Saturday, 7 February 2009

Ch..ch..ch..changes

I am working on the my new book for Bloomsbury. I have been calling it Ghosts in old blog posts and then changed that to The Secrets of Hawton Mere. I am wondering if that is going to be the title when it goes onto print. Titles are strange things. They are either there from the start - sometimes before the start - or they they just loom out at you one day.

I see nothing wrong with this. It would be a problem if the nature of the novel was in a state of flux and the title tinkering reflected this indecision. But a title needs to be right. And the only way you know if it is right is when you hear it.

I have spoken at length to Helen Szirtes about the various issues she has with the book and the issues I might have with those issues and so on. But surely this means I am a terrible writer. Surely I should be able to do it all on my own. Why do I need help? I am a failure etc etc. . .

Well not really. The editor/writer relationship is one of constant negotiation. Certainly a writer who gives in to every suggestion probably doesn't know what they are doing. A writer who refuses to accept any suggestion is probably insecure. And a writer who refuses to consider good suggestions - especially when they are coming from someone as intelligent and insightful as Helen - is just plain stupid.

For a lot of the time I was an illustrator I would do anything to avoid using someones suggestion. I felt like it was my job to come up with the ideas and I had failed if someone else did it. I would reject perfectly good ideas just so that I could hang on to the notion that it was all my work.

I think working in newspapers changed that. In newspapers you are usually dealing with an editor rather than a designer and they are used to talking things through with journalists - that's the way they work. Journalists tend to have an annoying desire to have every word in the article portrayed in the illustration, but at least they know what they are talking about when it comes to the article you are supposed to illustrate or the concept you are dealing with in your cartoon. At the Independent I had Matt Hoffman on the comment pages and he was no more going to let a lame cartoon of mine through, than he was a lame column. And quite right too.

I still don't take advice easily. I still want to do everything myself. But with writing I think I'm more willing to accept that what I've done might not be the only way to go. I want everything I do to be better than the last thing I did. I want everything I do to be the best it can possibly be and if someone can see a route to that better than I can, then I'm not going to deliberately walk the other way just to be bloody minded.

Philippa Milnes-Smith got in touch having read Helen's suggestions and gave me some more, just as thoughtful as Helen's. I won't be incorporating them all. In fact some of the detail will become irrelevant as I work and areas are discarded or added to and characters dropped and introduced. But Helen and Philippa's comments will help me decide what to keep and what to lose.

Isabel Ford sent the proofs of Tales of Terror from the Tunnel's Mouth today. It is a general rule of thumb that publishing deadlines are drawn to each other as if by some kind of gravitational force. So I need to get this book sorted out and back to Bloomsbury and then I need to get the proofs read and sent back. It is going to be a busy few weeks.

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