On Writing & Publishing by Robin D. Owens

Personal notes on writing techniques, writing a novel, my writing career and threading your way through publishing a book.

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RITA Award Winning Author -- that's like the Oscar, folks! Futuristic/Fantasy Romance and Fantasy with Romantic Subplots.

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Wednesday, June 28, 2006

What Price?

What price being true to your story? I heard that Rowling might consider killing Harry Potter off in book 7 so that after she’s gone, he can’t be resurrected by another writer. Arthur Conan Doyle killed off Holmes, then had to resurrect him.

I KNOW a friend who writes romance who killed off her heroine and used her hero in a later book. I, too, have altered two stories for “outer” reasons.

So, the question is, how true do you stay to your belief in your story?

J.K. Rowling knows how the story ORIGINALLY ended. I completely agree that she should be able to write it any way she wants – and if it changes because the story has changed, or if it changes because of “outer” publishing concerns, that is HER choice to make.

But how true should an author be to the vision of the story?

My friend who wrote the romance and was true to her characters and story, destroyed her career under that name. I find THAT a terrible shame, and personally think that even if she knew the story ended with a heroine’s death (off stage) and a new heroine marrying the hero, she shouldn’t have written it. I’ve heard other romance writers who “know” what happens to their characters later, say that the marriage ended in divorce, or a hero died shortly after the book ended. I, as a reader, don’t want to hear that.

OTOH, I REALLY wanted to make Ruis Elder, my thief, an angrier, more bitter man, and give him greater growth in his character arc. When I first started Heart
Thief, nobody liked Ruis. I didn’t have the talent, then (and probably don’t now) to make him a synpathetic hero (especially of a romance) and as angry as I thought he should be. So I rewrote to give readers a man they could like and sell the book.

Is betraying your vision of a story because of publishing concerns unethical to your muse, your craft, yourself? Or am I being too righteously overblown here and should be tooting the “writing is a business” horn? Somewhere in between, probably.

In Heart Duel, for business reasons (I wanted to sell more Heart books), I ended the outer subplot on a bad note and left a thread dangling that has served me very well for the next three books. Doing that IMPROVED the story and the series, and I wouldn’t have done it otherwise, so I actually ACHIEVED a better story and series by listening to business concerns (which, since I STILL want to sell more Heart books, means I might think of a new thread to leave dangling in Heart Fate. You are warned.).

So, to me, this is a matter to think about and whichever side I come down on one day may not be the decision I make the next. But if the bottom line is staying true to my story or ruining my career, the story damn well changes.

Then, of course we get into shadings, what will please me as an author or the reader better, and how do I decide that? Again I waffle. Listen to advice. Listen to my readers.
And decide.

Ponder the question, and let me know. Or not.


Anonymous a reader said...

your friend didn't need to ruin her career, she could have told the story in a different way; for example: she could have told the story until a happy point; then tell the further story of the husband with a different name... People like to read about second chances. There are always more than two opposite ways to do things.
I confess that I read to escape reality, so I happy something uplifting, I do not need to read for sadness and failure.

2:24 PM  
Blogger Jeri said...

Speaking as someone who killed off one of her main characters at the end of her first book (Requiem for the Devil, not my Luna book), I have to say that sometimes there's no other choice. Many people told me they cried or were totally shocked but that they realized it had to happen. The ending was still uplifting and satisfying, but a traditional HEA for Lucifer would have been ludicrous and contrived.

Would I do it again, knowing what I know now about reader expectations? For that story, yes (if it ever gets reprinted). But I probably wouldn't write a new story with an ending like that. Not only because readers wouldn't like it, but because I wouldn't like it myself. Maybe only the Devil deserves that much pain. :-)

7:00 AM  
Anonymous a reader said...

I cried when Inspector Morse died, but I agreed with the writer since this end was right in everyway, even though sad and an end to the series; however it is not a story line to use often.
After all there is no shame in entertaining people.

8:43 AM  
Blogger moonhart said...

Tough call, Robin because there needs to be some balance. If you are pubbed or want to be, you are writing for an audience.

I can understand JK not wanting anyone else to writer her characters. I don't want anyone else writing mine. But I would not paint myself into a corner by killing HP off. I would tie up loose ends in the last book leave Harry alive and then write a final ending book where Harry dies, but I would put that away.

If I never decide to write another sentence about HP and am on my deathbed, I would have it in my will to be pubbed. Hopefully that would close the door on any authors trying to resurrect what I chose not to.

Yet I have given myself the OK to revisit Potter and company during my very long and illustrious life should the muse or finances dictate.


12:13 PM  
Blogger Milady Insanity said...

I don't know whether I could rewrite something to make it more palatable to readers. Frankly, my solution would be to not write that book.

But if I could, I would. Without a doubt.

12:15 PM  
Blogger Robin D Owens said...

Reader, you are right. But she felt she was being true to her craft, her passion, her story. And her editor at the time let her do it. She was also a relatively new author...

Jeri, a very good point.

Reader, yes, I've read series where a protagonist dies, but if it fits...still, I doubt I'll be doing that.

I actually was able to listen to the Rowling interview, and she said she could understand how authors might do such a thing, but I got the impression that she probably won't. ;)

Milady...it's not readers you have to worry about at first, it's ALWAYS the editor, and if you write something they don't think will sell well, then that's it. Then there's the pain of spending so much time, effort, blood and sweat on the story...


8:25 PM  

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