Have you ever noticed that, as an adult, good news always seems to have a catch? When I was a kid it was very different. When something good happened, such as getting great presents on my birthday or at Christmas, I never questioned it and didn't have to hold my breath waiting for the dreaded catch. After all, what more could be asked of me when I had lived up to my end of the bargain? If I got a birthday present it was because I had survived another year--done! As for Christmas, well, if I hadn't been good all year, then what were those presents doing under the tree? Hah! No take backs, no conditions. Then I grew up and became a writer.
Writing, as we all know, is a odd profession that begins with a solitary writer pecking away somewhere all on his lonesome. Then, once his/her muse has been properly summoned and appeased, said writer produces a manuscript. This creation, upon subsequent readings, suddenly develops a life of its own and has to be wrestled to the ground in order to regain mastery. This sad contest can go on for days, weeks, even months or years. Meanwhile, our chastened writer must write anew, repeating the process over and over, thus populating his world with dozens of clanking, questing creations, some of which he may never drive forth into the greater world and readership. Instead, they occupy dusty corners of his home, and worse, his imagination, occasionally sitting up and looking about in confusion at having been left behind and glaring with hatred at their creator; rattling chains and straining to have at him. I believe I read once that the talented James Lincoln Warren has succeeded in having every story that he has written published. And he should have...if you've read his work then you know that he's very good at what he does. I have not fared quite as well, yet I persist. And sometimes this persistence pays off...but there's the catch.
A few years back I wrote a horror novel set in southern New Jersey. I know what you're thinking, "A horror novel? Have you lost your mind--what do you know about horror...or even novels?" Not much, I'm thinking, but that has never stopped me in the past, and it didn't this time. I wrote it and was moderately pleased that I had come up with something fairly unique and readable; maybe even commercially viable. Even my editorial board (Bridgid, Julian, and Tanya) didn't condemn it outright, but deemed it "entertaining". I was encouraged by this ringing endorsement.
|Univeral Pictures "Frankenstein" 1931|
But I schemed and plotted and soon I had found a way around both her and the damned agents! E-publishing! That's the ticket. I contacted a reputable firm recommended by MWA to help me prepare my creation for its entry into the virtual world. I e-mailed my manuscript to their proofreader. I didn't need any stinkin' agents, or even a publisher. I'm the publisher now, baby! I'm my own man!
The firm contacted me a few weeks later. After having read my novel, they wanted to publish it.
Now this really screwed things up. I had this all figured out; I didn't need anybody! But as the words of the email sunk in, I began to chuckle, then laugh aloud. The irony of it all! And the wonderful feeling of smugness at being backed in my opinion by a perfect stranger. This, I suddenly realized, was the gift...the perfect gift!
But then I continued reading...there was more--there was a catch. The publisher deemed that for us to go forward together more work was required. My manuscript was in desperate need of a good developmental editor. If at the end of six months it failed to meet his requirements, then all bets were off. Oh, how skillfully he had thrown out the bait, how cruelly he had set the hook. How dare he! More work? And what the hell is a developmental editor?
So you see, my friends, there is always a catch. They know us writers...they know what we want and what we'll do to get it. We want our creations to stand up and walk on their own. To breath and bellow! To be allowed to walk in daylight along with all God's creatures. But "they" always want more work, and then...more and more work!
|Universal Pictures "Frankenstein" 1931|