While floating about the blog flotsom a few minutes this morning, I discovered this:

“Whenever I want to write a book, I am obliged (by contract) to submit an outline to my publisher first. My editor reads it, decides if she likes the idea, the premise, and the story I describe in a 40 or 50 page outline, that is supposed to include the characters, plot, and details of the book, broken down by chapter. The fact that I have to do that always surprises people. They assume that after all the books I’ve written (107 to date), I can just write whatever I want, send it off, and my publishers are thrilled. That’s not how it works in real life, or not mine anyway. (I used to have to submit several sample chapters or even half the book. Now I just have to submit the outline). The editor then calls me or writes to me, and makes lots of comments about what they don’t like, want changed, or what doesn’t work… After that, with their notes well in hand, and my outline, I write the book.”

That’s a pretty honest assessment of being the author of a specific genre. Genre work can be reliably warm and connecting, but also very scrutinized and monitored by protective publishers who know (or believe they know based on the numbers) their audience very, very well. The author goes on to discuss personal editing in an equally frank passage:

“Re-reading it is like looking in a huge magnifying mirror where you see every pore, speck and flaw on your face. And then, finally, I send the book to my editor, and the real worrying begins…”

I think I must have read some of these books as a kid, holed up in hot summer breezes behind ruffled white curtains in my grandmother’s pink arm chair sorting through towers of hardbacks, sifting for the action. There’s always action in any story, of a kind or another. Some prefer travel tales. Ladies prefer bodice ripping and shaggy-shouldered gasps of air. At least, that was my general impression at the time. Then I discovered the stash of “Lady’s Magazines” unassuming and innocent looking as they collected rumpled circles beneath the mid-day tea glasses. You can either be a grandmother, retired and catching up on the revolution through these conveniently covered issues touting baking bits and health elixirs, or you can be a seven year old picking up basic anatomy through the letters to the editor pages. I’m sure both are equally divine.

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