Monday, May 23, 2011


What I'm reading: Sixkill, by Robert B. Parker

During our renovations and remodels, we found ourselves compromising on a lot of issues. Sometimes it was a matter of money—deciding what things we were willing to cut from our dream plan, and where we were willing to shell out the extra cash. We decided to go with underfloor heating in the bathrooms. However, a custom job, with the heat mat made to order for the bathroom was prohibitively costly compared with the off the shelf versions. The compromise meant we were restricted to the sizes the mats came in; we couldn't get the heat mat under the tile of the entire bathroom, leaving a few areas where the tiles remain cold. But having that extra course of tiles heated wasn't worth the price differential. It was easier to learn to take a bigger step into the hall bath if you were barefoot, avoiding the first row of tiles.

Another compromise – we had a lot more room in our former house. Finding places for things that went into our wall units and china cabinet meant more furniture. We ended up with a large curio cabinet in the living area. However, it doesn't have any interior lighting, so as far as displaying treasures goes, it's not really the perfect system. We ordered two more bookcases for the downstairs, but when they arrived, we realized that one was a shade too tall for where we wanted to put it. (Never thought about the bulkhead ceiling on that side of the room, or how tall the bookcases would be.) So, we found another spot for the second unit, which ate up several feet of wall space, meaning when we get furniture for the room, we're going to be limited in what will fit where.

When writing, you'll also learn to make compromises—unless, of course, you're writing strictly for yourself. Everyone says 'write the book of your heart.' But if you want people to read your books, you're going to have to consider what the readers want. The book of your heart just might not be marketable.

Somewhere along the line, you have to decide which battles are worth fighting and which aren't. Some, you'll never win. If a publisher wants humor, and you're not a funny person, maybe that's the time to realize that your efforts might be better spent elsewhere. Or maybe they want deep, dark suspense, full of serial killers and psychopaths, and you prefer lighthearted mystery. Are you capable of writing what they want? Will you feel like you're struggling to get each word on the page? Assuming you've done your homework and submitted your work to a publisher who publishes what you write, and it's accepted, what's next?. You're going to have to deal with an editor who works for the publisher, and knows what they're looking (or not looking) for.

For example, my editor for WHEN DANGER CALLS told me the publisher would nix any use of the word 'penis.' She said their readers didn't like to read it. Was there a point to arguing with this one? No. Easy enough to change. On a grander scale, some genres have their own reader expectations and publishers have their own guidelines.

Once you're aware of what your publisher and editor expect, you'll find that you're compromising with yourself during the writing process. Just like you learn to avoid that first course of tiles in the bathroom, you won't use those 'forbidden' words. If you're writing a contemporary series romance, you'll learn to get your hero and heroine on the page and involved immediately, because that's what readers of that genre want, and the publisher expects you to meet their expectations.

Tomorrow, my guest is author Sarah Grimm, who's going to be telling us about the voices in her head.


Karen C said...

Very Interesting!! The amount of 'control' the publisher and editor have still amazes me. Does it ever make you want to self-publish?

Terry Odell said...

Karen - I have self-published, but so far, only back list books. However, I'm getting ready to launch an original story from my Blackthorne, Inc. series, but not for control issues.

Lynn Chantale said...

Thanks for the insight. I'm learning quickly about compromise, either when an editor asks for additional content or to delete text. But fighting the fights worth arguing is a philosophy I've applied to my life in general...well and dealing with my mother.

Anonymous said...

I'm a writer and an editor, so I can see both sides of the coin. I write for a sweet publisher - it's where I got my break, not because I have anything against more graphic writing - and there are words I must compromise on. Words are easy to replace and I have discovered that graphic curses and explicit sex don't always advance the story. On the other hand, sometimes they do. As you said, it's knowing where to submit and finding the best fit. The best way to know that, aside from reading the publisher guidelines would be to read things from the house you're thinking of submitting to.

Anonymous said...

I find that compromise is a test of wills when it really shouldn't be. In publishing the tug of war between writer, editor, publisher, and reader is sometimes daunting and not every writer understands this. Nice post touching on the subject.

Carol Kilgore said...

I've come across forbidden words with short stories, so I won't be surprised when it happens with novels, too.

Terry Odell said...

wlynne - ah, yes. We do learn the art of compromise with our families, don't we?

Kay - doing homework is also important.

Liz - I agree--it's not something that should be "me" against "them" The end result should benefit both sides.

Carol - Strangely enough, I didn't omit the "p" word in the last manuscript, and I have a new editor who didn't flag it. However, it still has to go through their final reviewing editor. We'll see what happens. Also, that book will fall into the mystery imprint, since they closed the romance one. Maybe that makes a difference.

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Interesting! I haven't been censored yet, but my writing style is so mild that I guess it just hasn't come up. Like you, I'm happy to make any changes my publisher asks for (I like being employed.) :)

Terry Odell said...

Elizabeth - yep: employed is good.