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Revolution: Applied Values

Hope you all had a great weekend. I didn’t get to work today (writing day) so the little treat will have to wait until tomorrow. I’m sorry. But I just got an email from a dear friend who got me thinking about a situation we might all find ourselves in at some point (Her situation is not like this, but I just want to hear your thoughts). And since we’re talking about publishing and values and how we might best be influences of change, I’d like to propose the following “what if.”

1. You’ve finally landed your first big contract with a well-known Christian publisher. O, glorious day! (e.g. Dear God, what have I done?) You rewrite and edit and polish and finally turn in your first draft, hoping to hear your editor isn’t slitting his wrists and jumping out the window because your main character is such a shocking sinner and you’ve painted yourself into an inescapable corner.
2. You hear back pretty much what you expected: The manuscript’s great, wonderful, stupendous, but we just need to tweak this and that. M’kay, no problem, you say.
3. You start through the changes and realize your vision for this book isn’t matching. They want you to soften every edge and take out whole sections of real, earthy characterization, essential to conveying the depth of the character’s redemption at the end (exactly the places you were most worried about).
4. After a long walk with the spouse and numberous glasses of win–er, winter mint tea–you decide to dig in your heels–on half the points. The rest, you grudgingly chalk up to paying your dues on your first real book contract and vow that you’ll be stronger next time.

Good compromise, bad compromise?

A judgment call, to be sure, but everyone has to make it. What say you?

4 Responses to “Revolution: Applied Values”

  1. Pat Loomis says:

    Hi Mick,
    I have some polite discussions with the editor–probably more than one. If the publishing house is adamant on this, I probably op out of the contract (can I do that?) and look for a general market publisher.
    And btw, no redemption for my character at book’s end, sorry. That’s *so* 1990s!

  2. sally says:

    Are you saying the changes are solely because the character is too sinful for the editor’s taste? Not that editor is trying to get you to foreshadow something or make the character more loveable but it is solely a fundy type “we-can’t-have-sin-in-our-books” thing?
    These questions are impossible to answer because each situation is different.
    If the editor is ruining the book by asking that the abusive drunk be turned into a man with an ice-cream addiction, then if you have signed a contract, make the changes and publish the book under a pseudonym.
    But we should remember that we are not the best judges of our own work. We all think our own stuff is brilliant and we can all see that the other guy’s stuff stinks. So if the editor has put out some book I liked I would probably try
    hard to see her point. It’s not about paying dues on your first novel. It’s about learning from someone who is more experienced.
    I think the worst thing to do is to make half the changes. If you mix the vision of the book no one is happy. Not the editor, not the writer, not the reader.

  3. Katy Raymond says:

    My understanding is that few authors are presented with a contract on a first novel without the publisher having the entire novel in hand. No synopsis and three chapters really sells a first novel, does it?
    Would a publisher read the whole book, pass it through the various committees, and offer the author a contract without bringing up these issues (about significantly changing the story) first?
    I finished a Lisa Samson novel last night (Tiger Lillie) which might prove a fine example for novels to come in the CBA, as far as pushing boundaries goes. A little research into which publisher is publishing what could go a long ways in avoiding the type of scenario you describe above.
    Not that I know any of this from personal experience…yet. :)

  4. Mick says:

    I’m a renegade! I knew I was something strange.
    I have an objective answer, but the situation is subjective, as Sally said. I think it’s important to check your ego at the door, but equally, if not more important to stand your ground on issues of subjective taste. If your editor doesn’t “get it,” I’d take Pat’s advice and get out! Too much damage can be done to a new author if this kind of compromise is allowed to define your style.
    On the other hand, while checking your ego, make sure you aren’t grinding an unnecessary axe. Choose your battles. If your editor does get it and just wants to make sure you’re given a larger audience for this, your first book, then by all means, cave in and compromise. You’ll have your chance again and you’ll score points with the editor for being a sport.
    It’s an interesting situation and I’ve seen it more than once. Thanks for the responses.

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