Slice and Dice Time: “Safe” versus “Art”

That “slice and dice” title doesn’t mean me or someone else, thank goodness. But it does mean that I have finally heard back from my agent after about four weeks on the manuscript (see last post – Nonstop Manuscript Editing). So basically what we are looking at is another round of editing before we go out for final submission. My agent calls it “literary liposuction” – trimming the fat.

I must admit that editing is probably one of the hardest parts of this whole process, after writing the novel of course. I mean you’ve gotten to this point after enormous amounts of self-editing and professional editing and all-other-kinds of editing, and guess what, it still doesn’t end. I keep telling myself that it’s for the good of the book even despite the tiny little question niggling around in my head – am I selling out? If you don’t know what I mean by that, check out my post on Teen Fiction for Dummies.

A friend of mine says what I am going through is the classic Ben Affleck/Matt Damon conundrum (except with books not movies) – it’s the difference between making a movie that you want to make (the art film) and making the movie that everybody else wants you to make (the safe commercial film).

Excerpt from Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back:-

Jay and Silent Bob Strike BackBen Affleck: You’re like a child. What’ve I been telling you? You gotta do the safe picture. Then you can do the art picture. But then sometimes you gotta do the payback picture because your friend says you owe him.
[They both take a beat and look at the camera]
Ben Affleck: And sometimes, you have to go back to the well.
Matt Damon: And sometimes, you do Reindeer Games.

So the moral of the story is if you don’t want Reindeer Games, at the end of the day especially for a first time author, you have to do the “safe” picture – which metaphorically-speaking means, “do whatever the heck they tell you.” When you’re John Grisham, you can write the alphabet for all anyone cares.

Lesson learned. I’m off to edit.

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