10/03/2008

character assassination and teddy bears

Working on major revisions to Dakota Merrick book three; I decided the way the story was going wasn't the right one, so I'm taking a step back to write a new, very detailed outline (for my own benefit) of the whole book. About half of what was already written - which is from the viewpoint of a new, subsidiary character - is going to be torn out and replaced by completely new material.

I think part of the problem was I originally had a very detailed, very carefully worked-out background and plot for the original subsidiary character; I had his entire life story ready, and my intention was to tell his story in a series of flashbacks until he reached the point where his story intertwined with that of Dakota. Unfortunately, as interesting and fun as his life was to construct, I finally had to admit it had bugger all to do with anything that needed to happen in the third book. So, and not with some considerable regret, out he goes; but that regret is tempered by the knowledge that the new outline feels far more cohesive and interesting than the old one. Sometimes you know when the story is finally right, because it just feels right.

Talking of writers ... an interesting essay here, by the author of The Tao of Pooh, in which he explains his decision to abandon novel-writing altogether. One can only feel for him.

"Months pass. The Tao of Pooh is about to be printed and released. For what seems a long time, you have been dealing with a very prickly editor and a very cold-blooded publishing house. But the book-to-be reads well, and you have some hope for its success. The editor tells you that he will be visiting the Dutton West Coast sales representative at his home in Olympia, Washington -- a two-hour drive from where you’re now living -- and that he would like to buy you a dinner to celebrate the upcoming release of your book. He suggests a certain restaurant in Seattle, a forty-five-minute drive north of Olympia.

You show up at the restaurant carrying a stuffed bear made by your mother, very closely based on Ernest H. Shepard’s Pooh drawings. You meet the editor and the sales rep, and the latter's girlfriend. The editor orders a tray of cheese blintzes for the table. He tells you that the new foreign corporate owners are authorizing only $1,275 to advertise the book, and that Dutton is planning to spend the money on little ads in The Village Voice. As if to demonstrate that you the author are not the only one to suffer from the publisher’s austerity program, he shows you his broken glasses, which he has taped together as a cheap fix. By now, you are convinced that the man is not only prickly, he’s crazy.

The sales rep’s girlfriend, who says she is studying art in college, tells you that she believes it’s good for artists to starve, because poverty (which she seems to have no first-hand knowledge of) strengthens character. Having grown up with professional-artist parents, your viewpoint is somewhat different; but as the conversation indicates that your viewpoint is not of interest, you decide not to pursue the subject."


Which, along with the rest of the story, may well have many an author nodding and tutting to themselves, except after I'd read the whole thing I thought, 'hang on ... he turns up to meet his publisher with a fricking teddy bear ... and he thinks the editor is crazy?' I mean, okay, yes, the bear is fundamental to the story ... but, still, c'mon ...
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