Despite its undoubted temptations I’m more convinced than ever that conventional publication is not for me.
What could publication offer me?
1. More readers
How many is enough? 10? 100? 1000? 10,000? But then, what about reader no. 10,001?
A numbers game which I refuse to play.
You must be joking. I’d earn more as a cleaner.
Which substance are you abusing?
Well, yes, that would be nice. But since my primary satisfaction derives from the work itself, from the heady, terrifying, frustrating, and utterly daft grappling with words, validation could only confirm that someone else (or rather, a publisher’s hierarchy of someone elses) thinks I’m doing OK. But in fact, it’s me who needs to think I’m not doing OK and to find a better way of doing it.
5. An editor
Now here I really part company with conventional wisdom. I prefer to do my own editing, thank you very much. I quite like my flaws. They’re mine. And only by taking full responsibility for them will I be able to improve. A lifelong process, ideally.
Read the critics. Read the reviewers. Read the bloggers. Everyone has something different to say about a text. In the end, there is only you – the writer – and the words.
And best of all: I get to use every fuck and cunt I think appropriate. I get to write all the sex scenes I like. My former agent (yes, I actually had one in the bad old days) wanted all my sex to take place off-scene: ‘it’s impossibly hard to write well about sex’. Which is exactly why I love doing it.
4 thoughts on “A humble policy statement (part 1)”
Precisely, Debi. I’m not interested in a collaboration. It may work just fine for others, but it is simply not how I care to write.
I have an acquaintance who is quite a well-known artist, and who has taught at several European universities, also the University of Chicago. Would any of the gallery owners who exhibit and sell her work tell her to please just add a more acute angle to that sculpture, and maybe tint it a different colour? Absolutely not; it’s her vision, take it or leave it.
Good for you for being so clear about your priorities!
The one thing I’d disagree on is the editing bit. I was lucky enough that the edits of both my published books were light. It was very much a collaborative process – with me having the final word.
But there were definitely some suggestions that I could see made the end result a lot better, so I was happy to take them on and was delighted to have had the input.
DF, I only got as far as an agent, and bitter arguments with said agent, many of which I will freely admit were of my own making, since I rather naively expected an agent to sell my book, not tell me how to write it. At that point I began to take stock. There were many things which concerned me about my writing (and of course still do, and always will), but when I realised that they focused on matters of language, plot, characterisation, architecture, POV etc. etc., it became obvious that publication itself was not going to solve these problems nor satisfy me – or at most, temporarily. Now I try to separate internal from external rewards; and try not to waste the time I have left on this planet in seeking false coin, however much it may glitter.
One reason to do anything, if we have never done it, is to show the bastards that we can do it.
I suspect you’ve been there and done that. Not me, yet.
If conventional publishing ever does happen for me, I’ll see how I like it, and see if I want to continue.
But no longer am I, as I was, so obsessed with the idea that I feel it’s the only thing that can validate my personhood. Faugh!