Two rejections in the past few days. One was "can't use it." The other was "can't use it. Best of luck placing it elsewhere." Maybe I'm fooling myself, but I get the impression that the first response was really saying, "It's not at all right for our publication." And the second response was saying, "this shows promise, it's not right for us, but keep trying." One has to parse these or one goes mad.
After the Fire is my Hollywood novel-in-progress; written between 2004 and 2006, and tinkered with ever since. I cut 13,000 words this weekend. It's down to a very trim 90,700 words now. There's only one scene that was really hard to give up; but there was just no place for it, and it's already been published as an excerpt so, "Adios for the nonce!"
It's interesting how when you cut explicit words, the imagination provides them anyway. Readers get the idea without seeing the close-up of the naughty bits. I suppose I had to originally write it to see how the characters behaved, but I found that cutting "insert tab A into slot B" the prose got stronger by pointing to those events so the reader can imagine them in the white space.
I want the 90K word count because it feels right: balanced, manageable, and accessible-not because of publishing constraints. I decided to cut one scene because, although it shows my hero slipping deeper into mental illness, the other subject-matter seemed too extreme for the mainstream (he winds up in a bathhouse). I'm finally thinking about my audience. I want to hint at the nitty-gritty, not rub their noses in it. So I'm showing compassion for my readers, lol. I want to attract as wide an audience as I can.
I wrote out of order and without a clear idea of where the story was going, so I wrote about 75 scenes for After the Fire (some MUCH better than others, lol...) but when I pieced the novel together like a puzzle, 25 of those just naturally fell by the wayside. For example, there's a three chapter series concerning the villain's background that never made the cut. So much of what would otherwise have been cutting a manuscript of 150K words (if I'd tried to keep every scene) didn't have to be done because those scenes were never part of the mix. There's still plenty to cut. Smoothing and mixing transitions is definitely the project I face now. Writing scenes out of order and with no narration is a great way to start a novel; however, it just takes so long to finish! Writing scenes out of order and with no narration pretty much guarantees that your scenes will have some kind of purpose underlying them but fitting them together into a coherent narrative is a big effort.
Philip Glass set this passage to music in his 5th Symphony. It is one of the most beautiful non-scriptural passages I have ever read, and I want to put it to memory. Reminds me a little of the prayer of St. Francis.
Gladly do I rejoice In the virtue that relieves the misery Of all those who suffer And place them in happiness.
Thus by the virtue collected Through all that I have done, May the pain of every living creature Be completely cleared away.
May I be the doctor and the medicine And may I be the nurse For all sick beings in the world Til everyone is healed.
May a rain of food and drink descend To clear away the pain of thirst and hunger And during the aeons of famine May I myself change into food and drink.
May I become an inexhaustible treasure For those who are poor and destitute; May I turn into all the things they could need And may these be placed close beside them.
May I be protector for those without one, A guide for all travelers on the way; [May I be] a bridge, a boat and a ship For all who wish to cross the water.
May I be an island for those who seek one And a lamp for those wishing light, [May I be] a bed for all who wish to rest And a slave for all who want a slave.
May I be a wishing jewel, a magic vase, Powerful mantras and great medicine, [May I become] a wish-fulfilling tree And a cow of plenty for the world.
Just like space And the great elements such as earth, May I always support the life Of all the boundless creatures.
And until they pass away from pain May I also be the source of life For all the realms of varied beings That reach unto the ends of space.
Sãntideva: Bodhicaryãvatãra 3:1, 6-925; 3:17-21 (Sanskrit, translated from the Tibetan commentary by Thog-me Zang-po)
Welcome to Blank Space. In art, blank space is negative space. In writing, blank space exists between the lines of printed text (the black space). It is the unique perspective that a reader brings to the work; what the reader experiences in a work of fiction that may not be set down explicitly on the page. A work containing blank space has no overlong exposition, backstory or explanation. It is simple, direct and active.
Michael Hacker writes fiction, is a former stage actor and director, is interested in all forms of storytelling both character and plot-driven, loves to discuss philosophy, ethics and psychology, and criminal psychopathology. He is interested in crime and the legal system. He loves computers, but as an end-user. Mike's overall philosphy is stoic acceptance that mixes Christianity with the philosophy of Epictetus.