Committed—Self-publishing Part 5: Development edit—the startling recommondations
As iUniverse already had the manuscript, I had only to electronically sign various documents, give a deposit and accept the terms of the payment plan. That done, I was given a 5 question Developmental Editing Questionnaire to complete. It asks for a description of the intended audience; a description my vision for the book, and with that vision in mind, what specific things the editor should keep in mind; it also asks what I hope to get out of the edit; and finally gives space for other “brief” comments for the editor.
I returned 5 pages of detailed answers, including the desire to cut 25-33% of length, in order to keep the cost of a printed copy of A Perfect Blindness under $20.
Then, I waited from May 20th to June 10th.
Before the revealing the recommendations this editor gave, the structure of A Perfect Blindness needs explication for reasons that will become obvious. A Perfect Blindness uses ideas from Lawrence Durrell’s The Alexandria Quartet and Normal Mailer’s Armies of the Night. Both of these books explore the many faces a person can show or the many versions of an event that can be discerned, depending on the point of view taken; they require the reader to discover the truth in-between the conflicting narratives from various tellers’ points of view, most specifically told by the I of first person subjective narratives versus the he or she of objective third person narrative. Each is flawed, and all disagree—if even the stories we tell ourselves can’t be trusted, how can one decide what’s true and what choice is right?
In A Perfect Blindness, there are three protagonists: the best friends Jonathan and Scott, and Jonathan’s lover Jennifer, each of whom narrates their personal journey as a subjective I, and as these individual stories tell the larger story of the band Mercurial Visions, each of these subjective Is collide with the he or she versions of themselves in the form of newspaper articles, other characters’ comments and their own inscrutable choices. These many points of view frequently disagree with and even contradict others, while changing over time. Late in the book and exhausted from the many mistakes each of them keeps making, Jennifer concludes that “Who we really are hangs someplace between all the stories, suspended in the contradictions.”
A Perfect Blindness moves through a world in which we constantly encounter contrary narratives of who we and everyone around us are, and that all of these stories—including the ones we tell about ourselves—distort what happens and misinterpret people to one degree or another; yet somehow, the characters must find enough truth between all these stories to “stop tripping over who people really are”, in order to live their confusing, messy lives the best as possible.
To accomplish this, the structure of A Perfect Blindness follows three primary point of view characters as each journeys, not necessarily successfully, from self-blindness toward self-understanding—both as the I in subjective first person narratives and as the he or she in objective third person narratives, with all of these stories combining to tell a larger story of their band Mercurial Visions.
And when nothing is certain, self-deception proves to be the greatest treachery.
The reason for such detail on the structure is that instead of getting the expected notes about scene cuts, small fixes, and maybe some improvements, I found that I had utterly failed with two of the three points of view. In fact, the editor suggested that I strip both Jonathan and Scott of their roles of being point of view characters, and make the book about Jennifer alone: the only character the reader found sympathetic, but who still needed to grow more of a backbone.
I’d spend untold numbers of hours of the course of nearly two decades carefully building up Jonathan as a man who always gets jilted only to find out he comes across as nothing more than a predatory lady’s man.
But, wait, that’s not what I intended…
Too bad: That’s what is on the page.
With Scott’s motiving issue: he fails to see something very basic about himself, a fact I’d thought I’d done everything but trot onto stage as the author and tell the reader straight out.
I’d made it SO obvious!
Wrong again. On the page, Scott is nothing more than a stick-figure jerk, who’s mean simply by nature, and eventually ruins things for everyone, for no good reason.
The editor ended by suggesting a ‘book doctor’. Basically someone I turn the book over to, who then rewrites it top to bottom to fit this new developmental plan of a book about Jennifer.