Thursday, March 17, 2011

Big Decisions

(Cross-posted from the Spectral Obelisk for newcomers)

So, anyway, last Thursday night I was in the throes of rewriting. What had started out as a lark -- hey, let's dust off that old manuscript and see what it looks like -- had morphed into this life-and-death struggle worthy of a nature-documentary-waterhole-showdown-on-the-savannah. And I was very much the gazelle and not the crocodile.

The actual rewrite was going well in terms of, you know, improving the book. I now had the experience and judgment to see the saggy spots and the repetitive imagery and the telling-versus-showing. As of Thursday night, I had cut something close to 40,000 words and had a nice little roadmap for switching around some action, integrating the remaining parallel storyline, and strengthening some dicey motivation. Problem was, it was never going to hit the magic word number the publisher was adamant about. (The publisher had not seen the whole book, just sample chapters and an outline. And while there are good reasons for books to be shorter, it's also my belief that a story takes as long to tell as it takes to tell.)

So I had a dilemma. Make the book less rich and the story weaker by taking some shortcuts to hit an arbitrary number, or put the manuscript back in a drawer. At about 7:00, I had an epiphany. It was probably a combination of things: words from some truly swell writers I've met, research on a somewhat unrelated matter, and some inexplicable light going on in my head. So for the next several hours I put the book aside and did some research. (I am a whiz a research, a research-savant, if you will.)

It came down to a comparison chart, the kind you see when you're trying to decide between "standard" and "premium" options of whatever you're buying. What comes with what? I was dealing with a small press (a nice, respectable small press -- I wish them no ill will). And what were they offering me? No advance. Publishing in trade paperback and ebook formats. A professional cover. Listings in the catalogues, a press release, and a few copies sent around to reviewers. A standard royalty fee.

I realized quite quickly that whatever they were offering me, I could offer myself. So, just like that, I've decided to become to my own small press. I've been editing professionally for 20 years. I've been advising people on marketing their writing for about that amount of time. I'm surrounded by people who are talented designers and marketers.

I realize better than anyone that this is going to take an immense amount of work, but the only thing I'm risking is my time. (Well, and the time of the people around me who have agreed to launch this experiment with me, but they're doing it of their own free will.) Phase one should be finished by July. For the first time in two years, I'm actually excited about my writing.

(Of course starting, oh, about now, it's back to the rewrite. The sagging middle ain't going to fix itself.)

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