Stories that are complete and coherent have a resonance, at least to me. There is something wonderful about a book that leaves no loose ends, a story in which every detail adds up. Every character acts in character in these books, yet their actions aren’t entirely predictable. The plot makes sense, but twists in surprising directions. The style of storytelling is elegant, with the flourishes of a master storyteller. The whole is greater than the sum of the parts.
This is what I mean by resonance. These carefully crafted stories don’t strike any false notes. In fact, they seem to chime in a perfect tone that indicates everything within them is exactly as it should be. They are the best possible recounting of their particular story.
Over the years, I’ve developed an inner ear for story resonance. Of course, I’d like every single book I write to have this kind of coherence. The problem is that the last perfect idea, the one that pulls everything together and creates resonance, doesn’t always pop into my head on time. Ideas can’t be scheduled. They turn up when they want to – or not. And the ideas that create resonance are particularly evasive. Creative thinking and problem solving dislikes stress – like that created by deadlines – or interference – like that caused by real life. The creative part of the brain likes to play, and find solutions sideways.
This is why the strategies in Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way are so helpful. She not only understands sideways thinking, but knows how to encourage it. You need lots of sideways thinking to create books with resonance, so I’m always looking to improve my strategies.
In the past year, I’ve realized that I came up with an adaptive strategy – a compromise, really – to deal with the evasiveness of the ideas that create resonance and the realities of print publishing schedules. When working with a traditional publisher, delivering to deadline is a very important measure of the author’s reliability. Authors who don’t deliver on time might not be offered new contracts. They might have their books rescheduled, or they might be assigned to a more junior editor (who has more time to juggle the author’s perceived unreliability). Because publishers work with so many books and need to keep their production costs down across the board, keeping the schedule in Production is more important than most (if not all) other concerns. There’s a big potential downside to being late, so I’ve always been very driven to meet deadline.
But what about those evasive ideas? The good thing about traditional publishing schedules is that the delivery for the book is usually twelve months or so before its publication date. The editorial process can easily take six months, albeit at 45 to 60 day intervals. At my most recent publishing house, there was always a revision requested to the ms. That was new to me – at other publishers, revisions were only requested if the delivered book had a serious issue. This house revised everything. So, previously, I had been late once in a while or worked very intensely to deliver a resonant book on time. For this house, once I recognized that this pattern was the rule not the exception, it was easier to deliver on time. I knew there would be the expectation that I’d do a major revision in 45 – 60 days. I would keep thinking about the story and making notes on it while it was on my editor’s desk. In the revision phase, I could make the changes required by all the ideas that had come to me in that waiting period. This was all good.
One of the joys of indie-publishing for me is that I can hold off on publishing a book if it isn’t resonant enough to make me happy. One of the challenges is that I’d forgotten about that compromise solution. I was thinking that I still always delivered a resonant book on time, and that the idea fairies were more biddable than they are.
This calls for a different kind of revision, one to my work schedule!
It’s quite common for a work to be technically complete, but not quite resonant. This happened with KISS OF DARKNESS in March. It was done, but I knew it was missing something. It wasn’t quite right. Because everything in our life was at sixes and sevens, the idea fairies made themselves scarce. I couldn’t focus on the story enough to figure out what it needed, not when my husband was commuting to the hospital to visit his dad. My spring fever binge late last week made a tremendous difference in coaxing the fairies back to work. While I focused on flowers and colour and plants, the creative part of my brain was thinking sideways. Now *ping* Damien’s story has the resonance it needed.
The second Dragon Legion Novella is at the formatter today. Damien’s story will be published very very soon, maybe even later today. 🙂
The revision is to my announcement schedule. I’m needing to leave a little more buffer in my plans to allow the idea fairies to play and resonance to develop. In future, I’m going to give you publication dates when works are much much closer to publication. I’ll still set out a schedule, but that will give me a little wiggle room and keep you from being disappointed that I’m late.