I guess you’ll be seeing a lot more
blogs procrastination about revision and editing in the near future, but I swear this post was inspired by a genuine convo I had with someone re: editing and compromising on your work.
The discussion was around something that many aspiring writers think about: whether to compromise the ‘artistic integrity’ of their work for marketability.
Personally I think its a false dichotomy.
It’s a weird topic because the two options are hardly as clear as they appear to a novice writer. First of all the editing process is hardly an untweaked work being fired off to a publisher who demands some sell-out change of the work. Far more likely is that by the time a draft even reaches the eyes of an agent and a publisher an author has already made many compromises, tweaks, major rewrites… everything! It would be pretty odd if by that point a writer hadn’t started to develop the skills to navigate this sort of back-and-forth. Without sounding snobbish (heck it’s not like I’m published) its only really folk who are sitting around imagining getting published who think they might get asked to change something they don’t want to in order to be successful. Most experienced writers realize that there is a tonne of editing to be done especially in novel manuscripts, its not like they go straight from author to publisher with only the barest of change (mostly).
On the flipside, it’s not like people walk around with this constant option to ‘sell-out’ and just make money. When an editor suggests changes to a story, sure it is typically intended to increase marketability, but its not like there is a popularity performance enhancing drug that can be injected into your manuscript if only you’re willing to give up artistic integrity. Trying to predict and achieve popularity is pretty much an artform in itself.
Getting slightly deeper into the issue is the question of whether a story needs an audience. Or rather, if a tree reads a book in a forest and has no-one to tell about it, does it count as a story? My point is not that ‘you’re only a real writer if you publish or have a big audience’ but rather that there is no magical cannon for your story that only exists in your head. Yes it’s your story, and you have the right to pursue whatever tale you want to write. But I don’t think that artistic integrity = being too stubborn to make your work accessible to others.
Now don’t get me wrong there are compromises on different levels. For example if a publisher say doesn’t want to publish a minority group as a main character, and as an author you want this – that’s not the sort of compromise I’m getting at here.
I understand that as authors we tend to get attached to our work, and because we know it inside and out, its hard to understand how other might want to change something, and even think it might make it better! The truth is this is exactly why we need other people to suggest changes to our work, so that we achieve the outcome we want with our work, not just cling to the dream.
What are your thoughts on compromise and editing?
Have you ever had to, or decided to change something major in a WIP? Care to share it?