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Friday, May 26, 2017

(There is no) Golden Mean

               And so, brethren and sistren, down came I from the mountain bearing Truth and Beauty (or such Truth and Beauty as is to be found in my new book, The Patent Desk), fully intending to bestow this cultural gem, this magnificent gift upon a world waiting in eager anticipation of the glories to be found therein.

               There I stood at the last turn, the final promontory and I looked out over the assembled multitudes, drank in their eagerness and love…  And then I turned around and went back up to my cave to go through the damn thing One. More. Time.

                Kindly refrain from asking how many times I’ve repeated this cycle of there-I’m-done-here-it-goes-ready-set-wait-did-I-remember-to… I’ve done it enough times that I’d be embarrassed to admit even if I could accurately figure the sum. The truth is that I’ve been living with these characters, this story, this hopeful/troublesome project for so long that my mental processes have all become skewed in favor of just one more pass. The road to improvement is deeply rutted and not by wagon wheels that rolled smoothly along behind faithful draft animals. This rock-strewn track was ground out one bleeding footfall at a time.

               I’ve lost count of the number of revisions, large and small. At one time this hog ran to 148,000 words and now it’s settling somewhere around 85,000. (After careful thought and excruciating editing, I decided to go with the advice of the agent who said ‘whatever the count, make sure they’re the right words’ over that of the agent who said 60-83,000 was a magic target range.) I’ve added, subtracted and revised so many times that the number of individual taps on the keyboard is lost to the ages. Average 5.5 taps per word – you do the math, I’m afraid to. And through the earliest and longest and now shortest versions of the book and all the revisions in between, every tap was accomplished by one of three fingers, arthritis be damned. Turns out not taking typing when they offered it in high school was a less than stellar decision.

               But, regardless of the work I’ve put into past revisions, regardless how sore my butt or strained my eyes or tortured my hands, up to now I just couldn’t stop. There has always been one more ambiguity to resolve, a run-on sentence to reset, a paragraph to trim.  Does the reader need to know this random fact about a secondary character? No, out it goes. Wait, now it’s not… Back it comes.

               At some point, I can either resign myself that this is not so much a book as a never-ending writing exercise, or call a stop and put it out there. Because there is no Golden Mean in writing, no perfect word count, voice, pace, or anything else that will guarantee people will want to read it and having read it, recommend it to others. In the end, it’s all about the story and whether they care about the characters. I  believe this story is good and these characters compelling. And so…

               Enough, I say.

               But then, there is that problem with Cort…

               Enough, I said!

               Perhaps, if I just…


               And so, I send it out. And IF this agent takes it on, or the next, or the next, and IF they find an editor at a reputable house who’s willing to read it and IF… and IF… and IF...

               And while I wait, and while I make the edits suggested by philistines who just don’t understand but through whose hands pass my ability to publish, and while I fend off the questions of the friends and family whom I foolishly let know of my position as literary supplicant and the oh-so-compassionate expressions of those who truly don’t believe I'll ever be published but want to seem to be in my corner just in case they’re wrong…

               While I wait…

               I begin writing the next one.

    Because I'm crazy. 

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