Tuesday, January 28, 2014

When life hands you a fantastic opportunity

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post about a major conundrum I faced: how to cut down a novel by 21,000 words in order to honour a contract. It was all my own fault. I should have noticed – and would have objected to – the word count clause. The novel I’d already more than half-written would not be an easy task to bring in Roses for a Diva at “approximately 80,000 words.”

For two weeks I worked hard and with increasing frustration at the fact that to cut down the book by even half that amount, I would have to seriously diminish its impact. To be honest, I’ve been working hard at writing more lean prose. Seldom do I indulge in more than a couple of lines of description, and in this novel at least, I seriously cut back on any subplots. In fact, there was only one of those and it was the first thing to hit the killing floor when I got to work (savings of approximately 2500 words). In the end, I was reduced to a line-by-line edit in order “to find prose efficiencies” (to paraphrase a favourite mantra of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford).

The result? I managed to lose only 6000 words. In fairness, my editor had told me at the outset to do the best that I could. “There are options.”

How does all this background tie in with this blog’s title, Blechta? I thought you said you were working on being more spare with your prose. What gives?

Last Friday I found out the decision had been made to go with the novel at 95,000 words, more or less (since my editor hasn’t had her go at it yet), and to increase the cost of the book by one dollar (it will now be $18.99).

To say the least I was happy and very relieved. I’m generally not one of those glass half-empty people, but in this case, I couldn’t avoid it. To cut deeply into the remaining ms would have seriously damaged the story, to my mind, and if the editorial board of my publisher had stuck their heels in, I would have been faced with a very difficult choice: let them hack or withdraw the book.

So, world, Roses for a Diva will come out in November as planned. Just be prepared to pay an extra dollar.

Come on, Blechta. The point! Get to the point!

All right, already! Sheesh... So I lost 6000 words (and there were definitely places the prose benefitted greatly from being tightened up). I could look at this loss of my deathless prose with a jaundiced eye and remain upset that I’d been forced to do it. And that now deep-sixed subplot was a nice humanizing addition to the story.

Then it struck me like a cold fist at the end of a wet kiss. (Firesign Theatre quote alert) Folks who purchase Roses for a Diva will be getting an extra 15,000 words for only $1.00! Isn’t that a humongously great deal? I’ve just had a marketing bonanza dropped right into my lap.

“Buy this fantastic novel today, and for one extra dollar, you’ll receive 15,000 additional words — hand-picked by the author himself! That’s right! Fifteen-thousand, correctly spelled and all placed in beautifully-parsed phrases for the low, low price of one buck. That’s like getting a whole novella extra!”

Sound like a plan?

Extra! Extra! I just have to share the following comic with everyone here. Next week is too far away.


Melodie Campbell said...

SO glad it's going to print! I've been looking forward to this one. And a good lesson for us all to read every new contract from an old publisher thoroughly, for changes. Not sure I've been doing that. Thanks, Rick.

Rick Blechta said...

Your not half as glad as I am, Mel!

I looked at it when it came in and my agent looked at it. He said he didn't notice. I certainly didn't notice and then when my wife and I both looked at the darn thing after my editor had emailed to tell me about the situation, we still didn't see it. I blame where it was placed in that first paragraph in that it straddled a line change and was at the very end. Very careful reading would have caught it, and you can be darn sure I will recite the next contract out loud to give myself every chance to catch something.

And thanks, Mel!

Charlotte Hinger said...

I really don't like reading contracts, but I think I'll get over it after reading your blog

Joan Hall Hovey said...

I had a feeling it would be fine, Rick. You're too good a writer for them to take a chance of losing you. But anxiety-making for you, nonetheless.

Best wishes with the new novel.


Rick Blechta said...

Thank you so much for your kind words, Joan. Roses will be out in November. Now I've got to figure out what's next...