Saturday, June 19, 2010

A Conversation with David

...I thoroughly enjoy meeting with my editor/agent/confidant for a session of literary bull...the seasoned veteran offering his pupil a length of rope with which to grasp if he so desires.

I leave each session feeling a bit wiser, re-focused, and a tad foolish from the realization of knowing so little about an industry I've dreamed of partaking in.

I slouch in a chair along the corner of his desk, him behind his Mac, eyes drilling holes through the monitor. The room is silent. I'm buried in revisions. Behind schedule. Feeling a bit timid, awaiting something negative...sarcasm, an irritable sigh, anything. What I receive is silence, which is worse.

Anxiety being pushed aside by impatience, I say, "I'm seriously behind. I know. Tell me I really suck at this. I can take it."

He throws me a glance. Says nothing.

"They've got me working tens all month. I'm getting one day off a week, which I've gotta spend with my kids. If I'm lucky I'll get to see my wife before Christmas. Don't give up on me, okay? I'll get it done."

Nothing. Eyes glued to the screen.

"Did I mention I saw John Grisham downstairs in the lobby? I flipped him the bird, told him to take his business elsewhere...that I'm the big fish in this pond."

"You need to learn how to relax," he finally says, offering me a grin.

"But I'm miles behind, and feelin bad. This is huge for me. Something I've always wanted, and I'm blowing it."

"You're doing no such thing. Tell me...what chapter are you working on right now?"

"Finishing 21. Trying to."

"And you've made those changes we discussed to the last passage?"

"I think."

He rolls away from behind his computer, scooting on the wheels of his leather chair, sliding to a stop directly in front of me. "What do you mean, you think?"

"I'm not sure if it's good enough," I mumble.

"Okay then, let me hear it."

I feel my brow lowering. "Hear it? You want me to read it to you? Out loud?"

"To me, and to you as well. Listen to what you're saying as you read it."

"But that's..."

He holds up a hand. "Just humor me and try it."

Feeling like I did back in the sixth grade, standing in front of the class, giving an oral report on why students should be allowed to chew gum in school, I look down at the papers in my lap, thumb to the section I know he's interesting in, and begin.

"For a moment we remained on the path, our shadows lengthening with the passing hour. While the ominous cloud-cover had produced no rainfall, it left the darkening skyline marked like a bruise.

"Side by side we watched as Mom's smile faded, her gaze wandering toward a stand of skeletal evergreens in the distance. A bottle of ketchup in one hand, a plastic fork in the other, her attention utterly focused on the decaying firs, their branches reaching out for assistance.

"A lone blue jay swooped in from above, finding a suitable perch for the evening. It called out, noticing our presence, its crest rising from its head in the shape of a razor blade. Mom paid it no attention, her thoughts lost in the thicket."

David held up a hand, stopping me in mid-sentence. "Well?"


"What do you think?"

"What do you mean by that? I'm supposed to be asking you that question."

"Which is why I'm asking you instead. Do you like it?"

"It's okay."

"Can you do better?"

"So you're saying it's crap?"

"That's not what I said. I asked you a question. I'm wanting your opinion."

I frown, deciding on an answer. "I kinda like it, but I could tinker with it if you want. Or if you don't. Or whatever. I don't know what's going on right now."

David's shoulders bounce as he giggles, and I'm reminded of Jesse Duke, watching his nephews in the General Lee glide over a slow moving river in Hazzard County in order to escape Sheriff Roscoe.

"You already knew the answer," he says. "By reading it aloud, you answered your own question for both of us."

"So what's next...will I be painting the fence in your back yard, or waxing your car while unconsciously absorbing some mystical trick to writing a best-seller?"

David hesitates a moment, then, "Ahh, Karate Kid, I get it. Nice touch."

"Thanks. So what are we gonna do about these deadlines?"

He shrugs, holding a smile. "You're not dealing with Random House, you know. We'll be fine. We're an independent, which means we're a small fish, but a personable one. One who understands. Who wants their writers to succeed to the best of their abilities, which we know you have. Your story's good, it just needs some tuning. And it'll get done. And we'll be fine."

He leans forward. I realize I'm about to hear something worth remembering.

"The publishing industry has unfortunately turned into a contest. I'd like to call it a competition, but sadly I cannot. More like a popularity contest. Those in the know, do quite well. As for the others...well, normally it's one and done.

"The trick is to put something out there that simply demands to be read. A cover that can lure both young and old. A story line capable of attracting even the casual reader. And written with a voice good enough to cause people to want more. That's when you win. And that's why I'm not worried about any deadlines. I'm not as concerned about the when. It's what's inside that we've gotta nail down."

I heave a sigh. "Okay. Sounds good."

"But you can still wax my car if you want."

"Uhh, I don't think so."

"Well, you brought it up."

"See ya next week, David."

I rise from my chair and head for the exit when he says, "Hey El, just so you know...I thought it was pretty good."


Piedmont Writer said...

I thought it was pretty good too. I'm glad you told your editor's side of the story. I just read another author (who is pubbed) and what she's going through just to stay in the market. She says it's not easy and in two years it will be even more different. Write the best book you can. Never give up.

Jemi Fraser said...

Really interesting! Sounds like your editor not only has a really smart brain, but a heart and humour as well. You're very lucky!

I thought it was good as well!

Melissa said...

What great interaction the two of you have. That was awesome.

I liked the passage as well. Good job.

Lola Sharp said...

I like your relationship with him, he's a keeper...and love that Grisham line, funny man. ;)

Reading aloud TO someone is vital, something I do with every chapter after I think I'm through with my revisions. Fastest way to ferret out awkward sentences etc that I've ever found.

And Elliot...HAPPY Father's Day.

Roland D. Yeomans said...

He didn't tell you where it needed polishing because he knows your instincts will lead you to them truer if he remained silent.

And maybe he couldn't think of a way to improve it. But pushing you would prompt you to do even better than you had.

And sadly, he's right about authors. You get one shot at the readers. Impress the hell out of the publishers -- and that means pulling in buyers -- or they go looking for someone else who can "Wow" the readers.

Sigh. For most new writers, it is "one and you're done." How's that for motivation to revise until your prose grabs the reader and won't let him go?

You can do this. I've read your work. You have talent, intelligence, and more ... you have heart. Roland

Elliot Grace said...

Anne-even tougher in the next two years? ...not a pretty thought. Oh Dora says, "Just keep writing..."
Jemi-every conversation with him is interesting, and on most days, I end up showing up late for work...and happy I did.
Melissa-the interaction is what's working for us. He's thoroughly enjoying the challenge of getting me published, and I'm soaking up every last crumb of information he allows. It's been fun.
Lola-you're so true. Reading aloud is a secret ingredient all writers should partake in. I've started that habit with each chapter before moving on. And yes, Father's Day was most excellent, thanks:)
Roland-thanks so much for your inspiring words. I honestly believe I could learn as much from you as I've been receiving from David. If there's any justice in this world, your day will surely come.

arlee bird said...

The theory of something that "demands to be read" doesn't always seem to hold up in the popularity contest-- at least not for me. There is an awful lot of stuff that is just flash in the pan here today, where'd it go tomorrow. But I like the theory in the real readers world.

Thanks for clicking the follow button on my blog. I have reciprocated with yours.

Tossing It Out

G.~ said...

You will no doubt make it with the talent you have and such a supportive editor.

Keep writing.

Elliot Grace said...

Thanks for stopping by Lee:)

G, your encouraging words made me smile. Thanks so much.

Anonymous said...

I liked the excerpt and I really like your agent, too. Good job and RELAX!

Adeeva Afsheen said...

Banned complain !! Complaining only causes life and mind become more severe. Enjoy the rhythm of the problems faced. No matter ga life, not a problem not learn, so enjoy it :)

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