Friday, 12 November 2010

Me and my story - falling to pieces . . .

So here's the thing I've been wondering about lately.  Where are we all going with our writing?  What do we all want from it?  And what are we prepared to compromise to get it?  I'm not necessarily talking about the book deal, or even publication at all.  Not everyone is after that. 

But if publication is the aim, what are you prepared to compromise to get it? 

I only say this as I've recently been working with Matt Louis, from Out of the Gutter, on my story for Issue 7.  It's the first time one of my stories has ever made it into a printed magazine, and it's a big thing for me.  When Matt initially suggested some ideas for working on some different elements of the story, I initially fell to pieces.  What if I couldn't do it?  What if I wasn't up to it?  The proposed cover of OOTG 7 already had my name on it, so I couldn't mess this up, surely.  Pressure, that's what it was. 

As it turned out, working with Matt was an absolute delight.  My revisions came in okay, and everything was back on track.

The whole experience was a tremendous learning curve for me.  And it got me thinking about some of my other stories.  Would I have been so willing to chop about one of my more deeply personal first person stories, most of which simply wrote themselves, shining a light on some of my darkest places?  I hesitated at the thought.  Still with no answer.  I felt the stubborness rising, the blood throbbing in my head.

Would I be willing to look at all my stories as objectively as the story for OOTG 7?

I hope so.  I really hope so.

I don't think I'm pushing the boat out too much (never understood that cliche) by saying many of us write stuff that's a little 'near the knuckle', 'close to the mark', politely speaking 'not to everyone's taste'.  If we are writing to express something deep within ourselves, something cathartic, something that needs to be told in one way and in one way only, the main priority to read and hear our own words, then perhaps the idea of compromise may be a completely abhorrent concept, perhaps even an unneccesary one. 

I wrote a review yesterday for Patti Abbott's Friday's Forgotten Books feature, which should hopefully be up on Patti's site today.  The book I chose was 'Maggie: A Girl of the Streets' by Stephen Crane.  When Crane wrote the book in 1893, the publishers he hawked it round at the time found the violence and the brutality of the book so distasteful, evey one rejected it.  Crane ended up publishing it himself. 

Self-publication is still an option - even more so nowadays with the advent of the e-book.

But if the choice is not to self-publish, but to seek the more traditional publishing route of agents and slush piles and editors and deadlines and profit margins, how far would you go to maintain your own particular vision of your book or story?  What would be your personal stumbling blocks?


  1. I had a beaut of an experience working with Anne Frasier on edits to my story. She's a very experienced author and editor and I learned loads from it. It looks like Matt's the same. It can only be good!Don't rush things, Ian. Let stuff simmer for a bit.

  2. You're right, Paul. It's that distance isn't it. That distance only time provides. The things that were so vital, so beyond compromise at one point soon get replaced by other stuff. Trick is, I suppose, is to keep em coming. Never sit still, eh :)

  3. First I'd like to congratulate you for your first in print piece. Getting your name on the cover of a contest in OOTG along with your piece is a huge achievement! I bet its your greatest one!

    I've never worked with an editor after the cover was ready. I would think it would be the other way around. That would be nerve wracking for me.

    Anyways, for me I would try to discipline myself not to give in to changing my vision. It would probably be difficult though.

    I guess patience is the key. Having faith that there will be a time when you are completely satisfied with the entire process. Even though you might miss out on some big name publishers. But I think if a writer can be that disciplined it would show character. Not only as a writer but as a person as well. I think a writer shouldn't forget that being a person who is already or striving to be comfortable in one's own skin comes first. And not give into temptation. I believe the vision makes a person as a whole. Something a person invented and should be proud of from the first word to the last.

    I worked with Cam in editing my CF5 piece and it was a down to earth process. I've never worked with such a chill editor. Also chill in person. I was comfortable in my own skin and he realized that so he didn't suggest I change my vision. But maybe my vision was just what he was looking for. I was patient with the piece for a while and I guess sometimes it's luck.

    Anyways those are my thoughts mate. I may have no idea what I'm talking about. Cheers.

  4. Hi Calvin. Great to see you around the place, mate. I trust NoirCon was a blast :)

    You speak a lot of sense. And I agree with every word. The editing of the story was a bit of a an experience, a thoroughly enjoyable one, but one consumed in self-doubt.

    I seem to have two writing voices - the third person, detached observer (the OOTG story is in this voice) and the first person blood and tears voice that tends to appear splattered all over the page, no remorse, no excuses. Stories told with this latter voice I think I would find more difficult to move on. I'm not saying I wouldn't, but these stories come with more a sense of 'feeling' right or 'feeling' wrong' than the others. If, through an editing process, the story starts to deviate from the truth, I'd feel it in my gut.

    So I suppose what I'm saying, I'd have no trouble at all working with an editing process on any of my stuff, but with the visceral first person stuff, if the truth becomes compromised, it'd be a real challenge.

    But that's okay. I love a challenge, me :)