Sunday, May 22, 2005

Decisions and choices

Sometimes things just do not work the way you expect. When I had an offer from Aio for Ada Nish Pura I asked for an explanation of what she meant when the publisher said there would be major rewrites. And I got a reasonable answer:

...The most major change revolves around the level of complexity. Basically, you’re sitting on a gold mine of potential world-building and culture, which in turn affects the main character. Right now you’ve got a great frame; you’ll just need to fill in more (much more, some of which you probably already have as backstory in your own mind), and in places, you’ll need to consolidate.

I’ve also got serious questions as to the science the book is based on. Right now that part is very thin. No worries that I’m talking about quantum mechanics or physics—more along the lines of geology and biology.

Your writing will probably also take some polishing. (For instance, “however” rarely belongs in a work of fiction; it’s more of a term paper kind of word. And I’m not picking on that just because you used it in your email—it’s something I noted in ANP during the review!)

That seemed more than reasonable to me. We started in on the work and made very good progress, though we unfortunately had some stops while she took care of business matters (new company, and I perfectly understood). However, we started running into trouble when we hit the 'polishing' phase. And this is where it came down to a misunderstanding in terms.

After more than eight rewrites of the same three chapters I realized that we were not connecting. I started lining out what I thought she wanted and asking if I was right. I pointed out that I thought what she wanted was prose that delivers all the information in the most descriptive and non-obtrusive manner. That didn't mean simple words without adornment, just not lines written for the sake of a pretty phrase when it doesn't work as well as a simpler one would. I felt the art is in the whole of the story, not the pieces, and lines should not be created just to draw the reader's attention.

She disagreed:

Using transparent prose is definitely a school of thought, one with which I’m fairly familiar. We’re definitely not in that school at Aio. We do look for rather literary writing and we love lines that cause a reader to stop and admire it...

Now that changed a great deal of how I looked at the novel. Also, with the word 'literary' came another explanation, and one that I had missed on the site. She said Aio's intention is to publish only literary science fiction.

Now, here's the thing: There are certain literary sf writers whom I adore. Chip Delaney is the top of the list. I could spend months reading and rereading Dhalgren alone. The use of language by writers like Delaney amazes and enthrals me.

But I am not a literary fiction writer of any sort, and I would never pretend to be. My strengths are worldbuilding and culture and an exciting plot to go with them. I don't want to write lines that draw the reader out of the story. I want them to live in the adventure, not admire the grammatical nuances.

But even more than that, I don't believe that you can create a literary writer unless that is their true voice and style. It can't be 'polished' into being.

Today we both agreed that this was not working. So, Ada Nish Pura is now back in my hands. It's a stronger book for the increased worldbuilding and culture, and the writing itself is much better -- just never quite literary enough for Aio. I'm taking the opening back a few steps in the rewrites to where I was still comfortable with the language. Then I am going to rewrite the entire novel and submit it elsewhere.

I should stress that while we couldn't make this work, that doesn't make either side in the wrong. Aio is a new publisher, and I believe that they are still in the process of defining who they are and what they want... and though I looked like I fit the qualifications, three words had gone missing in the transaction -- literary science fiction. Those three words really did change the entire structure of what I thought I was meant to do with the story.

If you would like to read the first chapter, It's going to be up on my snippets blog for a couple days. I just wanted to share, because I really, really like this chapter, and I think when I get the rest of the novel up to this level, it's going to be the best thing I've ever written.


Ann/Shadawyn said...

I'm really sorry it didn't work out, Zette.

Margaret said...

Hugs, Zette. I know this is rough, but you made the right decision. The books I've read of yours show a strong voice and great writing. Same with your short stories. However, not all matches are made in Heaven, and I agree with you that literary is not something you strive for, it's something you are or are not...with no judgments either way seeing as I love writers of both types. I'm glad you got something out of the rewrite requests regardless though I'd been following the pattern in your blog notes and couldn't imagine anything more frustrating than the two of you not "getting" each other.

Good luck on the rewrite to where you want to be.


Valerie Comer said...

Hi Zette, thank you so much for sharing this openly. I'm sorry this didn't pull together for you, but your decision makes perfect sense, and I wish you all the best with the book's direction. Now I'm off to read the snippet!

Zette said...

Thanks everyone. Really, this is a good thing for both me and the people at Aio. They're new at this, and I think they'll realize now that if a book does not have a strong 'literary' flavor to it to begin with, then it might not be what they're looking for.

And I now get to rework Ada Nish Pura, and not the same three chapters again. (grin)

Gabriele C. said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Gabriele C. said...

I've read the first chapter and I'm sure you will find someone to publish it. I'd like to read the book.

So, let's see how this works. Because I just got me a shiny new blog and needed a victim to test the reply feature, lol.

Nonny said...

I'm sorry it didn't work out... but, at the same point, I'm glad you were able to realise and accept that what they wanted, you couldn't give. I've read your fiction before (and glanced over the chapter you linked--good stuff!) and, no, it's not "literary" by any stretch of the imagination. (Which isn't a bad thing or a good thing; it's just a matter of stylistical preference. :)

Best of luck with the book ... are you still planning on sticking with epubs, out of curiousity, or trying a traditional publisher with this? (Seems to me it could really fly with the latter, but that's just my 2c. :)

(BTW, if you'd rather me not comment to your blog, please tell me; it's been a long time, and I was curious as to how some people've been since the ... schism, for lack of a better term. If you'd prefer me not to comment, though, no prob, just let me know. :)

Zette said...

I have never told anyone she couldn't post in my blog or LJ and I won't start with you. However, I am not going to pretend to an 'all's forgiven' sort of game, either. I won't lie -- even a lie of omission by not telling you how I feel.

The schism was never the problem -- at least if you mean the creation of Evolution. There was never anything wrong with having another writing website that suited some people better, or any problem with belonging to both (or many more) if people found it helped them. Some people felt constrained by the rules of FM, and neither Holly nor I were going to change those rules to suit a few people. FM has continued to grow and topped 7k people this month, with about 4k active, and 2k very active. I think we've proven that our policies work best for the type of site we wanted. So not changing to suit a few has worked out for the best.

However, on an important level, I don't feel that I can trust you -- and that's still not because of Evolution. The mistrust is a personal reaction to things you've done in the past and for which you've never shown a bit of remorse or apology. You were given a position of trust at Forward Motion and you not only misused it, you threw that trust back into the faces of those who had given it to you. It's not something those on the receiving end are going to just shrug off and think that you are suddenly a different person. You may have changed but that really remains to be seen.

So that's where I stand.

TECH said...

I'm sorry it didn't work out, but I hope it does someday. Nothing is really ever lost.