There is a tiny branch of the New York City Public Library in the West Village. It has one large room – not nearly enough space to house a fraction of the books and periodicals of the main library on Fifth Avenue, the one with the big lions guarding the entrance. So I reserve books online and when they get delivered to the branch from elsewhere in the library system, I get an email. That’s service I can live with (though if they could somehow mail them to my apartment like Netflix, I’d be a happy camper). At a time when many cities are cutting back on community programs and services, I’m grateful for my little library.
On Friday I swung by to pick up my hold Soul of a Dog, by Jon Katz (book review to come) and noticed a well-loved copy of The Subway Chronicles in the “Check Out These Local Authors” section. I’ve seen my book in random public places in the past (and not just product placement I’ve negotiated with annoyed friends either), and it’s always a thrill. And to be on a shelf with other Village authors like Jane Jacobs, Edna St. Vincent-Millay and Dylan Thomas (who each lived near the library for a time)!
I can hear you saying to yourself, “I loved The Subway Chronicles! I can’t wait to read your next book. How’s that going?”
Thanks for asking. I’m currently revising my novel with the helpful advice of my lovely and fabulous agent Margaret. After much deliberation, I decided to change from first person to third to help the secondary characters become more dimensional.
“Whoa!” you say. “That’s extensive.”
Why yes, it is. Thank you for noticing. This level of editing inevitably sparks debates in many writing workshops. Everybody’s a critic and everybody’s got an opinion. As a writer, when do you (if I may invoke The Gambler theme) know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em, know when to walk away, know when to run?
I used to follow the oft-held belief of more heavily weighting the opinions of those authors whose writing I liked best. Now I realize that some people, while great writers, can’t edit their way out of a paper bag, and others are wonderful editors even though their novel chapters should be lining a birdcage. For me, I’ve decided to go with my gut. Ultimately only I know if someone’s suggestions will change the integrity of the piece as I (or the characters) had intended. I realize that if I have no idea whose advice to heed, it means that I’m not comfortable with the work itself, i.e. there’s something fundamentally wrong with it.
As far as changing my novel from first person to third, Iknew it was the right direction when I had an a-ha moment. For the first time I saw opportunities to round out some of the characters that I’d missed in previous edits. It will take a few more months, I think, but I’m up to the challenge.
“I can’t wait to read it,” you say. “Let me know as soon as I can pre-order on Amazon.”
Of course. I’ll be doing shameless plugs as soon as humanly possible. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s that there’ll be time enough for countin’ when the dealing’s done.