The Changing Room...also Abattoir for the Unyielding

Do you have clients who are unwilling to change anything in their manuscripts? (Okay, I realize this little problem probably crops up BEFORE you sign anyone, and so you therefore don't sign an uncooperative--aka unrealistic--writer, but still one wonders....) When is it okay for a writer to protect the artistic integrity of her work? When should the writer be willing to change her work and when shouldn't she? If you want changes, and the writer doesn't want to make them, do you insist or send the work out anyway?

I'm curious because my earlier comment to your blog about the writer in my group who won't change her characters' ages got me to thinking about it. That would be an insignificant change, of course, but I was wondering about the bigger picture and what's worth fighting for and what isn't.

Short answer: no

middle answer: read your contract

Longer answer: Many agents have clauses in the representation agreement that they can make minor changes that don't affect the integrity of the work. MIne doesn't. We're going to agree on the finished format before it goes out. Publishing contracts also have those kinds of clauses.

I've never had a client flat out refuse to make a change. We've come to blows over some of those "was" "had" and "to be" verbiage that makes me crazy but in the end we agreed on what was going out to editors.

I have refused to sign clients who wouldn't make changes I thought were neccesary. As a reader, if I'm confused about something, and I read it again, I don't think the problem is that I'm stupid. I think it's the writing that needs to be cleaned up. Not everyone agrees with that truth. They're wrong. They're also represented as they say "elsewhere".

When should you not make changes? I don't know.
That's why it's important to have an agent you have some confidence in.
At some point, you have to believe in their judgement and value their input.
Same goes for your editor.
Intransigence is very Ayn Rand...but it makes really rotten clients.


Deran Ludd said...

To me, for my writing, there's always room for change. I like deadlines because I love rewriting and adjusting and compressing and refining, and I can do that forever. And thus a deadline is a good thing for me. I have friends in the biz and fellow writers that I have look at my work and critique it and I build on my story off of those comments (for the better!) With both of my novels that have been published I worked quite enjoyably with the editor on refining the story. I enjoy that level of detailed interest in what I've written. My first book was a test of my willingness to listen, but once I realized they were very much into what I had written, and were excited to work with me on refining it, I loved it. I realize that that is also about making a connection with a person to the level that professionally and intellectually I trusted them.

Molly said...
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Christine said...

I enjoy constructive crit. "this sux" is not constructive. "I like this and this, but this and this could be better." IS. I think we all know that.

As long as my story line isn't drastically altered, I have no problem with making changes. My last editor and I got along famously.

Another Author said...

I have absolutely no problem making changes. I think authors can be too close to their work. I made minor changes to my manuscript for my agent before we sent it out. I made far bigger changes for my editor. In the end, the book is better and it's still mine.

Lynn Raye Harris said...

Thanks for the answer, Miss Snark. I think the part where you said you've refused to sign clients who wouldn't make necessary changes says it all. While I don't yet have an agent or editor to read my work, I do have a first reader I trust. Oh, I do grumble and growl a bit, and gnash the teeth and curl up into a ball and whine. That lasts for about a day. Then I usually realize he's right and I change it. :) I also think of Jennifer Weiner's post to writers where she talks about the agent who wanted to change everything. She was reluctant, didn't feel that agent loved her book, etc. And then she found someone who did love her book and because of that, she trusted this agent. They worked together on the rewrites. Obviously, it didn't hurt her a bit to be willing to change. :)

Miss Snark said...

"I also think of Jennifer Weiner's post to writers where she talks about the agent who wanted to change everything. She was reluctant, didn't feel that agent loved her book, etc. And then she found someone who did love her book and because of that, she trusted this agent."

The changes I suggest aren't usually things like "make the hero a Martian" or some such subtantive change. They're usually plot points, plot developments and syntax.

I sold a book recently and then the editor wanted to change the entire focus of the book. The author and I were a bit taken aback. They bought a book on avocados and now wanted one on avuncular artists. yes both topics start with A, but that was it.

We withdrew from the deal.

And Robert Crais bought his book back from Hyperion when they weren't all enthusiastic about promoting it. Sold it to Doubleday I think then.

First comes love. Then comes all the rest.

Yanno..like life.

Laraqua said...

I always fear that some editor - I fear editors more than agents, dunno why - will demand a 'superficial' change like: "I think this will sell better if you set this in America/England, wherever". Sure, in my current novel that would be fairly superficial and would not affect the plot, however, the style of a Australian city, the way people speak, act and dress, vary widely, not to mention it's kind of offensive. Oh well, just thought I'd rant about my paranoias. Luckily this is in the old posts so no one will read it.

*twiddles thumbs*