Saturday, January 11, 2020

The Itch in the Publisher's Voice

The moment your body sends you an urgent itch message from some outpost of anatomy, a portion of your awareness goes to work forming a scratch response. Even if the offending itch flares up in the middle of your back under a layer of tee-shirt, sweater, and jacket, awareness begins to assess damage control, sends you an available source to defuse the itch.

You may have to contort to reach the itch site, seek out a tree trunk, door frame, or other convenient remedy, whereupon you heave yourself against the trunk or door frame for some significant rubbing. Sometimes there may be a person to whom you can state your urgent plea. "Please. My back. Scratch."

The moment your body sends you an urgent story message from some outpost of your imagination, a response similar to itch awareness broadcasts itself through your sensitivities. In notable similarity to the itch message, the story instinct wants to be dealt with, scratched, as it were, rendered under some kind of control.

Unlike the itch, which may be scratched in a matter of moments, the story notion takes on the presence of a pestering insect or a hungry mosquito. You will need some time--always more time than you at first allot--to scratch enough to restore your previous comfort.

Itches and stories pester you away from your more benign self. You are in effect practicing mindfulness on one or two story itches from years in the past.

"Time," a publisher says in a text.

Ah, you think. Time for a royalty statement.

"That, too," the publisher says. "Time also for a revised edition."

Publishers seldom, if ever, want revisions on published works of fiction. You have published a work of nonfiction and another of fiction with this publisher. There is no need for him to tell you he wants the revision on the work of nonfiction.

Thus early in the new year, not yet midway through January, while you have only a day ago scratched a short story itch to your satisfaction and have only the continuing buzz of a novel you are swatting at, another itch sends a scratch me message. You know for certain that this itch will require at least the better part of the coming year.

The first thing you will need to scratch this itch is the voice, the narrative tone in which this version will be told.  This means you must do something you have not done for much of your writing life--you must listen to the material--let it dictate how you will speak of it.

Let's say it's eleven p.m. or midnight. Your neighbor continues to host a loud party or play Sacre du Printemps at considerable volume. Do you appear at his door, knock, then politely inform him of the noise? Do you yell across the courtyard?  How will you proceed?

For some days to come, your subsequent entries here will reflect you, listening to the material, then responding to its behavior.

No comments: