Saturday, May 12, 2007

A Case For The Longer Book

With everything that goes on in a writer's world, the ultimate project exists in the writer's mind constantly. My manuscript looms over my head and seeps into my thoughts at every quiet moment. Even in the midst of a crowd.

Last evening, I participated in a Rotary Fund Raiser. Although I'm not sure they raised much money, the folks who attended had a good time. Friendly and warm, these Southern Guilford New Generation Rotarians, threw a nice bash. Wine, cheese, breads, quiche, fruit ... all of my favorite foods. I had a tough time keeping my fingers off the cheese tray. It was fun to talk with the "head honcho" Rotarian again. Mitzi Ellis, a fellow Mountaineer from WV, and I were able to catch up and report on our experiences in speaking to Rotaries across her region. She's an outstanding woman, a District Govenor, who loves Rotary and what it stands for.

The event was held at a very cool and trendy frame shop, The Artery Gallery, on the edge of the UNCG campus. David, the owner, is probably one of the nicest guys Michael and I have met in the past year. We wish him and his group every success.

And yet, as I sat there last evening, my subconscious was working on my book. Everyone knows I'm working on it. Everyone who has talked to me at some point knows it's in process. Besides the edits, I'm subconsciously searching, thinking, figuring out one thing ... places to cut.

Ah, but here's the sweet part. The brain is an amazing organ ... it works when we think we've shut things down ... even in our sleep. I know I've already honed this book into a slimmer, sleeker piece. I know to the depth of me, it's going to astound and amaze some folks at what I'm cutting and changing. The fat and fluff is gone. What's left, I believe, is my best work. But, in the end, what I'm NOT going to have is a typical 300-page novel.

Not at all.

I see what's happening here. This is new, fresh, and I'm excited this morning.

I've been corresponding with one of my readers. Elaine's recent e-mail to me struck me as not just funny, but she touched something that came alive in me. Elaine wrote: "... honestly, I can't imagine how much you could edit out and it makes me mad that there are those who want to make every novel into a cookie-cutter format. How boring. Not to paint too broad of a stroke here, but to me there's nothing more ho-hum than the standard 300-page novel. Yawn ..."

I had shared with her a recent e-mail I wrote to one of my favorite authors. The essence of my e-mail read like this: "... writer to writer, do I trust my gut and submit it or do I tear it apart and sacrifice this story because "nobody publishes long books from unknown authors." Do you have any suggestions?"

Here's the author's timely response: "Dear Pamela-- If you're convinced the book is the best it can be, then I'd say go ahead and submit it. If an acquisitions editor thinks it's a great story, but has problems with the length (and they may very well think it's fine as is) they'll tell you that, and most likely offer to work with you to reshape it, if necessary. Personally, I don't think 210,000 words is all that long. (grin) Good luck! --Diana"

That e-mail was from Diana Gabaldon, author of the Outlander series. One of the most outstanding storytellers of our time, in my opinion.

Now I'm not in any way, shape, or form comparing myself to the great Gabaldon. But after discussing the book length at length with Elaine and Tina, two of my voracious readers, as well as several leading "book people" in the industry, and then receiving this e-mail from Diana ... I'm convinced that, yes, I'm cutting the book, but it must remain a book of substance. A longer book. That's all. I'll roll the dice, take my chances, and bet in the end. I'm well aware of the risk. But, nevertheless, it's not going to be a cookie-cutter, 300-page piece of ho-hum "been there-done that" literature.

And the chips will fall ... wherever they fall.

Thank you Diana, thank you Elaine, Tina, and the rest of you who have encouraged me to write the book I was meant to write.

I rest my case.

Blessings to you and yours.

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