Mind Changed: Self-publishing Part 4: intake to the alternate Publishing Path cont’ further
Hours passed as I waited for word I had to find a different publisher over explicit writing.
An email finally arrive: She explained that the restriction refers ONLY to underage characters, and so long as the characters are adults NC-17 is fine.
That resolved, they moved forward with the content edit and I returned to waiting: This time for almost three weeks.
Then I got an unwelcome surprise: I’d violated that same provision in two places.
No. That’s impossible. Everyone in the book is over eighteen.
The violation notice came with about a page and a half of text from two scenes with the offending details highlighted. I read the yellow highlighted spots as well as the exact provision it violated: “too much detail when at least one of the characters is underage.”
But these scenes didn’t “actually” happen: Both scenes involve a lie being told to a character, inside the story. In the first instance, one character lies about her age to see how the other character would react; in the second instance, one character tries to make another jealous by lying about a tryst with “younger” woman—of no specific age—at a party. In other words, the first time a character lies about her age; in the second a character lies about something that never happened. It seemed so obvious: these are both lies; no underage anything happened.
That though got me to think: This is a novel; none of this actually happened. So in a work of fiction, what is the difference between giving an explicit description of a fake sex scene and giving an explicit description of a real one? Whatever that could possibly mean in a world where everything’s fabrication. To the content evaluators, none. To a postmodernist PhD candidate, questions about the meaning of relative truths between storytelling levels could make a fine, subtle doctorial dissertation.
For me though, I had a simple choice: stick to my artistic guns and refuse to remove the subterfuge and find another publisher, or revise a couple of sentences.
I revised. The first instance, when the character lies about being 17, only required moving the clause that “she turned 19 on her next birthday six weeks later” up a couple of lines. In the second instance I simply cut out the explicit parts: Jealousy doesn’t need a graphic details. Yet after I removed them, I realized I’d missed an opportunity of raise the stakes in the scene. So, I reworked it again for another level of jeopardy by playing on the audience knowing something one of the characters didn’t. So in spite of my grumbling that this was only a lie in the first place, I was able to make the scene stronger.
That second crisis resolved, I sent the revised manuscript back, and started waiting for the okay from the content evaluator, which came quite quickly.
Because the book was on a track toward the Traditional Publishing Path, it now had a second hurdle to cross: the editorial evaluation to see if the book had any real potential.