Story Surgery

There are times in my writing process I feel like a hired gun with a scalpel. A slice here, a nip and tuck there–gut the beast.

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Readers, editors, agents and publishers all shout (okay maybe not really shout–but it seem that way at times) for me to make a change in a POV, or my favorite–I like the ending, but let’s change it.  Dance writer boy, dance!

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I’m not offering any writing advice–god knows, others fill the inter-webs with enough of that, “Write a bestseller in ten minutes” garbage out there. Something I learned years ago, even before I began writing professionally, was not to take suggestions and recommendations personally. Just because an editor wants to change a character, or eliminate a scene, does not mean I am a failure as a human being. I have plenty of failures, but that ain’t one.

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I learned to step back from the ego-driven part of the creative process and listen to the people I trust to give me the honest to god ugly truth. Editors, agents and publishers are not the unholy trinity. They have a good view on what’s going on out there in the book world and their suggestions are going to make my book better. It doesn’t have to feel like a prostate exam.

I’ve played a game with my agent where we have different viewpoints on an edit, or direction and we wait and see where the publisher lands. Every damn time they come down on the side my agent was advocating. Every single time.

What does that mean? Listen dammit! If I feel like a mad scientist surgically reanimating a corpse of a manuscript–so be it.

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Most recently, my wife–who reads countless drafts of my drivel–suggested a change at the eleventh hour. I was ready to hit the switch and send off the completed work and she came in with a “simple” (anything but) suggestion. What if one of the characters was a woman instead of a man, as I’d written it?

Shit. She was right. (that was hard to say) This character wasn’t the primary protagonist in the story, but he–now she, served as the moral compass of the story. The change in gender is a twist that will make the story just a little more complex, and layered.

Now I can add gender reassignment surgery to my editing/revising skill set.

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8 comments

  1. Delores · · Reply

    Ok, so this is why we are still waiting on the new book; I get it. I always enjoy receiving your posts in my “in-box”; they are one of the first things I open. What does that say about my life?…just kidding.

    1. This is actually talking about another book we haven’t sold off to a publisher. It is gonna be a good one. The At What Cost sequel (Bury The Past) is still on schedule for a December release. I’m glad you enjoy these weekly thoughts.

  2. That’s a good skill for a writer to have – helps to have a wife willing to help …

    1. Listening to the wifey is a survival skill…

  3. “I like the ending, but let’s change it” Jim, you should write comedy!

    1. Thanks Bart. That conversation actually occurred once…It’s an interesting business for sure. I wrote a prison scene in once project that involved a walkaway from an MSF–the publisher couldn’t get his head around inmates just walking off…

  4. OMG your posts crack me up!! I love your sense of humor.

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