"The result is that those who have unique voices switch to writing best-selling formula or quit. And editors ask for fresh voices!" IJ Parker
I lifted that quote off of the Kool-Aid thread, because it got me thinking about something that came up on a discussion list that's been bugging me for a few days.
The comment on the list was that if writers are in the business mainly to make money they're in the wrong business.
Anyone who follows it will know what I'm talking about. They will also know about the ongoing discussions of what you can - and cannot - include in your books. No dead puppies. Not too much sex. Not too much violence or showing blood. A fictional disease might be better than giving a character cancer, etc. etc. etc.
What I really want to say is that if I'm required to follow a checklist of what is and is not acceptable to include in my book, shouldn't I expect to be well paid? I mean, it's hardly writing for love anymore, is it? It's writing to meet the preferences of certain outspoken readers.
And here's the sad truth, that brings me back to IJ's comment: Probably few authors on here could honestly say that they haven't made some compromise with their work in order to get it published.
Now, for the majority of people it was probably something minor - changing a character name, toning up or down the violence in a scene accordingly, etc - but in some cases it becomes something major. I had to put my first book in the US. And here's the thing: We applaud authors who do a wonderful job utilizing the setting and making it a character in books and then we tell other writers "Great stuff, move it to a US city." Move it somewhere we've never been, no offer to pay to send us there for setting research, pretty well guarantee we can't capture the essence of the place.
That's been my little bugbear. I thought it would be easier if I went with a Canadian agent, and found he also wanted me to move my new manuscript south of the border. The biggest problem was that the premise for the whole book was such that even in some cities in Canada it couldn't work: it needed a fire department that operated on a certain system. I'd done my homework. As much as we all take some fictional liberties from time to time, moving the book would have compromised it's authenticity to the point of making it a joke.
And what nobody seems to understand (maybe because I'm odd?) is that I'd rather make less money than sell out.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying anything against the learning curve involved in improving your writing so that it's sellable. But I see so many stories being touted as a 'highly original' when they're the same old recycled themes from B movies last decade.
And don't misunderstand - I'm happy to work with an editor. I pray more for a great editor than anything else - the friends I know who have them can't say enough about how fortunate they are. I'd consider all revisions suggested for valid reasons. For example, naming characters is a tough thing for me but I'd rename without question if an editor wanted me to - stuff like that doesn't bug me, but just relocating a story for the hell of it does.
Consider this: This was my attempt at a big conspiracy-theory novel, set partly in the USA (a country I'd never visited) and with a lot of humour. It involves space shuttles and spy satellites and all that sort of thing. Unfortunately, my editor of the time didn't like it, and had me make masses of changes - taking out the humour and the US settings, for example - by the end of which I felt the book had ceased to be mine; it wasn't the story I'd wanted to tell in the first place. I don't think I could bear to read it now... and it's out of print anyway. Ian Rankin,
speaking about Westwind.
Have you ever thought about what price is too high for being published? Any of you who've had to make a difficult decision? Any chance that stifling some of the originality of talented authors is contributing to a decline in reading - people turned off by the same old, same old? (I certainly know that when I get something that's predictable and boring me to tears I start playing Mahjong.)