Friday, July 27, 2007

Cast in Bronze, Carved in Stone

One of a pair of bronze equestrian groups.
The Horse Tamers,
Frederick William MacMonnies.

Some writers make two or three revision passes through an MS and are content.

Others turn into endless tweak machines, fussing with grit, grinders and polishing cloths.

I have no idea if the different approaches have anything to do with whether they are pansters or plotters.

And it doesn't matter - except when a piece has gone to formal edit.

That's when the Tweakers must put a sock on it.

Imagine the unadulterated joy of an editor - half way through an MS - who receives an e-mail from an author stating s/he has completely revised the beginning and added a chapter.

Seems there are writers who even make anxious attempts to introduce changes in a work after it has gone to copy edit.

Hold those brilliant additions until your editor has gotten back to you.

Respect the process.


Anonymous said...

Makes sense and I totally agree.

Bernita said...

Thank you, Steve.
A drive for that elusive perfection is admirable, but it must be disciplined - and considerate.

Jaye Wells said...

Sometimes this a symptom of premature-queryation.

Bernita said...

Sometimes I think it is just that, Jaye.

Dave said...

When I was working (once upon a time before retirement) a new graphic illustrator used the PC software instead of the Macintosh. When the printer sent the proof copy, I had 36 pages of font troubles so bad it induce migraines. I asked the printer to change the font and they charged $100.00 to change the first title on page one. That's right - five words cost $100. Think of changes like that to 30 pages. We pulled the brochure and had the graphics people rebuild the document from scratch on a Macintosh. This was a nightmare.

Another time, I had a group of "EnergyStar" people who would get a proof-copy of a poster printed and then tie up the printer with 20 or 30 changes, one by one, over the phone. Think about the charge for a grpahics illustrator and his/her boss for three or four hours on the phone. And then they would change that again because we always had to sign a proof copy to get it printed. They didn't like me when I had to stop that practice. They had a tantrum in my boss' office, but the law was on my side.

At some point, we (yes, we) just have to stop editting and changing.

I've written enough technical papers with coauthors to know that only one person edits at one time OR only one person decides what corrections go into the final copy. With technical articles that's usually the primary author. After that, the coauthors just have to back off and don't touch. Not that you can't fix the odd error. But by the time an article or a story or a novel reaches an editor, it should be pretty much fixed. That means you have an agent and the agent has seen the text.

In this novel business, I would guess that all the big changes occur in discussion with the agent. That's the text that the editor accepts and changing that text without talking to the agent would be foolish. Just sending a big change to an editor without warning them, might also be unwise. There's phone and e-mail and a big chapter change shouldn't be a surprise.

spyscribbler said...

I'm not much of a changer. I found a stupid mistake in my latest essay, and begged to have it changed for the second printing, but it's just one word. :-)

As for my novellas and short stories, I solve the problem by not reading them. It's my version of squeezing my eyes shut, LOL.

I definitely prefer an outsider's opinion. Making big changes is not something I do unless I can see it's HORRIBLE. Otherwise, I figure I can't see the big picture well enough to know if I'm making it better, or worse.

Bernita said...

Believe me, Dave, lots of changes may occur after an editor has accepted a story.
The point is, an MS may go through several edits between the editor and the writer and it's less wearing if the writer waits until each round is complete before incorporating improvements.

Editors probably find you easy to work with, Natasha.No surprises in their in-box.

Jon M said...

I'm a bit of a polisher. I worry that something can be polished into nothingness. Any tips for stopping the tinkering temptation?

takoda said...

Hi Dave, I know that world. I was in charge of a group of technical writers for a project a long time ago. They called me "The Enforcer." Hee hee! Sounds more fun than "Mommy." Though I had them all quivering so I probably could have made them call me Mommy! (grin)

Oh, those were the days......


mcewen said...

Aren't all writers perfectionists?
Best wishes

Bernita said...

Nothing wrong with tinkering, Jon.
Except when it corrupts the editorial process - or when it's an excuse to delay beginning a new work.

Bernita said...

And best wishes to you, McEwen.
Nope, all writers are not.
We're as varied as any other species.

Bailey Stewart said...

Great point. I'll have to keep that in mind whenever I finish a MS that needs tweaking. *gg*

raine said...

I guess I'm fortunate that there comes a point when I just don't want to READ the bloody thing anymore. (shiver).

Beautiful bronze.

Rick said...

There's a saying that no work of art is ever finished, only abandoned.

I am not much of a reviser - once the obvious first-draft messes are fixed, you start to risk losing as much in freshness as you gain in polish.

The Anti-Wife said...

When I put something out to read (would love to get to the editor stage) I don't look at it until the comments come back or for at least 2 weeks - whichever comes first. It gives me a new perspective and fresh eyes with which to view the work.

kmfrontain said...

This is why I won't advise on plot in my first official revision recommendations. I will if the manuscript has a provisional contract, because the author has to show a willingness and an ability to improve a manuscript substantially, both with regards to plot and prose. Regular contracts mean an author has the usual things to fix in prose, and sometimes they see plot pinholes and fix those as well, before I have to say anything. I don't see the point in wading through plot changes when the writing isn't strong enough to hold the reader to the plot. And introducing plot changes after the author has learned to avoid common writing boo boos is so much easier after a good first revision of prose.

Gabriele C. said...

I so want those horses for my collection. :)

I edit a lot while I write, but so far I have managed to call it done at some point.

sex scenes at starbucks said...

Books are like fine wine. Most authors caught up in the yearly grind of producing don't have time to let the sediment settle. And young authors often don't realize that the flavor will broaden if they set the book aside in a dark, damp cellar and let it age for awhile.

sex scenes at starbucks said...

to Jon M:

I follow the "only change it if it's a change for the better" rule. At some point, you're just changing things, not bettering them. Look for that point.

Happily, I realized I reached that point with one of my books. I was reading, puttering a bit, and realized that I wasn't bettering it. So I just settled in for a read and enjoyed the hell out of it.

That's when you know.

Also, submit submit submit, even when you think it's not perfect. Polishing can be a manifestation of fear. The first story I sold was an earlier version--I sent it out before I thought it was quite ready and then I was just waiting for the rejection so I could send out the "better" version to some other editor. Instead, they bought it as is.

Kate Thornton said...

I love my imperfect darlings warts and all. But I can't help killing them endlessly, burying them after a suitable hatchet job, resurrecting only for the submission process.

Only some of them get to remain mouldering in the grave for quite some time before I dig them up and start the delicious dismemberment process.

Love those bronze horses, Bernita - and the struggle.

Bernita said...

Keep it mind when dealing with your editor, Bailey.

Isn't it, Raine?
I frequently feel that way.

There is some truth in that, Rick. Loss of essential vigour.

Obviously, you have a disciplined mind, AW. Time is important for persepctive.

Thank you, Karen. And there you have a valuable take by an editor.

Sold for about $352,000 by Christie's, Gabriele.
I always say "done - for now."

An interesting analogy, SS.
And your points are good. The writer doesn't always know when enough is enough and may be fiddling to avoid the moment of truth.

Bernita said...

I rarely miss any of the body parts I've cut off, Kate, too busy grafting on new ones!

Charles Gramlich said...

I'm one of those who can never leave anything alone. EXCEPT, after it's submitted. I won't touch it again unless it's rejected. And if a piece is in the editing process I would certainly leave it alone then. When the Taleran books came back from the editor I had to fight myself not to change more than what he was particularly looking at, but I am proud to say that I largely succeeded.

Anonymous said...

It seems to me that authors who do that should be happy there isn't an over-excited editing clause in contracts.

Very bad form.

Bernita said...

Hard, isn't it, Charles?

"an over-excited editing clause" - I like that,Seeley!

December/Stacia said...

*raises hand sheepishly* I do this. Luckily my EC editor is fine with it, and galleys in epublishing are easier to deal with and more forgiving of last minute changes. But I could tweak a book forever if they'd let me.

Bernita said...

We know you write naughty, December.
But that's naughty-naughty.

Sam said...

I see you're still handing out good advice!
I totally agree!
How has your summer been?? Having fun, I hope!

Bernita said...

Thank you, Sam.
Interesting times...