“In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not.”
Novels are like children. We give birth to them with much patience, pain, and travail, and that’s just the beginning. We tend to their every need, rush to their every cry, dress them, feed them, and mold them. Then, one day they go off into the care of well-meaning strangers who say they have only the best interests of the children in mind.
Lying in wait along the way to those “best interests”, are merciless editors—creatures born without a heart or soul. As soon as a book begins its journey, editors fall upon their helpless prey, swords at the ready. Like savages they proceed to torture our babies: cutting off their limbs, ripping out their tongues, and chopping off their heads before delivering the bleeding remains to the author.
The scene that follows is reminiscent of Herod’s slaughter of the innocents. Weeping will not save them. Pleading avails nothing. Their only hope is that there lies within their creator the power to resurrect them from the dead.
Can the one who gave them life raise them again? The answer lies in the heart—or more precisely, the ego—of the author.
Unconditional love, the kind we have for our children, whether flesh or paperback, often requires the sacrifice of our wishes to give the child the fullest, best life possible. Not every writer is capable of that kind of love, and even for those determined to do the right thing, it’s not an easy path to walk.
Sending a book out into the world alone means trusting in the job you did bringing it to life and that you have given it what it needs to survive. There is more at stake in doing the right thing by our books than seeing them made into a bound volume with our name on the cover.
Our integrity and commitment as a writer hang in the balance. The brutality of the editors reflects directly on our parenting skills. I’m a stubborn, argumentative man who comes down hard when crossed or my goals are frustrated.
In my personal dealings, I give too little reflection upon the consequences of shooting from the hip and letting God sort out the dead and wounded. I call it my Masada complex, though I’m sure there is not such a glorious name for it.
Strangely, the only instance in which my thoughts lean first to acceptance when facing criticism is with my writing. This is so not because I doubt my skills as a writer, or that I don’t value winning. I just know when I am blind to my own faults. (I wish I could translate that into my personal dealings with people.)
I’ve read a sentence I’ve written a dozen times and not realized that I wrote “no” instead of “not”. I’ve seen it on the face of readers when my King James leaning word choices and sentence structure draw puzzled looks. Well, that has to go—because what the reader sees/understands is more important to the story than my style.
I know enough to know that I’m not completely flexible though. I don’t know how many times I’ve been told that werewolves, vampires, and haunted houses are passé. Yet, I keep on writing them the way I see them—bloody and without zing or sparkle.