Tuesday, March 3, 2009

But when do you ask the question of publishing?

I don’t think we should leap too early in defining if work is “publishable.” What is or is not publishable changes from year to year, and from editor to editor. The greatest proof of that is all the awful books that find their way onto the shelves of the world amidst the great ones. And even the great ones had to start somewhere:

“So far this story isn’t really interesting.”

“Really? You think?”

“Yeah. I mean, it’s exciting at the beginning, but once she stops the dad from killing the pig, it’s just about a kid taking care of her pet. We’ve seen it before.”

“But it’s going to get better. You see, the pig is lonely, and he finds out he’s destined for the dinner table. So he befriends a spider.”

“A spider?”

“Yes, a spider. Harriet. Or maybe Charlotte. I haven’t decided. But the spider helps him by writing words in her web.”

“How did the spider learn to write?”

“Um…I don’t know. But she does. And she writes nice things in her web about the pig. Compliments, you know? People think it’s a miracle and decide to keep the pig in the barn instead of the smokehouse.”

“What age did you say this was for?”

“Middle grade. Why?”

“Sounds kind of graphic for a kids’ story. And I don’t think anyone’s going to believe that a spider can write.”

Okay, so my point is that no matter what the work is, I don’t think whether or not it can be published should be determined based on the first few pages of an early draft. Period. I think the time to question the marketability of work happens much, much later. At the end of the writing, when the group has had their say and read many drafts of the work and doesn’t have anything more to add, then I think we can ask, “Would you publish this?” Meanwhile, we have to write the characters and the stories we love. Because if we don’t love them in the first place, they’re never going to be good enough.


Robert A Meacham said...

Characters drive the story ,no doubt. If the author believes in the story and its ending, its already publishable, if not only for the author.

Lisa said...

That's true, Robert. Then it's just a matter of finding the right editor...:)