The return to The Real Home went without a hitch, which is to say no one died. Yes, there were moments along I-65 that I wanted to turn my trusty vehicle into The Last of the V-8 Death Machines, but it didn’t happen. Not this time . . .
As I said I would, I got into the writing, though it wasn’t until after 10 PM my time–and with a glass of wine at my side. The words came, but slowly, because there’s a feeling I’m reaching for this in scene, and finding it was difficult. Not impossible, but I had to look into what one of the main characters wanted to feel, and I needed to decide if their feelings were real. See, my characters don’t own me; they are my plaything. I slap them around and make them do as I like. Oh, sure: I’ll ask first if they want something a particular way, because I am, if nothing else, a compassionate mistress, but I’m paying for this band, so they better dance to my tune.
Before I trundled off to bed, Transporting was 865 words richer, and the final word count was centimeters from 280,200 words. That’s a hefty chunk of wordage, no getting around that. But here I am, almost half way through Chapter 45, the penultimate chapter, and I’ve maybe three thousand or so word left to finish this sucker . . . yeah, 285,000 words sounds like a good stopping point.
Which brings me to something that I need to mention . . .
If you’ve read this blog long enough, you know that, once in a while, something will happen to me, I’ll try not to let it be a big deal–and it usually isn’t. Issue forgotten, so to speak.
Then I write about it. Why? Because I’m a pain in the ass, that’s why. And I’m worst than an elephant, because I often never forget.
So there may be some harsh words said below. If you don’t want to read them . . . here, watch a guinea pig break a world record!
That said, onward.
For the last month I’ve mostly blogged about my old novel. Yeah, yeah; boring, I know. Most of the feedback I’ve received has fallen into two categories: ”What you’re doing is fantastic!” or, “Are you out of your mind?” Most of the first group come from people who are cheering me on to get something that’s been such a part of my life for some long finished. The later group . . .
The later group seem to be from people who are “reminding me” that I’m producing a work that is pretty much unmarketable and unsaleable. Or better yet, they have “advice” to help we with the things I’m doing wrong. You know, like switching points of view from first person to third person omnipotent. Or that I shouldn’t use italics that much. Or, quite simply, the novel is just too damn big, and what am I gonna do to cut it down?
Now, normally, I might listen. Might, I say, verily. I mean, writers should support other writers. I’ve even had my say here about things I think you should and shouldn’t do. If you want to do them, groovy, go for it! If you don’t, then don’t. Never let it be said I’m gonna hold a pen to your head and jam it into your left temple if you don’t heed my advice. Because what I’m offering are nothing more than observations, and not great wisdom from years of playing the publishing game.
For years I have taken advice from people in the game. Ask a writer for their opinion on how you should market and edit your work, how you should deal with the people who are going to bring your baby into the light of day, and they’ll tell you all sorts of shit. One of the things you instantly realize is that there are tons of horror stories out there about how a great deal of their work has been screwed up by publishing houses, and if they had to do it all over again, they’d likely have killed everyone involved and taken to selling drugs as a less stressful occupation.
Sure, I realize that people want to help. I do the same with other writers. But I will, at the least, try to offer up advice that isn’t . . . shall we say just a touch derisive?
“So how do you intend to sell a first novel that’s twice the size of what publishing houses usually want? They’ll tell you people usually won’t read those.” ”You can’t change points of view like that; agents will tell you people don’t like that.” ”You can’t use italics like that, editors will tell you people don’t like that.” Hum. It would seem that there are a lot of things out there people don’t like. And that probably is true; there likely are a lot of things out there that people don’t like . . .
Yes, my work is long. It’s very long. I don’t deny that. But in telling this story, this is what’s come out of me. Sure, I could maybe cut out, say, thirty thousand words and it’d still make sense. I might even be able to cut out fifty or sixty thousand words and it wouldn’t seem strange. Even so, you’re still talking about a 200,000 word novel. Cut out anymore than that and it’s gonna seem like a wounded creature.
Some cuts might make sense, and I’m certain when I start editing it, I’ll find parts that need to go.
But don’t tell me it shouldn’t be so long because people won’t read them. That’s bullshit, and we know it.
The novel is written from two points of view: one is third person omnipotent, where you see what everyone is doing and thinking, and the other is in the form of a first person journal maintained by one of the main characters. Point of view, when it does switch, happens at the chapter level–save for the last scene in Chapter 45, when I’ll have a few switches from first to third person, and back. It doesn’t seem that big of a deal to me; otherwise, why would I have written it this way? (Because it’s what my characters wanted? Those pesky characters, telling me what they want again!)
So I might have an agent tell me, “Hey, you can’t point of view like this; people don’t like it.” Oh, really? I’m sorry to hear that. Now find a buyer for the goddamn book, ’cause that’s your job. And if you can’t–hey, how many agents are there on the Internet?
My journal entries, as well as character’s inner thoughts, are italicized, something I’ve seen done time and again by other writers. ”Oh, but editors will tell you not to do that, people don’t like it.” Damn, there’s those “people” again! Why are they even reading if they don’t like so many things?
Sure, it might be a little thing that can be changed. And maybe the editor will give me a good way to change that so it doesn’t come across as confusing. If they can’t–sorry, bub. I’m leaving it as is. Don’t want to print it that way? No problem. Give me my manuscript back and I’ll look for the next house . . .
I’m not being a pain in the ass just to be one. I do understand that I might be spitting in the face of people out there who are there to help. But before I spit, I would like to hear reasons other than, “People don’t like that.” ’Cause I’m gonna say, “My readers are smarter than the average people.”
See, this is what comes of reading too many opinions from Harlan Ellison, who was always of the opinion that once you got your work out there to a house, you fought your ass off to print it as you wrote it. And believe me, I’ve spent way too long on this piece, I’ve gone into far too many moments of despair, I’ve had too many moments when I was within moments of deleting this story from my computer, for someone to tell me, “Oh, you can’t do that because people won’t like it.”
You want me to change something, you better make damn good sense about why, or I’m gonna get my back up and fight like hell. Because editors and agents and publishing houses ain’t always right.
As most of us know, the publishing world often knows jack about books. Please, do I need to cite? Okay, how about . . . 30 rejections for Stephen King’s Carrie? ”‘We are not interested in science fiction which deals with negative utopias. They do not sell,” stated one rejection letter. King got so despondent that, at one point, he tossed the manuscript in the trash, only to have his wife dig it out and make him send it out again.
John le Carré’s The Spy Who Came in From the Cold. One house has this, and they couldn’t want to sell it off to another. ”You’re welcome to le Carré–he hasn’t got any future,” they said in a letter. I think they meant after he died.
Chicken Soup for the Soul; 130 total rejections. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance; 121 total rejections. Gone With the Wind; 33 total rejections. Dune, 23 total rejections. And least you think I’m only talking about old stuff, how about some kid’s book about a wizard that was rejected by a dozen houses, and was about to get the kick from number thirteen when the guy who was about to do the kicking was told by his daughter, “I think you should print this.” If I was J. K. Rowling, I’d put that girl through school.
And, of course, my two favorites: ”I’m sorry Mr. Kipling, but you just don’t know how to use the English language.” That from an editor who rejected one of Kipling’s short stories. Yeah, he really showed Kipling, didn’t he? Then there is this from a publisher: ”The girl doesn’t, it seems to me, have a special perception or feeling which would lift that book above the ‘curiosity’ level.” I wonder what Anne Frank thought of that rejection? Oh, wait . . .
I am not saying my story will be among these stars. But I am saying, the people in the publishing world don’t always know what they are talking about. The best writers will always tell you about two things: their best publishing experiences, and their worst. Why does it seem the worst always outweigh the best?
One last thing: when your advice to me is, “If you don’t do it like I’m saying, you won’t get published, LOL!” I’m sorry: ”LOL”? Are you laughing at me? Do you think I’m funny? Funny like a clown? Do you find it amusing to chortle at the person who, you believe, is doomed to die the death of a thousand delete keys? Do that again, and you will feel my virtual hand give you a virtual pimp slap. With that LOL, you got put on the Pay No Mind List, and your chances of ever getting off it are very small, indeed.
I’m going to make a rule here. This is Ray’s First Law of Getting Published, and I’m going to rip it off, pretty much as if, from Clarke’s First Law, because why try to reinvent perfection?
The law states: ”When someone in the publishing industry tells you something can be done, they are most likely right. When they tell you what you are doing is, for the most part, impossible, they are most likely wrong.”
So what if I don’t publish my novel right away? I can wait. I’ve waited 25 years. I can wait a little longer–
But I will get it published. This much I know.