Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The Day After

Oh, that sounds portentous. Don't mean it to be. But it is September 12, at long last. A friend's birthday is today. She's so glad it's not yesterday. She says if it were yesterday, she'd change it. Always wanted to be a Leo, she says, also younger, so she'd push it to August 11, next year. We each deal with misery in a different way.

The editor who's been looking at my novel sent back her comments this morning. She has an interesting workday, beginning (in Seattle) at dusk and going until dawn. So what's today for her? If it's still dark out, she counts 5 AM to be part of the night of the previous day. So I guess, for her, she sent me her comments on Sept. 11. Does that change the way I think about them? (Of course not.)

They were insightful, too. I haven't, it appears, written the Great World Novel, after all. She said it was beautifully written, that my writing reminds her of A.S. Byatt, which is "good company" to be in. (Indeed, it is.) So the problem isn't the writing; just most everything else...

Well, I exaggerate. She raised some issues a) that I believe a revision will resolve; and b) that need copious thinking about. These aren't really the same issues. Whether that's good or not, I don't yet know. What's equally interesting to me, however, is my reaction. On one hand, I'm dying to get started on that revision; on the other, I'm fighting depression over some of the elements she called into question. My plot, for instance--okay, part of it; also, my characters' failure actually to have lives, beyond their drive to work out the problems the peculiar plot has handed them. And then there's the fact that one of the characters is a writer. Apparently one can only have a character who's a writer if you've already published a book of fiction. She pointed out that this is the view of agents and editors.

Well, shoot, honey. I figure I know as much about it as anyone who has published one book (the amount necessary for the agents/editors to accept a writer/character). I've been writing for, well, twenty years; I've lived with a much published writer for 25 years; I've edited a number of published writers; and my son is a writer. That's pretty much full Berlitz immersion, if you ask me.

(Yes, I know that this sounds defensive, but it's not, really, since right now I plan to ignore that part of her criticism.) You have to know your work well enough to know what applies and what doesn't, it seems to me.


  1. I'm a reader, not a writer, and I enjoy reading about writers, which I should think many readers do. So your revelation that editors don't want you to put in a "writer" character since you have not yet published a work of fiction yourself surprised me. Were you kidding? It seems really silly, especially, as you pointed out, in your case. BTW, thanks for the links on your blog, especially petite anglaise.

  2. Agreed. I know some writers go to lengths to avoid it, writing about artists and photographers to be able to access the artistic mentality without invoking this taboo.