RTW: I Can See Shangri-La from Here!


(Graphic from the YA Highway site)
Road Trip Wednesday is a "Blog Carnival," where YA Highway's contributors and followers post a weekly writing- or reading-related question and answer it on their blogs. You can hop from destination to destination through the YA Highway site and get everybody's unique take on the topic.

This week's topic: How far would you go to get published? We writers can form quite an attachment to our characters and stories. But we also know publishing is a business, and sometimes to make it in said business--to really build a career from it--we have to bend a bit. How far would you go to break into the publishing world?

I've been a little spoiled with my freelance articles--I've never been asked to revise them or change them. Reshoot the photos, yes, and the magazines have done some light copyediting but that's it. Pretty sweet, but it kind of established unrealistic expectations about how much revising I would be expected to do because that didn't carry over into fiction.

I lost my first "sale" of a short story when my college lit mag asked me to change the ending and I refused. I did give it some thought, but decided not to do it. Unfortunately, I didn't find out that it killed the deal until they actually released the lit mag, and mine wasn't in there (after I'd told everyone it would be, of course!). So I have no idea if I'd known that, whether it would have changed my mind. And of course, years later, I did change the ending but for different reasons. Aspects of the story changed, and that meant the ending no longer fit. (And I eventually found a home for Hornworms in Hunger Mountain)

Earlier this year while querying, I got a revise and resubmit request from an agent. When she was setting up the phone call to go over her concerns, she let me know they were "not minor". So that sent me into a panic (and I do mean a panic--how a writer's imagination can run away with her!) over what sort of changes she might request and whether I would be willing to make them. Fortunately, they were suggestions that worked for the story and made it stronger, so I was glad that I gave them a chance.

But I do know that there are aspects of my book I would not be willing to change. Usually if a character or plot device isn't working, I spend a bit of time trying to discern whether it's just not working in this form and I can write it differently, or whether it truly doesn't belong in the story at all. And when my CPs give me advice that I don't agree with, I try to examine why they would have made that suggestion. So most of the time even if I feel their suggestion was way out there, I can find the flaw in the passage that made them feel it needed something else. My fix may not be what they suggested in the end, but hopefully I will have addressed the issue.

What about you--how far are you willing to go? Don't forget to go to the comments on the YA Highway RTW post to see everyone else's answers!

17 comments:

Juliana said...

I think everyone has been on the same page here. As long as we continue true to ourselves, we would do revisions and such, especially if they ended up adding and strengthening the book.
And I had a similar experience with my CP when she suggested something I didn't want to do, but I fixed it in another way and addressed the issue.
We should only change when we believe in it ;)

Liz Parker said...

This is a great answer, and one I agree with. You do what feels write to you as the writer. Some changes you make, some you don't. But it's about where your story is headed and the vision you have for it.

Colin Smith said...

Hmm.. would you have changed the ending to the story if you had known it was the deal-breaker? That's interesting. Did the editor give an explanation for why s/he wanted the ending changed? I would like to think I would if the editor could justify it, and I agreed with the explanation. I'm not sure I would do it simply to get published... though it would be very tempting, especially at this early stage in my writing career.

Tarah Dunn said...

I had a slightly different take, in that I'm more extreme about agreeing with revisions, but I enjoyed reading about how you make the decision to accept or reject revisions.

Francesca Zappia said...

I completely agree. Revisions should be made if the author thinks they'll benefit the story, and for no other reason. Hah, it's actually surprising how little respect I have for an author who will change ANYTHING, regardless of what it does to the story, to see their name in print.

commutinggirl said...

I also believe a story can become even greater when other pair of eyes looked at it and advice on possible revisions...but I agree with you that we may not be able to accept everything if it changes the spirit of what we have written...

Robin Moran said...

I would never turn my back on suggestions for characters, plots, etc. It's worth it just to find out whether it'll make the book stronger. You have to take up that opportunity.

But I wouldn't jump on the band wagon for trends. It wouldn't feel like the story I wanted to tell if someone asked me to change the genre for something more popular.

Cara M. said...

One of the things the writer has to keep in mind is that a story has an intent, it has a purpose. When we take revisions we have to look at them to see whether they benefit our intent or destroy it.

Choosing someone else's intent over yours is dangerous. If there wasn't a clear intent to begin with, fine, take the new intent, if you like it, if you agree with it. But if you change something that alters your intent without noticing, or if your intent is adulterated by someone who doesn't have the same vision as you, it is still your name on the book, and you are responsible.

Although talking about ethics can be a shitstorm, writing is 'acting,' it is committing an action on a scale larger than yourself and your immediate circle. I would be upset with revisions that weaken my intent, but I would revolt at revisions that undermine it.

Margo Berendsen said...

Your answers sound just like what I would say. I wouldn't rewrite everything or cut everything to get published, but I'd give it a ton of thought, and consider changing other parts, as you did, to make everything fit better. Excellent question!

Ellen said...

"And when my CPs give me advice that I don't agree with, I try to examine why they would have made that suggestion." -- exactly what I do! Usually, even if I don't like their suggestions, the section that they've flagged does need work, and I can create my own fix that works for everyone :)

Alison Miller said...

Agreed! I'll make changes, but for the sake of the story and the characters. And there are some things worth fighting for. Glad to see you fought for your stories!

Kate Coursey said...

I think it's a really fine line to walk. I've gotten editorial letters from both my editor and my agent, and they've never given me a comment that I strongly disagreed with. For me, I decide going in on a few things I'm absolutely unwilling to change, but I try to remain flexible on other points. Often, after ruminating for a few days, I realize the comments I get really would make my story better.

I submitted a magical realism story set in 19th century China to literary agents last spring. I ended up with six offers of representation, but one of the agents who offered wanted me to change the story as a whole. She wanted me to make it either a full-on fantasy or simply a historical book....she said it was "in between" and that wasn't working for her. I was like, "Isn't that the definition of magical realism? It's not full-on fantasy, but it's certainly not contemporary either." Luckily I had other offers, so I went with a different agent, but sometimes I wonder what I would've done if that agent had been the only one to offer. I probably would've declined....my story is magical realism, and I'm proud of it!

Tracey Neithercott said...

I trust editors with a lot, and there isn't much I wouldn't seriously consider. That said, I won't make changes that change the book into something it's not, or into something I don't want it to become. Still, I know that editors know what they're doing and their job is to understand what works and doesn't work about a story. As an editor myself (for magazines, not books, though) I know I've never accepted a story for publication that didn't go through at least one round of heavy editing, and not because the article wasn't good to begin with. It's an editor's job to think of things the writer didn't or ask questions or put a finger on missing aspects that would take a good story to great.

Of course, I'm used to my work being edited, so maybe that's why I'm more likely to be open to editors' suggestions. I'd have to be really convinced, though, to change my ending like you were asked to change. That could be a deal-breaker depending on the suggestion.

Angelica R. Jackson said...

Ugh, yesterday was such a long day, sorry I didn't get to reply back to all of you until today.

I loved this topic--so many of us seem to have put some thought into it already, because it's come up in talks with agents or editors or just because our writing for the art of it comes with a strong set of ethics.

Kris Atkins said...

I agree with you about my writing group partners. Even if they suggest something that I deem to be way out in left field, I'll still look at that passage and see what's wrong with it. So even seemingly off-the-wall comments can be helpful.

Christina Mercer said...

I honestly don't know how writers make it without a few solid writing partners. The process of both receiving and giving crits is utterly priceless. That said, using discernment when implementing suggestions is a must.

I can't remember where I read this, but one piece of advice spoke of giving more thought to "general comments" made versus small/specific ones, which can be really subjective.

Such as: The scene isn't working for me,something feels missing... (versus) I think the paragraph where you describe the room needs to include the color of the lamp shade

Monica B.W. said...

I was going to congratulate you on hitting 100+ followers! BUT, you had closed comments on the post above. So that's why I'm here, lol.

And thanks for stopping by my blog the other day! It was nice to see you there! :D

Post a Comment