Friday, April 24, 2009

Is It Cheating If You Love Her?

I'm in need of some writerly advice. Or perhaps I'm just feeling guilty.

Here's the story. We are shopping a new book right now, and good things are happening. The very first editor who read it likes the book rather a lot, and wants to take it under her wing. But here's the catch: she wants non-contractual changes (for anyone who remembers, I went through this once before). That's no big deal. I get how hard it is to break in, and this is another tip-top company. But I got her rewrite letter this week, and I find myself in a weird position ...

Essentially, she wants the same book, but different. There are some fairly major changes outlined in this letter. It's way beyond tinkering with a few plot points or a little character motivation. So over the past week, I've been working on mapping out a revision based on her letter, just to see if it was even possible. I'm pretty close to done with the map, and I can see a way clear. It doesn't make all of her changes, but enough that I feel like it's pretty close.

So here's my issue. It would basically be a different book. But this new book ... well, it's good. I like it. Yes, it's very different than the one I originally wrote, but I can see how it all works and fits together. In many ways, it's leaner and more accessible, and while it does give up some things I liked about the old version, it gains in other ways.

But then part of me feels like I'm ... I dunno, cheating on my original story. Like the original story just walked in and caught me in bed with this new, younger version of itself. It took one look and wailed, "But I thought you LOVED me!"

And suddenly I'm all running around the room, pulling on my shirt, and saying, "Of course I love you, baby! This isn't a replacement, exactly. It's, ah, something different than you. But you know I'll always love you, right? You know that, right?"

Then the old story slumps into the corner and says, "Yeah, but you're going to try to sell the new story. So what, I'm just another stack of papers in your drawer?"

And there really isn't a good answer for that, so I just feel like a cad. I even considered making up all new character names for the new version, like a mirror world, so I could really call it a new book. And then I considered that they could be companion books -- one dark, one light. One blonde. One brunette.

Honestly, I don't know how those polygamist guys do it. But that's neither here nor there, so let's get back on track. If I could wish for anything, it would be for a simple answer ...

p.s. Am I breaking some kind of rule by posting stuff like this? There seems to be a ban on talking about the mechanics of getting published. So in case any, you know, actual publishing police read this, drop me a line and send along the cease and desist order. I promise I'll stop ...

12 comments:

spyscribbler said...

Awww, LOL! This post makes me laugh! I'm only laughing because your analogy was fabulous. I'm sorry about the situation, though. That's a toughie. I honestly don't know what I'd do. I think it'd have to be a letter that really excited me.

Erica Orloff said...

I think there are two separate issues:

1) Is purely a business decision. Does this rewrite represent a very real chance to get a deal (yes, in this climate) with a SIGNIFICANT house/player. And it does. Your decision of whether to prove it must on the one hand, be cold-eyed.

2) Is an emotional decision. Can you "own" and enjoy this new book, even if it veers from your original vision? Does it betray any fundamental belief you had for its theme? Is it something you would be proud to have your name on?

The intersection of those answers is where you will find peace, I think.

E

LurkerMonkey said...

Spy:

Ha ha! I rather liked the thought of a threesome with my two manuscripts ...

LurkerMonkey said...

E:

For me, it's this part of your comment that hits home:

Can you "own" and enjoy this new book, even if it veers from your original vision? Does it betray any fundamental belief you had for its theme? Is it something you would be proud to have your name on?

If it was just a business decision, it'd be a no-brainer. Like you said, real chance, significant house, etc., etc., etc.

But if i can't own it, it just won't work. My guess is you'lI get the opportunity to find out :)

Amy Sue Nathan said...

Try to think of it this way --- it sounds to me almost like this editor said "Your writing is great but I don't like what I have here, so would you write a different book, um, this one here, and send it to me to look at?"

So, in that regard, it's a compliment. If what you want is to write and potentially be published, go for it. It will be a different book written because you seized an opportunity.

Jude Hardin said...

You know, if your efforts result in a sale, you'll probably feel like you made a great decision. If, after all that work (and putting the WIP you seem to be so enthusiastic about on hold), the editor finally takes a pass, you'll probably feel like a two-bit you-know-what who got stiffed on the two bits.

Tough decision, but at least your work is garnering some interest. My last rejection was of the "not-quite-right-for-me" variety. I don't even think they read the friggin' thing.

Melanie Avila said...

You have good advice here from people who know far more than me. My only contribution is I would totally change the names. Then they'd be separate books (at least to me) and I would know I still have the original work safe and sound.

Good luck making your decision. :)

LurkerMonkey said...

Amy,

Thanks ... it is a compliment, but I'll admit it took me a few days to see it as good news.

LurkerMonkey said...

Jude,

One of my first jobs out of college was ghostwriting nonfiction for this writer. He used to do publicity and interviews, as well as interviews, and the whole time I'd be seething inside because a lot of times, he wouldn't have even read the book he had supposedly written. I would have prepared his answers, written him a synopsis, and sometimes i'd even go along for high-profile subject interviews and he'd hand it off to me after a few minutes.

After that experience, it would take me an awful lot to feel like a two bit you-know-what.

And I sympathize with the "not right for me" rejections ... they SUCK.

LurkerMonkey said...

Melanie,

You know what's sad? I don't want to change the names because these names are just about my favorite group of names I've ever come up with. I mean, I seriously love them. And these people BELONG in this story ...

Melanie Avila said...

Hmm... maybe just change one or two? This question popped up in several blogs I read over the past few days. Very interesting. I hope you can find a happy medium.

Zoe Winters said...

LMAO. I'm not sure whether to be amused or disturbed. :P