted to concisely reveal more detail/personality of a supporting character. I’ll just tweak a bit here. I handed in the story revision in the Spring semester of 2008; the story has been sent to zero publications.

I’m having a bit of trouble letting go. I know that this isn’t all of the story, that other short stories may follow with the focus being characters that are supporting characters in the current narrative, maybe, but I can’t seem to get this story out of my hands and into the hands of publishers.

How do you know when a story is “done”? How do you force yourself to declare it a finished product and begin the (possibly) long process of trying to get it published? Someone help me let go, already!

The Gift of Confidence

Medieval illustration of a Christian scribe wr...

One of these days, I'll at least have a writing desk like this! Image via Wikipedia

I again sat and read the beginning of my NaNoWriMo novel (which is in need of a better working title) this past week. I was expecting to be bombarded with mistakes and plot holes, to be blindsided by changes in tense, and to find that the way I manipulated time in the story was confusing instead of opening up the possibilities of what could be done with the story. I wasn’t expecting to find much useable material.

As I sat on my floor (still need that writing desk/computer desk), editing my work in the reading mode of Microsoft Word, I was pleasantly surprised to find there were many strong points in the story. Even though I’d felt I had a good story as NaNoWriMo was underway, I expected to feel differently about the writing once the rush was over. I didn’t have an excessive amount of filler words that were written just to meet the requirements (which is probably part of the reason I fell short). It gave me a boost of confidence in my writing to see how well it’s held up to proofreading.

Even though I’d promised myself not to proofread until I actually finished a first draft, I’m glad I broke my promise. I know now that there’s a reason to continue. I didn’t do any extensive editing, just fixed a few typos and let the material stand as; I suppose this was an effort to compromise with myself over editing.

On a sad note, one of the pages of the handwritten draft is missing. It’s a page I hadn’t transcribed yet. Hopefully a good organizing of paperwork will yield the missing page. I hate when I misplace pages and have to recreate things. Either I don’t remember what is missing or I can’t recapture the magic of the moment. It’s much easier to get the jist of a thing down and craft it out of this rough material than it is to start from scratch with only a general idea of what the jist might have been.

It’s going to be easier for me to go forward with my writing goals in this new year because I’ve restored a bit of my confidence in my writing. I’ll share my writing goals with you as it gets closer to the New Year. I hope everyone finds the courage and the confidence from somewhere to continue to persevere in their writing.