Tuesday, February 11, 2014

On Burn Ratios and Cold Eyes

Back in the day.

When film was the primary medium for recording motion picture and television drama and narrative, some individual, assigned to budgetary considerations, came forth with the concept known as "burn ratio."

Burn ratio is accounting at its micromanaging best.  Or worst.  The term refers to the number of frames of film a director of a project causes to be exposed and, thus, processed, before achieving what is known as the final cut or finished version.

Once again Marxist constructs enter the picture.  If a director is known as having a high burn ratio, there exists a probability he will finish his job over budget.  Yet another way in which those at the top of a pyramid victimize those at the base.  Our product would not cost so much if we did not have to pay our help as much as we do.

Burn ratio may also be applied to the number of pages a writer composes in a given time frame, compared to the number of keepable pages.

In theory, one keepable page a day will produce the rough equivalent of a book a year for a writer, which is about right, although many writers are finding they can no longer make a living from such a schedule and must plug in other activities such as teaching, reviewing, or, if there is significant background, editing.

Such metrics as burn ratios and keepable pages are in their way disturbing, although the dialectic seems to be present in many cases where profitability is a goal for the producer or publisher.  With your political philosophies in form place, you continue to be interested in earning the greater bulk of your living from your writing, with the stipulation that this living be on your terms, another way of saying you are neither a fine arts writer nor, as you once were, a writer overt in his commercialism.  

You would be thrilled beyond your ability to express such pleasure if you were able to live with modest comfort on the basis of what you write.  On the other hand, you are thrilled to be able to write at the level you now write, hopeful of never reaching the point where you think of yourself as having reached the peak of his powers and the maximum strength of his vision.

Your recent experience in dealing with editorial queries and notes relevant to short stories you'd already published  has reaffirmed your belief that you are in fact on a progressive curve, more hidden things leaping from the rereading and attention to notes than you'd have imagined.

Working at this level has long since caused you to redefine what constitutes a successful day's work.  For certain, a successful day's work cannot be measured in words or pages written.  For one thing, you'd have no idea how keepable a particular page or scene was, not until you'd had time to, as Yeats put it, "cast a cold eye."  Yeats was talking about life and death; he was even writing verse for his own tombstone.  Not to argue with Yeats, you do believe on casting a cold eye on life and death, but you're talking about casting a cold eye on what you wrote yesterday or last week or last year.

Something may be wanting a fixing touch from you; something you may not be able to see until a colder time.

Such aspects of the process, although they cause you increasing sessions of work, with more story coming forth than product, amuse you because of the effects on the schedulers and direct-consequence persons who like to grade potential on the basis of schedules met, pages delivered.  Your burn ratio is unknowable, even when a project seems to have run it course.

You are not only a better writer for it, you are a better reader, and a more observant editor.

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