Friday, December 2, 2016
Sunny and pleasant
Yesterday, I got some errands done and then started on the rewrite of TAPESTRY, which needs to be done in mid-January. I had forgotten how much fun that book is; definitely quirky and breaks formula a lot. Some of it I can make work; some will have to be rewritten, because there are logistical problems. I’ve tweaked the frame of the piece a bit, which I think works better, but kept the action in the mid-1990s.
I’m also starting a binge read of the books by Vicki Delany. I read her Constable Molly Smith novel NEGATIVE IMAGE and really liked it, so I’ve ordered everything else I can find by her from the library. And then, yes, I’ll be BUYING her work, because I believe in supporting living authors with my dollars. Dead ones, not so much. It’s not my job to support their descendants. Living authors — we all need to support each other to make sure we can continue writing.
It took awhile to get gussied up for the Spectacle of Trees party, but it was worth it. Used every Broadway wardrobe trick in the book on myself, and it worked. The party was a lot of fun, the wreaths went for good sums of money. I helped clean up, got home, and got right into my jammies. We needed something sparkly and joyful after the month we’ve lived through. And I got the sweetest thank you from the event organizers this morning for all my extra help.
The last of the books I need to finish the play arrived, so I can dig into that either later today or tomorrow. I want the play (with a new title, I hope), out the door by next Tuesday. Then, the attention goes back to JUST A DROP, and also to the short story I have to submit for inclusion in the anthology.
Yet my mind is churning with creative ideas; I want to keep WIPs on track, so that there’s material ready to launch as other pieces fall into place, especially where the various series are concerned; I want to revise, polish, and get out some of the projects I put aside out of frustration, but which have potential.
It’s about finding the right people to partner with, not just trying to change material to please them. If I’m going to do the latter, it’ll be a for-hire contract with a big paycheck up front; if it’s going to be MY vision, then I need to be true to it and not compromise on elements that dilute the work. The work needs to be as strong and unique as possible, and that’s what will enchant the reader.
If all I do is try to conform to formula, it will dilute my unique, quirky characters and stories, go against the themes I’m trying to explore, and not engage the readers I want to engage. Readers who only enjoy tight formulas and want the comfort of knowing the ending when they start the book aren’t the readers who will respond to the themes, characters, and situations I write anyway. Rather than trying to please them, it’s far more important to please myself (within the context of always improving my craft).
Every book or story I write needs to be better than the previous one, on a craft level and every other level. If I don’t like the other books an agent represents, it’s probably not the right agent for me; same thing with a publisher.
I’ve been truly lucky in most of my editors with my published work. They’ve understood what I was trying to achieve and guided me to make the material stronger without losing what makes it unique. I am so grateful to my editors.
I want the security of a traditional publisher with a recognizable name, only that security doesn’t exist any more. I watch the authors I like reading best dropped from their Big Five contracts, and authors whose work I don’t like (because they’re bland, lack craft, and, in some cases, the protagonists are bigoted, racist fools, and not because the author is trying to communicate that’s a negative) being heavily promoted.
The books I enjoy are, for the most part, coming out of small presses and, in some cases, independently published. Indie publishing is always hit and miss, because so many of those books are so published because the author lacks the craft to land an agent or a traditional contract. Yet, more and more ARE well-crafted, and have more interesting characters and situations and a broader context than that coming out of traditional houses.
Small presses are great because they are small, and they’re willing to take chances on the unusual. If you find the right small press with which to click, everything is possible. Of course, because they are small, even if you, as an individual, do your part, if every other author in the stable isn’t holding up their end, the publisher can burn out.
There’s a difference between incorporating notes/feedback into a manuscript to make it the best it can be, and changing it to fit someone else’s formula. If all they like and all they can sell is X, and I’d rather do Y, then I have to have enough savvy to realize that when they want it to conform to X, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s to make it better. It’s to make it fit. I don’t have to fit, if I’m willing to put in the thought, time, and effort, to do something else. It means not signing with them, but so what? The advances have gone down considerably in most cases, and few traditional houses are putting effort into promoting anything that doesn’t have to do with manipulating the so-called “best seller ” lists.
It wasn’t until I worked in a library that I realized just how much manipulation goes into those lists, and how little has to do with the actual worth of a book.
All of that has to be taken into consideration as I make my decisions in the coming months. I also want to redefine how I promote my work. I don’t WANT to do the same thing everyone else does — there’s a saturation of desperate promotion that works for very few. Instead, I want to craft campaigns that are as unique and quirky as the material I’m promoting.
The next couple of years should be interesting, craft-and-career-wise.
In the meantime — I have a play to finish!
Have a great weekend!