Eine Kleine Mrismusik

7 June 2001

Off and on this year, my dad has been signing e-mails "Love, the author's daddy." Daddy's girl? Me? Now why on earth would you think that?

But it still feels good.

Among this week's amusing events, I got rejections from two SF professional editors on two "companion" stories. One of them informed me that the premise of these stories was not believable; the other informed me that it was not speculative, that in fact this premise could be occurring at this very moment. Hee. The really crazy thing is that I would probably have put these two editors in specific in my very upper "trust category" as far as editorial opinion goes. This is a crazy business.

Editing...I've gotten some useful editing suggestions from some people, and I welcome more of them. But one thing seems to be universal: people assume that lean prose is good. I'm not saying it's bad, and in fact this will end up a rather lean book indeed if I cut 30 or even 15 pages from it. This is a YA, people. We're not talking a 600 page fantasy epic. But "lean" seems to be the most complimentary adjective for prose.

Get thee behind me, Hemingway!

I'm going to make a radical suggestion here, and it has very little to do with my book. Thirty pages will come out of the book, and I now have a plan for how, so all is well. Sort of. But here's the thing: I would like to suggest that some people write short and some people write long. By this, I don't mean that some people are comfortable at 1000 words and some at 1000 pages, although that, too, is true. I mean that some people write first drafts throwing in a jar of preserves, a team of pit bulls, and, yes, the kitchen sink. And those people could benefit by being instructed to pull out unnecessary descriptive passages, adjectives, etc.

But some people don't write that way. Some people write short rough drafts that need a little fleshing out before they're ready to face the world. And giving any piece of writing advice as a universal is a dangerous thing. So go ahead and suggest that I should do whatever you think is best to remove thirty pages from Fortress, but for heaven's sake, don't phrase it that "every story could benefit from a five to ten percent reduction in its first draft." Don't go around telling people that! It's not true! One size does not fit all! It's true of weights (that is, the same weight could make one person look slender and toned and another look skeletal and ill). It's true of haircuts. It's true of relationship styles. And it's true of prose. The One Universal Rule of Editing is that there is no One Universal Rule of Editing.

Wiser people are telling me what works for them and letting me figure out whether it works for me, too. Muuuch better.

I just popped in a Tori Amos album, and I think this was a good idea. I wrote much of Fortress and the short story which precedes it while listening to Little Earthquakes. It was just the right mood music. So I think some Angry Woman Music (With Piano) will be good to make it all feel right again.

I hope the Not The Moose Book has a good soundtrack to it. Most of the soundtrack to Reprogramming exists only in my head, which is frustrating in the extreme. I suppose I could try to write the music myself, but it's been years since I wrote music, and it wasn't any good anyway. And if I wrote it, someone could try to convince me that I ought to let people who like the book (if there are any of those!) see it. And that would be Not A Good Thing. Knowing oneself, and all that.

Sometimes I used to think I should be listening to more fey, artsy music. Stuff that people would happen upon in my writing and say, "Who're they?" But doing that kind of thing on purpose is really smarmy, and I'm glad I outgrew it.

You know who I feel sorry for? Kids who want to be rock icons today. Not just rock musicians, but rock icons. It's gotten so mainstreamed that I'll bet a lot of people dream that their kids will grow up to be rock icons. And once you're fulfilling your momma's dream, well, how easy is it to get up a good rebellious rant? When your mom is in the front row screaming her head off, and your dad is floating over the mosh pit wearing a T-shirt reading "Porn *?" When they brag to their friends about how their kid bites the heads off of chickens? I mean, that's just got to take some of the kick out of it. When you just want to be an author or something like that, it's kind of cool when your dad goes around signing things "the author's daddy." Rock icons can't be having with that kind of behavior. Where's the anti-authoritarian angst in that? But being a rock star is such a mainstream part of American culture these days that it's hard to think that their parents are too upset about it. I'll bet a lot of kids give up and go into accounting in sheer disgust. Maybe we'll see a big rise in rock icons coming from immigrant families, where a lower percentage of the parents would see the chicken head thing as bragging. That would be nice for everybody. The American dream, probably.

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