On Persistence

Recently, Moonrat had a post on Editorial Ass about a conversation that she's had (and hear others have) about books. According to Moonrat, at some point in most projects, someone gets tired of the book and says "it is what it is," and sends it on to the next step, even if it's not quite 100%.

You know what, it's true.

I mean, I haven't seen it happen in the publishing industry--I don't work in the publishing industry--but I do write in my day job, and there's a point in drafting the contract or the brief where the team says "F*** it; print it and let's go."

And it's not because the lawyers on the team are lazy or untalented or don't know what they're doing. It's because they're tired. Because they've poured their time, their blood, sweat, and tears into the work, because they want to win. But there's only so much you can give before you have to throw up your hands and take a break. And if you're facing a deadline and can't take a break? Well, then, it is what it is. And the contract goes to the other side and you think you'll catch it in the next round of revisions.

So if it happens in the law, where people are already getting paid for their work, then of course it happens in the publishing industry, where most people are laboring for love (at least at first). It's hard to keep going back to a project over and over again with no end in sight, wondering when you're going to be good enough to go to the next step (which will just require more work).*

But Moonrat also has a good point about dealing with the inevitable fatigue:

The best professionals in any sector of the industry are the ones who fight it out a couple more rounds before throwing up their hands. Since you can't guarantee that anyone else who will be working on your book at any other stage will have the time, energy, and bandwidth to give it their all to the bitter end, you, the author, would do yourself a favor by not being the lazy one.

You may be tired. You may be fed up. You may be exhausted. But fight it out a couple more rounds, if you can.


* Some of the commenters on Moonrat's post are a little righteous about this fact. They say things like "I will never be the one who gives up on my work" and "I love everything about writing and would never be tired of working" (I'm paraphrasing). I hope that it's true for them, but it's never been true of anyone else I knew who worked in publishing.


I completely get what you're saying! You can always, always tweak and revise your book, and I know that authors still have the urge to fix things even after they're published! But you can't tweak forever, and eventually what you're doing will only make a miniscule difference in the quality of the book. That's when I hit the end.

I revise on multiple levels, even reading the book aloud, until it becomes procrastinating, then I give it one more go to satisfy the perfectionist within. And that's all! Fiction is also so subjective, you have to "give up" at some point, because it's theoretically never finished!

Monday, June 7, 2010 at 10:25:00 AM EDT  

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