It's been fascinating watch this exact process happen in the Foreigner series. Cherryh has been writing this series for decades now, and in the current books, you can just see her doing a very skilled tapdance around some things she set up in earlier books. Adding nuance, stuffing in a near-retcon in some places that weren't technically locked into place, just implied, adding characters to balance some demographic issues the earlier books had... It's impressive and makes me feel very sympathetic all at once.
Yes! I'm only on Inheritor on my reread, but it's definitely an interesting example.
If I asked that question -- and I'm so timid a novice that I've never quite dared ask anyone who might give me an actual answer -- I would mean: Will the editor still let me be published if I won't put that thing in? There are some things that I feel quite strongly don't belong in anything with my name on the cover, that seem to be expected in most fiction written for adults in the last fifty years or so, and one of the issues that has always put me off getting serious about writing for publication is that I'm afraid of some editor giving me the choice between putting those things in and not being published, because I'd have to say no and that would be a waste of everyone's time. (The bit where I can write a coherent 90,000-word narrative and have no idea which character is the 'protagonist' is another, but that's a more recent worry and one I might be prepared to work with someone to fix.)
The problem is that it will vary from editor to editor and book to book. No one can tell you for sure. I understand that that's frustrating, and I'm sorry, but every editor has an understanding of what a particular story or book "needs" and what it just "could use." Most of these are flexible/up for discussion, but some are explicitly not. At least in the short field, some editors won't make an offer at all if they have any intractable suggestions, and others will be quite explicit that if they can't work out X issue to mutual satisfaction, they would love to see your next one etc.
Thanks! The self-pub route starts to look more attractive -- I'd have no hesitation in overruling an editor I hired, if they wanted to put the thing in. I might try to stipulate that at the hiring stage, though.
(Let's just say that I prefer the kind of romance that wraps up with the first real kiss.)
Self-publishing is a reasonable option if you don't see your sub-genre represented in traditional publishing. My understanding is that there are some romance lines that share your preference? but I mostly am not visual enough to read romance successfully, so I couldn't say if that's actually true, or which ones they are, or whether they come with additional caveats that you don't want to meet.
Well, I'm not actually writing romance -- I run more to soft SF or fantasy, but one feels obliged to put in some kind of romantic thread. Though why it should be necessary, when the people are mostly there to get a job done, I'm not sure ...
I both agree and disagree here. I agree that being more awesome is always the best policy, and that sticking things in because they seem fashionable is not good for books. The last book I finished, I had put in a half-hearted boyfriend relationship for the protag for weird reasons, and my smart critiquers were smart enough to give it a thumbs down, and when I looked at it, they were right. Out it came.
On the other hand, I think that editors quite often--quite understandably and ethically--reject books that they are not the right editor for. And I think that there are not infinite editors. So if you have an awesome book that isn't right for any editor currently working, you have a very real risk of an awesome book that does not sell, or does not sell in the year that you write it. And this is okay. Because you still have the awesome book, and you can still self-publish it, or wait and see what happens with time, or whatever, and having the awesome book is better than not having it.
You've said above that if you're awesome enough, editors won't even want changes or will accept stories with opposite changes to what they said, and I just don't think that awesomeness is the sole factor there. If it was, you would have found a British publisher for your books much sooner than you did. I've had some stories published completely without alteration by the editor, and I've had some where we went back and forth on a lot of things--and a few where I couldn't agree with what was suggested and later sold the story to another, equally good market--and I don't think that these different stories could be easily ranked by their inherent awesomeness. Possibly you could take the position that I have simply never been awesome enough, because if I was I wouldn't ever lose a sale due to disagreement with an editor. I think that makes awesome far too one-dimensional and independent of editorial style/personality/taste. It is too much of a just universe hypothesis for me to be able to sign on.
Thank you! You've certainly given me plenty to think about. I seem to have this naive pair-bonding notion very deeply ingrained in my idea of what makes a story; thank you for reminding me that it doesn't have to be there.
Just off the top of my head, The Goblin Emperor is on the Hugo ballot and comes from a traditional publishing house and is not romancey. So Jo's example is not the only one.
I liked The Goblin Emperor a lot. Come to think of it, there's not a whole lot of romance in Ancillary Sword, either, though there is some adolescent yearning on the part of a secondary character.
Now I'm wondering how much of my perception that the shape of a story generally includes two people coming together is based on things I read in my early teens ... like those 'career' novels where the main character goes into a profession and inevitably ends up getting married as soon as she qualifies.
I hope this brings you hope.
It is helping, thanks! Now if I can just get that pattern out of my head ... it seems to be very deeply ingrained in my process, far deeper than any notions about three-act structure and the like.
My first published novel had no romance in it. The sequel had a nod toward "these two people will get together," but it didn't go into detail (much to the disappointment of some of my readers).
And that was 2006, so it's a relatively recent data point.
Ooh. I may have to try those. Thank you! (I liked the London Faeries, and I like Lady Trent even more, but I hadn't gone looking for your backlist.)
I don't think I've read a series in which that's been an issue--which is to say, I guess I've never read a series that was started when the author was new(ish) at writing and then continued through to the author's maturity. I've read some of the Discworld books, but randomly, with no regard for the order in which Pratchett wrote them. I've definitely heard people *talk* about it as an issue, though. I've sometimes felt that an author's interest has drifted during a series or book, which is maybe sort of similar? They thought they were going to write one sort of book, but slid into something else, only the front end of the book (or series) is still the other thing.
Do you read a lot of mystery? Because I see this a lot in mystery.
No, almost never--but I can definitely see how it would apply. Same protag, many, many books.
2015-05-20 12:54 pm (UTC)
This bit about long series is particularly interesting for me to think about at the moment, as I just recently had the first idea I've ever had that feels inherently long-form in the series-length sense, rather than the novel-length sense.
And you can't get too hung up in potential future problems or you won't have any current book! But it really is a limitation that's internally imposed.