Saturday, February 18, 2012

Confessions of Change: The First Draft is Art and Magic, The Rest is Business

For years I’ve struggled with book as art and book as money. I like clear separations. It lets me know how to act accordingly. You know, at work you act a certain way with your co-workers. At work you act a certain way when your boss is standing around. These two ways are an afterthought while at home. So, I always asked myself when was the book art and when was the book money. (Get a very small royalty check, the book is totally art.)

I think I’ve finally answered this question for myself. The book is art when it only lives in my head. It’s art when I put together collages and soundtracks. It’s art when I pound out that first draft.

And then there is this shift. If the book was really art I could leave it as is. I could go back and enjoy the story and characters with no thought to anyone else.  The book is something I crafted and because I’ve struggled with art/money, it’s something I’ve put no thought towards publication. Because if I’ve thought about publication while writing, the book would have lost its magic and died after chapter 1.

But now when I open up that Word doc I’m looking at that sucker thinking how can I get this baby sold. I have to make sure the story is readable for one. I go through each sentence and make sure they are clear and concise. I layer plot, character and scene.  I do this until I think the story is actually ready to be read by someone else. I send it off to a CP. They give it back. I go through the book again and maybe a few more times until I think I could probably sell this.

There is nothing magical or artsy fartsy about anything of this. Not for me.  It’s looking at the book as a product to be sold. I take what I believe is its selling point and write out a query and synopsis.  If this was about magic and art I’d make an alphabetical list of all the publishers out there and start to send it out. I’d accept the first contract offered without an attempt to negotiate better terms.

 Since that’s not what I do, I know this part of the process is all business and I’m fooling myself to think it’s otherwise.  Now I know there’ll still be an overlap.  I get to the last publisher I’ll actually let publish my book and I’m going to start to feel book is art. I can’t get the book to work even after crits and revising, that baby will be art. Refer to small royalty check—art.

For me, this small separation makes all the difference.

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