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Author Topic: Do authors write books?
Member # 10202

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Recently one of you pointed out to me the first page of the draft of Orwell’s “1984”. I was disillusioned by that draft page. I thought the (draft) writing was hideous. I hope Orwell made the “revision” comments and not someone else or I do not know what I’ll think of Orwell. Recall that 1984 was his last book, not his first.

Then there is Tom Clancy. I understand he didn’t write his last few books. There are other authors in similar situations, I’m sure.

Here is a theory I dearly hope is false. In each step of the following, the author gets proportionally more money.

1) New author writes a great, first book.

2) Publisher pays new author very little. This is okay. Publisher makes lion share of money on book. This is okay, too.

3) Author writes a second book.

4) Publisher invests more editing assets into book because author is no longer such a high risk.

5) Author writes a third book.

7) Publisher knows it is going to make millions from it, so the publisher devotes even more editing assets. Published book is a faint reflection of the author’s draft.

8) Author writes a fourth book, becoming progressively lazy, produces a marginal draft at best and waits for the big paycheck.

9) Publisher devotes entire buildings filled with editors to fix up the draft because the publisher knows it will make mega-millions.

Please tell me the above is false. Maybe this is why some very famous authors write one, or perhaps only a few books. (Salinger; Lee; Mitchell; Shelley (she was only 20 when she wrote Frankenstein!))

I went to my son’s band concert last night. They PERFORMED. It was them in front of the audience. There were no editors, safety nets, re-dos, or Mulligans. Real-time only. Professional musicians must be perfect, or they will be fired. What are authors in comparison, a bunch of fakes?

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Member # 8019

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Tom Clancy researched, vetted, edited, revised, and approved his later books co-ghostwritten by up-and-coming ambitious writers, apprentices, so to speak. J.D. Salinger backed away from fame because he was offended by uncalled-for negative criticism and filmmakers distorting his creative vision (dissociation affect condition presentations). Harper Lee only had one book to write, unlike similar child writer S.E. Hinton, though Hinton peaked with her first novel The Outsiders. Margeret Mitchell only had one meaningful novel in her repetoire. Mary Shelly wrote other works but none to the depth degree and ongoing popularity and critical acclaim of Frankenstein. James Michener did, from the beginning of his career, follow Clancy's later process. However, like Clancy, Michener evaluated and hired his own staff, independent of his publisher.

Publisher editing is neither the cause of continuing popularity nor cause for popularity decline. If a house's staff editors could write the novels in the first place, there would be no need for writers in the first place. Actually, writers employed by publishers do comprise a fraction of for-hire or commission writers writing for creative nonfiction published works, not so much fiction. Some ghost writing may be applied, though rarely for fiction.

Publishers do editorially scutinize writers' writing more so when a publisher has a greater stake in investment and outcome. Typically, though, as a writer's career progresses, less needs to be done, and, contrarily, writers further resist editorial input.

A publisher who concludes a manuscript suited to publication needs some editorial throughput assigns an in-house staffer to work with the writer, or arranges a freelancer, or suggests a panel for the writer to select from. Or the writer independently hires one. One one-on-one editor. These editors are labeled copyeditors.

In some cases this is merely nondiscretionary and limited discretionary copyediting, slighty more involved than but basically proofreading. Such manuscripts--that's all they need.

More involved copyediting starts into craft, voice, appeal development, plus the above style copyediting. This developmental editing is a higher art form than proofreading. If the estimated cost of such work at this point is reasonable, work proceeds. If unreasonable cost, the project will be returned, rejected until substantive revisions address issues.

Very few copyeditors will take on projects requiring heavy copy-, developmental, and proofread editing. Yet some projects are relevant, timely, and important enough to justify the onerous task and expense. These projects are more or less ghost written by specialists of that discipline. I won't name examples of this latter category. I do, however, know of quite a few. They come along maybe once or twice every few years, inspired by some celebrity occasion, personage, or issue that makes them important and their purported writers incapable of arranging a suitable writing caliber. Yet published under the purported writer's name for authenticity's aesthetic distance benefits.

There is no proverbial infinite number of chimpanzee writers and editors infinitely typing out Shakespeare's works hidden away in some publisher's castle towers.

[ May 06, 2014, 04:59 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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Member # 8501

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I think all situations are different. Authors (this sort of gets back to the 'Prime' thread) may peak at one book. As extrinsic points out, an author might have one meaningful thing they want to say and then that's it. Some authors may have a goal to write one book and no more because of a number of reasons, perhaps some of which may have nothing to do with writing.

There are situations like jerich100 describes where an author writes a few good books and then chokes on writing after then. It happens all the time in sports. A great athlete wows the crowds, gets a fat contract, and then underperforms for the rest of their career.

There are hundreds of thousands of authors, each and every one has their own story. Each and every one may peak at a different time or may not peak at all. In writing, you can outline some overarching elements that lead to success, but for every generalization there are many, many exceptions.

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Robert Nowall
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The joke used to be about polysyllabic rhapsodies about writers who the editors knew couldn't spell K-A-T "cat."

Also professional musicians in concert---maybe less so on the classical level but certainly not on the rock-band level---they don't have to be perfect, they just have to be good. And entertain the audience, whether there's a bum note or two in the perfomance.

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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There may also be the writer who becomes such a big best-seller that said writer won't let the editors do anything to the bloated results of said writer's later writing.
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