Friday, July 23, 2010

Sticking to your story...

How much should you be willing to change a story to fit a publisher's preferences?

I wrote a story a while back and had a certain vision and plan for it. I was happy with it, felt if was perfect and said what I wanted it to say. I found a publisher I liked and respected, and who was willing to take my story part as I had envisioned it.

Their requests were not unreasonable and they were polite in saying, change this if you still want it published here.

I decided a little change was not a huge deal. I guess the more time that passed after writing the story, the less attached I was to it's idea. So I changed a little, and still felt okay about it. Then there was more to change, and more and suddenly the story is not what I had written. Still a good story, but not what I had envisioned for it.

I don't feel like I changed too much, since I am happy with the way it is now. I just wonder if I gave in a little too easily on my original idea of the story.

How much should one change a story to fit a publisher's ideal?


Freelancer said...

That's a hard question. Yes, it is your creation. Something you developed through sweat, tears and possibly blood. But it comes down to this: could you have gotten it published elsewhere without the changes? Would sales be as good without the changes? As much as you love your creation, it is still a business.

Savanna Kougar said...

Courtney, that is a personal choice, to change, or not to change. And every author has to make that choice.

However, unlike Freelancer, no, I wouldn't change my story because, for one thing, it would no longer BE MY STORY. Truthfully, I couldn't stand doing the editing on it, or even reading it through.

Also, imo, if a publisher is crass enough to accept your story, then change it to that degree, hey, why did they offer you a contact in the first place?

And, really, how would you know if your story would have sold better as you envisioned it, or how the publisher wanted it? Your story never made it to the readers.

I had a story that was rejected by one publisher for reasons that were so outlandish, and fundamentally untrue, I did a mental doubletake, and asked an author friend to read it for me.

Kindly, she did. She made some good suggestions, which I followed. However, her suggestions made sense and weren't out of line, unlike the publisher's reasons for rejection... which turned out to be a blessing because I submitted to another publisher who contracted the story at a higher percentage as an ebook and also, the book is now in print.

A lot of readers have given this particular book high marks and it did get 5 angels from Fallen Angel Reviews.

Yeah, my books are different and don't sell as high as some authors. However, truth to tell, I don't care for *some* of the top sellers as a reader, meaning I wouldn't purchase because I don't want to read them... so, why would I write them?

Celia Yeary said...

COURTNEY--you have just asked the toughest question an author must answer. I call it: "Do You Love Your Book?" I have gone through this more than I wanted to, but in one case it came out all right, in the other I felt as if I lost complete control of my story. Maybe sometimes we're too attached to our own words....yet in my mature years, I rely more on what I think and want. If I fail, then fine. But if a change is reasonable, sure I'll do it. But when an editor wants to completely write your story for you, that's the time to bail out. I have come to believe if the editor didn't like it at first, she won't like it when I rewrite. That happens, too. Good luck! Celia

Lindsay Townsend said...

That's a tough one, Courtney. As freelancer points out, publishing is a business and if you can see that the changes they suggest will hlep sales, then I'd say go with them - so long as you are comfortable with them and they don't change the substance of your work.

As Savanna says, it's a very personal choice and sometimes very hard to make.

As Celia points out, if you're virtually re-writing a story then will that same editor like it?

This can happen with agents, too. An agent can ask you to redo a story, then redo it again and again. I've had friends who have re-written a story maybe 3 times, 3 complete re-dos, and still the agent isn't happy.

As Savanna and Celia say - time to bail out then.

I'm happy to do changes if I can see the point of them. I wouldn't be happy to do a total re-write for the reasons Savanna and Celia mention.

Good luck!

Linda Banche said...

I think you also have to make the distinction between agents and editors. If an editor asks for a change, that's one thing--she's already contracted your story. An agent asking for a change is a different matter. She hasn't sold your story. What she's asking is what she "thinks" will help sell your story. She may be wrong.

Again, minor changes, who cares? I doubt I would totally rewrite a story for an editor, but I wouldn't do it at all for an agent.

courtneybreazile said...

Thank you guys for all the advice guys!

Bekki Lynn said...

I'm with the consensus - never rewrite your story to fit an editors idea of what your story should be. If she wants that story, let her write and publish it under her own name.

Any changes are to enhance 'your' story are the only ones that should be made.

I say, if they contracted it, and then ask for a rewrite to make a completely different story -- terminate the contract immediately.