Cliché. So there.
First off, some business. We’re not out of material yet, but we’re catching up. I don’t want the blog to go off the weekly schedule, and I haven’t decided what I’m writing in the off weeks. Perhaps, “Plotting Your Next Novel.” Feel free to ping me on twitter (@robertjdefendi) or on Facebook (just Robert J Defendi) and chime in. (If you’re a member of the Curiosity Quills Hegemony Mind Trust that stands above me in the hierarchy, I SUPPOSE you can vote too, assuming they let brains in a jar use social media.) I suspect we have somewhere between one month and two before I catch up entirely. Although a good crisis could pad that out.
So. I got my first edits. With quivering hand and questionable bowels, I clicked to open.
You know what? It wasn’t that bad.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m an author. I try to be professional, but part of that is never saying the first thing that comes to mind, because it’s almost always defensive, self-centered, and objectively wrong. I sent my editor an email clarifying how certain parts of the process work. I believe there was a carefully worded question or two about the generalities of what happened if we disagreed. His response was equally polite.
BTW, I’m not linking anything in this post, because I suspect I’m in the middle of switching hosting and all the Wymore hyperlinks in Part 9 were messed up in the transfer. Or, for those who don’t care how the sausage is made, I’m not linking because: screw links, that’s why. Look at the last post for links to Wymore and my editor Michael, and the only new person in this post doesn’t have an industry-relevant web presence any longer. Although, if you’re looking for a real estate person in Utah, you could worse than Judith Engracia. (Who, on rereading this, I know realize that I never mentioned, so “Hi, Judith!”)
But I digress.
Wymore assured me, during one of those drug-induced trips to Vegas that I probably imagined, that the manuscript was solid. It wouldn’t need many edits. Logically, I knew he was probably right, since Michael wasn’t the first editor to dig into the manuscript. That still didn’t mitigate the Kaftaesque existential angst that comes from opening a set of edits the first time.
But Wymore was right (I mean even a broken microwave flashes the correct time twice a day). There were no soul crushing edits. There were some that were annoying, sure, but I brought almost all of those on myself (Damico sighed something like 25 times in the version I sent in, and don’t get me started on the word “Leap,”)
I left the line-item crap for the full pass, but I read through all the general comments first, because if Michael misunderstood something on page 100, it’s likely that the fix needed to go on page 5. I also noted the words he thought I had overused and so I did a find and replace, replacing “jump” with “***jump”, and so on, so that they’d all stand out. By the time I was done with that, his email had come back to agree with my overarching question: could I leave threads open for a sequel? My intention was to address them but not resolve them, so the reader would know I was an ass, not an idiot. He replied that yes, indeed, that was fine. Also, he agreed that I’m an ass.
So I started.
Do you know about Murder Your Darlings? Well if you don’t, google it (because to hell with links). The first darling was my prologue. I loved my prologue. In it, I depict for those with an encyclopedic knowledge of gaming history (because I never name the characters involved) a fictional version of the conversation between Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson that spawned all of modern gaming. I don’t remember his note on that scene, but it was obvious Michael didn’t think it was carrying it’s narrative weight. Then, as I considered it, I realized that it offered an explanation for the rest of the novel that would suck all of the tension away for a really astute reader. Also, it was an interpretation I might not want to use, going forward. So I pulled out the machete and killed it in cold blood.
Want to know what the best thing about Michael is? Well, it’s probably his soulful gaze, but for the purposes of this book, it’s his complete lack of knowledge in all things table top gaming.
There are aspects of this book that are so integral to the core concepts of gaming that not one reader has ever asked me about them. I assume that’s because anyone I’ve bumped into where this novel is concerned has at least some tangential connection to the hobby. Michael had none of these.
And that’s why he’s the best person that could possibly have edited this book. Why would a character in a game need to sleep? What’s happening at the table when this is going on? How can a character in a game have a family, does that mean his family came into the game? Are you insane? These are just some of the most basic questions that I stupidly assumed everyone would already know. Not even my mother caught them.
But here’s the thing, I want this book to be accessible to people who have never gamed before. I want this book accessible to people who’ve never had family members into gaming. I even want this book accessible to people who’ve never been cornered by a looney gamer at a convention. I want ANYONE to be able to understand this book. So I had some core concepts that needed a better explanation.
I started work on the process. I did about six chapters a night, usually starting after 10. Five nights a week (so that I could work on writing group stuff on Thursday night and have an online gaming night on Mondays). That would take me two weeks and change. Wymore was right and the edits weren’t super heavy, so that was a sustainable pace.
Now there’s an audiobook version of this novel already out in the world and I went and negotiated a contract that guaranteed that CQ would not, under any circumstances, fork out one penny of their own money on rerecording it. I just made it so there was too little financial benefit in doing so.
So while I started the edits, I kept notes on which sections I’d changed enough to warrant re-recording. Meanwhile I sent the audiobook to my audio guy so he could see what would be involved in building a chimera recording out of the two versions. See, his rate doesn’t changed based on difficulty (at least I assume it doesn’t) but it’s hourly, so something ten times harder will still cost ten times more. I needed to start getting an idea of what that involved.
He did not like the current version. He did not like it at all.
I re-listened to it and I could see his point. Matching the room quality of that recording to the quality of his studio would be a monumental task. We couldn’t even just go record where the original had been recorded, because that building literally no longer exists.
So thinking about it, I realized that the book is probably less than 8 hours of finished recording (maybe 24 hours of total work on the outside). It was probably cheaper to rerecord the entire thing than to try to match two sets of recordings. Also, I didn’t want him to hate me by the time we were done.
So as the minor changes in the edits snowballed, I lost the ability to use the audiobook that had gotten me this far. I had to start from scratch, and I’d negotiated a contract that made sure that all of that fell on my shoulders.
Because I’m brilliant, that’s why.
P.S. Dammit. I typed that whole post and didn’t once say the name of the book is Death by Cliché.