Monday, February 13, 2017

Novels vs Short Stories

I' may be a strategic plotter but I am a tactical pantser; that is, I generally lay out a general idea of how a story should evolve and then, working at scene level, just blast out whatever the muse demands, knowing that any errors will be caught in subsequent painstaking rewrites/edits.  I edit at the strategic level, moving whole scenes about or alerting the plot in non-significant ways (this ofter requires even more tactical adjustments at the scene level.)  I rewrite at the scene level, usually by line edits where the turn of word dominates.  That all sounds so clinical and cold but I can assure you that the execution is emotional and messy as hell.

Writing is always a struggle to find the right word, sentence, or scene.  I usually have to fight my way through mistakes, wrong turns, and confusion.  Throughout the process I am beset with disappointment, frustration, always filled with self-doubt, and continually worryring if the damned muse will suddenly, in the middle of something critical, decide to take a vacation. Nevertheless I plough ahead, often turning over the plot to see what might emerge from the seeds I strategically planted and if they produce a harvest worth the effort.

I often wonder if there might be a single meta-form from which any novel may be generated.  It would have to start by introducing the situation and character, introduce some difficulty that fails to be reconciled, posit possible actions, only to have those fail; one after another. Developing a way to overcome opposition follows, which leads to the actual execution/solution, and dribbles off into a satisfying denouement. Emotional peaks should occur at regular intervals, as does bathos and pathos. Stitching the novel together are the principal characters wandering among interesting scenery with their spear carriers, foibles, biases, and problems.  Emotional/action high points should be punctuated by adjacent calming sections .

Sure, easy to do. Nothing to it; that is if you can come  up with the driving plot, intriguing characters, enticing settings, and enough material to make the entire thing INTERESTING.  Piece of cake.

Which is  why I write short stories.


Sunday, February 5, 2017

Editorial Priviledge

How far should a writer allow their editor to dictate how the final product should appear?  Nothing a writer produces is done without considerable thought and deliberation and, when finished, satisfies the writer that it is complete: The plot is correctly presented, all the principals are as imagined, the settings are appropriate, and the message - the underlying meta story - is clear.

Word choices and sentence structure, not to mention grammar, can always be improved or, if not, modified to meet the market demands that the editor must serve.  Length is optional and can be expanded or reduced to fit the space available.  Plots may be rearranged to improve the story, for dramatic effect, or ease of understanding. The editor might suggest better word choices or delete objectionable items that might affect the story's reception.

Only the most egotistical writer refuses to budge on these necessary technical changes to their work.

Where the relationship between author and editor runs afoul is when the editor insists on altering the plot, changing a character's personality, inserting a message not originally intended, or twist the plot away from the initial concept.  When the editor oversteps their bounds is where the writer must stand their ground, regardless of how desperately they want the tale to be published. To do otherwise is to stifle creativity and violate intellectual integrity.

The negotiation between editor and author tests bounds as the tale goes through the stages of development toward a satisfactory result. There are inevitable conflicts, disagreements, and compromise along the way since egos and professional judgements are involved.  The author might walk away or decide the effort it not worth the hassle.  The editor may similarly quit or simply give up and allow the writer to have their way, regardless of how poor their choice.  But, in more cases than not, the editor and writer compromise, make the necessary changes, and move forward.

This relationship between editor and author is worst is when they are the same person.