Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

The Implied Author Part VI: Editing and Dramaturgy: How Many Cooks?

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The Implied Author Part VI: Editing and Dramaturgy: How Many Cooks?

From the Cormorant Books blog. This is the sixth installment in a series of original posts by Silver Salts author Mark Blagrave.

This time of year, university teachers are all abuzz about nurturing “academic integrity.” By this, most of them seem to mean wiping out plagiarism. The notion of “intellectual property” gets harder and harder to convey as technology makes virtually everything virtually available. I used to get up in arms about all this too; and I still hate the idea that somebody thinks they’re putting something over on me. But as for “ownership” of a piece of writing, it’s become less cut and dried for me.

Once upon a time, I had a view of the writer’s life as solitary, self-sufficient. I put a lot of stock in the intimate etymological connexion between "author" and "authority." I would write my work all by myself, and readers would read what I had made. Work with editors, dramaturges, and actors, has shown me (thankfully) it’s not that simple.

I don’t imagine anyone comes away from a session with an editor without feeling a little righteous indignation. You slave away for months on something, and in an hour somebody who might even be a stranger deftly shows you where all the holes are. The level of indignation is probably directly proportional to how right they are. You know it, but it’s hard to admit. The byzantine structure you erected for your novel is diagnosed too complicated for a reader to follow, too dry an academic exercise to interest anyone but a dead French critic. It smarts, but from the wreckage you save what really matters and you weave a story that might actually attract readers — as distinct from literary critics.

You learn quickly to trust the editor’s instincts. She or he becomes your ideal reader. After all, you are writing to be read. As long as the relationship does not become a folie à deux, there will be more readers like her out there, and the book will find favour, and sell. Statisticians wouldn’t bet on it, but it seems to work. Of course, it’s not entirely your book any more: the editor is a partner, though usually a silent one. They must expect their reward on some other plane.

Courtesy of Cormorant Books. Read the rest of Mark Blagrave's The Implied Author, Part VI at the Cormorant Books blog.

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