Tuesday, August 25, 2009
EDITING OLD MATERIAL, OR BEATING A DEAD HORSE
Once again I'm editing old material, and what a difference a few years make. With Pale Immortal, I was under contract to write a crime fiction novel similar to previous titles, but containing a slight supernatural element. The accepted synopsis and sample chapters offered a pretty straight-forward police procedural with what I thought was a strong premise. Odd town with a lot of mystery surrounding it. A gang of wannabe vampires (but not real vampires), and a writer who is allergic to sunlight, bodies showing up drained of blood. Town going crazy and blaming the writer dude. A little romance. But when I turned in the full manuscript, I was sent back to reconstruct and add, IMO, totally hokey paranormal elements that weakened the story. And now as I'm editing for Kindle, I see that I was right, and I cringe at the scenes that were added later due to editorial direction. I can see what the book was supposed to be, because it's still there. And even with the additions, I didn't go nearly as far as I'd been asked to go. People flying, blood pouring out of the ground and out of walls. Which is why I'm no longer writing for that publisher. Two polarized visions. One realistic, one fantasy. It wasn't as if I'd been writing vampire books for them. I'd been writing very successful crime fiction, so the requests made no sense. And still make no sense. In some ways, I'd like to forget that these books (Pale Immortal, Garden of Darkness) exist, because I know what they could have been. Although with Garden of Darkness I left the gate with their previous requests in mind, so there really weren't any compromises. By that point, I knew what they wanted, which was horror, so that book isn't as painful to read. It never started as one thing to end up as something else.
A writer can't win in this situation. If you make the requested market-driven changes, chances are you will turn in an inferior book and readers won't pick you up again. If you don't make the changes, you will be dumped. They both end at the same place, just a different jury.