As I mentioned only a few days ago, I’m editing.
|A new photo of me taken by|
James K Barnett
I’m rewriting, in fact, that old book Naming Names... The one everyone had great things to say about and nobody wanted.
I’ve stripped out the novel and I’m working through the notes my agent gave me.
Stripping it out wasn’t difficult, and I ended up with less than half the original novel. I’d already made some pretty substantial changes, so I had a little over half a novel to work with. So far so good.
Since then I’ve added several thousand new words, and I’ve put back some stuff from the first incarnation of the book, before this version that I call the original, which is in fact the second solid draft, the one the publishers saw the first time around. I’ve actually put back some of the material that the judges saw when the book took a runner-up spot in the Mslexia novel competition.
With about a third of the novel to write, I’m now going back to my agent’s notes and comments and working on from there.
It’s going pretty well, I think.
I pause this morning only to wonder about ego.
I often think of writers as having pretty healthy egos... of all artists having pretty healthy egos, because they need to have them.
Art in all its forms is tough. You have to believe in what you’re doing as a maker of things to get them done. If you're going to sit down and seriously write 80 or 100 thousand words there’s only one way to do it, and that’s with your arse in a chair for a lot of hours. No one takes that lightly.
We all believe that what we are creating has value. We have to in order to spend those hours in that chair.
I’ve said before that when I write I open a vein.
That was particularly true of Naming Names, which was a tough book on a tough subject. It was serious, written from a serious viewpoint on a serious subject with serious intent.
This book was my baby and, yes, I was very proud of it.
I am very proud of it.
I will always stand by it.
I wonder, then, where is my ego now?
This book, which is no longer called Naming Names bears almost no resemblance to the original. It is not the brutal unrelenting, beautifully crafted truth that it once was, and I know it.
So, where’s my ego?
Well... It’s still there.
This isn’t that book, because I was invited to do something else.
The work, however, is still mine. I still have a big enough writer’s ego to believe that I write well enough to be able to produce an interesting, compelling, well-written piece of fiction in another style that is more sellable and more readable and that a publisher will actually want to buy.
In the end, I suppose my ego is bigger than the rejection that was handed down on Naming Names.
Honestly, I still believe that the publishers who passed on it, and there were a lot of them, were wrong. I still believe that it would have been a big hit. I still believe that people would have bought it.
I still remember my agent at the time saying that if I’d been Lionel Shriver they’d have lapped it up.
Well, I wasn’t Lionel Shriver and I didn’t have her reputation.
I will, I hope, build a reputation of my own. To do that, I need to put that part of my ego that wants to stamp its foot on one side and accept that I can be helped to achieve what I’d like to achieve.
In the end, I’m still the person putting the words on the page, and that’s what matters to me. I’m happy to be steered by people who know the marketplace. What’s the point of writing books that will never be published, however remarkable they might be?
Who knows? If I make a name for myself, maybe, one day, I will get to write precisely what I want to write and people will read that stuff too.
What an egomaniac I shall become!