by

4 responses to “Understanding the Terms of the Bargain You’ve Struck”

  1. Can’t do it tonight, but boy, oh boy, is this one I’m coming back for a second “go-around”. It may necessitate starting my own blog to deal with it. But…then what am I contracting with myself for that blog? Hmmmmmm

  2. Oy. Do you mind of I use your contract as a boilerplate for my own?

    My mentor this term is a Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award winner, and an O. Henry Prize winner, with a list of literature fellowships, including one from the Guggenheim. When he suggests edits, I make them–for the most part (but it is not necessarily generalized advice–yes, yes, very, very wary of the same!), and the writing is invariably better. I’m talking about, for the most part, syntactical issues or hyperbole. But then, there is the suggested re-writing “to find an even deeper meaning.” I tend to have trouble with this–trying to create deeper meaning, or tension, where it truly doesn’t exist. And I resist like heck.

    Once, I was told to change the dialogue. It sounded too “new agey”? But it was real dialogue! And it was part of a nonfiction piece! (How about being told that what you say and how you say it is way corny?!) So, how does a writer not doubt herself?

    Yeah, so, every writer/editor/publisher brings a different sensibility to the table, right? Ack. They’re just doing their job. Forget it! If I don’t get to trusting myself but quick, I might as well surrender the pen. :/

    Seems to Fit has a home–get it over there!

  3. As I just observed on this week’s ‘whiskey river’ post, I have always been extremely sceptical of the mechanistic approach to the craft of writing – something which I think has always been far more prevalent in the US than the UK, and seems to have run to extremes in recent years with the proliferation of academic programs in ‘creative writing’.

    When giving feedback, I always try to avoid being too specific. Or rather, I’m fairly specific about the areas where I think there may be a problem (though note, even there I’m trying to phrase it in a way that invites the writer to disagree), but I try to refrain from suggesting any specific changes; it’s always up to the writer to work out a ‘fix’, if they accept that one is needed.

  4. I think your ‘personal satisfaction’ test here is potentially prone to two pitfalls, JES.

    One, there’s a danger that it becomes a very technical criterion, and that you could be setting the bar way too high. You have a bit of an obsessive compulsive streak, it seems (even more so than most writers!), and if you’re constantly fretting over the quality of your work in terms of its technique – you might never be ‘satisfied’. You know what they say about how ‘perfect can become the enemy of good‘.

    Second, even if you are thinking more in terms of holistic enjoyment of the piece rather than a detached assessment of its technical qualities, the kind of enjoyment that you derive from the process of writing something is different to the enjoyment that comes from subsequently reading it. It can be difficult for a writer to separate these two kinds of response – especially so, I would imagine, where you’ve spent such a long time working on something, over the course of many years. But I think, when the work is nearly done, you have to try to clear your head of the preoccupations – and the fun – you had while writing it, and try to experience it as any other reader would.

    To me, drawing a line between author satisfaction and reader satisfaction is a false – and possibly dangerous, self-defeating – distinction. If a work is capable of generating reader satisfaction, by providing an entertaining reading experience, that should be the ultimate test of author satisfaction.

    If, however, your test is “Is there a chapter, a scene… a sentence… a word that’s still bothering me?” – you could be denying yourself the ability to finish the book, let alone get it published. And then of course you’d be denying readers the opportunity to enjoy it.

    Beware of perfectionism.

    And don’t take anyone else’s advice, if it doesn’t feel right to you. (Even this advice, I suppose! Uh-oh – logical feedback loop!)

Leave a Reply