OK, Thriller Guy is back in the blog harness after several weeks away while writing a real article for money. (Note to all those writers who TG interviewed for the article and who did not make it into print. They edited the hell out of the piece because of space constraints, so many of you got cut, for no particular reason. Sorry, your wonderful answers to TG's questions will eventually appear on this site or in another article if TG can talk them into it.)
For all of you writers and readers out there who are successful, unsuccessful, unpublished, happily published, tortured, cursed with longing, blissful, eaten up with envy, or whatever, TG suggests that you go to Salon.com and read Laura Miller's terrific interview with publishing great Robert Gottlieb. There's a lot of excellent material in this article about the process of writing and editing that Gottlieb says far better than what TG has been trying to say over the past few years. And TG knows that some of you, on reading the words 'publishing great Robert Gottlieb,' are going to roll your eyes and figure you don't really have the time, and it will probably be boring, etc., etc. TG would like to say, just read the article because it's really good. Has TG ever steered you wrong?
TG had a recent email conversation with an excellent, extremely popular, bestselling author who TG admires, who said he had looked at TG's website and felt, generally, that it was “... about Fitzgerald and Hemingway and topics like that and didn't have anything to do with me.” And that some day he might read the archives, but that right now he was just an everyday kind of a salt-of-the-earth writer who didn't have time for that sort of erudition. But he did like it when TG told writers to stop whining and get off their asses and write. First of all, TG was flattered that a guy of this caliber would read this humble blog, and, secondly, mortified to think that the advice TG was slinging week after week could in any way be construed as, well, highfalutin? Intellectual? TG sees this stuff as Practical. Necessary. Basic. No bullshit. A kick in the ass. A tonic for what ails the poor, misunderstood, hard-working everyday writer. The men and women who labor without much in the way of recompense or honor, who live in pain while trying to come up with the right word, the right collection of words, to create something, if not of beauty, but at least something that at least makes sense. That tells a story. TG thinks of writing like he thinks of digging ditches: When it's done right, at great physical (and mental) labor, the cool water eventually flows in the correct direction.
Ah, stop it, TG, you're killing me here.
Anyway, here's a little sample, (below) from the Gottlieb piece. TG has always sensed that what Gottlieb says, in this instance, might be the case, but was afraid that it was true. How many times has TG read a book and thought, What a piece of shit. How could any editor, self respecting or not, let this crap through? How many times has TG thought, and even written, “What this book needs is a good editor.” Well, from Gottlieb, here's at least one answer:
“Whenever a review says "What this book needed was more editing," it's usually the book you spent the most time editing. That's because its problems were so severe that you've worked the text (and the writer) as far as possible. There comes a moment when either you the editor or you the writer cannot look at it again: It's over, and you have to let it go”
Who knew? TG has been waiting for years to read this explanation. And he apologizes for ever thinking that editors (or at least many editors) were stupid. It turns out that in many cases they have done all that they can do. That they probably feel, professionally, spiritually, and personally that they can do no more. That the contracts and promises of those in the publishing company, made by those who are far above them, have decreed that this book, as crappy as it might be, is going to be published and will make the company money because its readers may not really care about editing niceties or even the basics of good sense, so just shut your damn mouth, fix what can be fixed, don't piss off the writer because he might abandon ship and head to another house. Just get the book onto the shelves.
Or you're fired.