Friday, September 7, 2007

Considering my last post . . .


In February, an editor requested my manuscript at the C.W.G. conference in Colorado Springs. I spent the next three months working on it hoping to polish it as much as possible before submitting.

Three months later I received my SASE expecting to find a rejection. Lo and Behold, it contained an evaluation memo, a page of editor notes, and a request for a rewrite and resubmission.
Since sharing this good news, many have asked if I agree with the notes. The answer is: It doesn't matter if I agree. If I want this particular publisher to offer me a contract, I must acquiesce. If I feel that they just don't get it and refuse to compromise my . . . uh . . . artistic integrity ( insert giggle here), then I must pitch my manuscript elsewhere.
How does this tie in with the last post? A year ago, author and freelance editor Donna Fleisher
told me the publishers won't like the fact that a background character in my book was killed by a drunk driver.
Now, I assume most would say "What's wrong with that? It happens all the time." That is exactly what's wrong with it. It's too common. Fiction is escapism. It is the peculiar and the extraordinary that interests us. Real life is boring-Don't write about it. That is unless, someone has an extraordinary or peculiar life.
Even though I agreed, I left it in. The reason: I had not yet thought of the perfect demise for that character yet. I decided that it wouldn't be a deal breaker and I left it in pending a spark of imagination leading to a change at a later date.
Well guess what one of the notes said? "We have another drunk driver killing a . . . . . . Argh!" They actually used the word "Argh!"
Would they have offered me a contract if I had changed it? Probably not. But, my story would have read a little stronger and who knows. But that's okay. I've been given a second chance and that spark of imagination has arrived.


5 comments:

donna fleisher said...

Actually, I told you that even though I knew better too -- one of my background characters was killed by a drunk driver. It was the quickie reason, and it stuck. Other editing things got in the way, and before I realized it, it was too late to go back and change it. I kinda regret it, cuz it was too easy ... though it's okay too. I feel like I'm staying true to exactly what happened -- another senseless death, just another statistic, even though it was much more than that to Jason -- the only survivor of the crash.

Sometimes common things like that show much more than spectacular things. But, as you said, we can only hope editors (and readers) will pick up on the significance.

Here's hoping that spark totally ignites!!! : )

Dayle James Arceneaux said...

For me, I didn't choose that reason in a vacuum. It really fit in well with the main character's faith struggles. Like you, I thought it seemed a little too easy, also. But it fit the story.

So, when coming up with an alternative, I can't just have this character die any run of the mill way. She has to die in a way that seems unfair and unjust giving the main character a reason to question God's m.o. when it comes to intervention. Which is one of the spiritual themes of the story.

I hope what I've come up with works. It's a minor detail, but the publisher has spoken.

Jerry Pat Bolton said...

Congratulations all the way for your creeping success, maybe, hopefully with your material . . . I only had one occasion similar to yours and I turned it down very quickly.

An agent who was looking at my manuscript "Margaret and David: A Love Story" wanted me to change the story radically. In my story, which I self published, Margaret is a black, college age woman living in America eighty years after our second civil war . . . A war won by Muslims . . . she meets and falls in love with David, the so-called messiah" of the white race who has been regulated to inferior class as low or lower than black has been before the first civil war.

The agent didn't think much of my treatment of the black/white situation and wanted me to completely change it . . . Like I said, I refused and I am glad I did. In your case, I don't blame you for giving in . . .

Dayle James Arceneaux said...

Fortunately for me Jerry. The change isn't that drastic and in fact will probably make the story more interesting.

Most importantly, it won't destroy any major element of the story like you're speaking of. In that case, I'd have a much harder decision to make.

Janet Rubin said...

Exciting stuff, Dayle! Second chances are lovely things.