Monday, April 03, 2006

The good and the Bad, Part 3

Last week I gave version 1.5 of Bad Company to two readers and my agent for comments. I thought it was in pretty good shape, even as a little voice in the back of my mind said, "If you still like it, it probably sucks." In my experience, a book isn't ready for submission/publication until I hate it.

That voice was right. After looking at the manuscript again, I realized --Oops!*-- I had done nothing but the briefest of edits over a hundred-plus-page section. It was crammed with extraneous dialogue, inappropriate quippage, and unrealistic character reactions. The mistakes are already fixed, but I'm embarrassed to have sent it out this way.

Eyes of Crow went through five drafts before publication, not including the intermediate drafts I would print out and pore over after each round of major changes. While lots of toning and revising may be appropriate for a lyrical, complex novel like EOC, I think the same exactitude would suck the spontaneous fun right out of Bad Company.

It's like the difference between a symphony and a rock song. An orchestral performance can't be too perfect. Each instrument must be in its place at every hundredth of a second. But a rock song needs those raw edges to provide a thrill, those moments where some element goes too far.

A case in point is the song "Outside" by the alt-metal group Staind. It originally appeared on the "Family Values Tour" concert album, on which their singer, Aaron Lewis, performed it acoustically with Limp Bizkit frontman Fred Durst.

The live version got a lot of radio play because it was, quite simply, phenomenal. The raw emotion pouring out of Lewis's voice stuns me today as much as it did in 1999. If I hear it in the car, I fight not to close my eyes to savor the heartbreaking power.

Several months later, a studio version of "Outside" was released along with Staind's new album Break the Cycle. The song, while technically perfect, had lost its emotional resonance. It was the same melody, the same voice, but the producer drowned the original energy in layers upon layers of perfectly crafted instrumentation. It wasn't bad, it just wasn't great anymore.

The last thing I want is for BC to come out slick, tame, and {shudder} over-produced. So while I might be tempted to scale back on the emotion, the humor, the eroticism, to bring everything into a mythical perfect balance, I have to trust the original inspiration that put it all there.

*only I didn't say 'Oops'

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Having just finished reading BC, I can authoritatevly say your fears about it being "slick, tame, and overproduced" are highly unwarrented. The characters are alive (even the undead ones), and the plot had me totally engrossed. As always, you get off some wonderfuly witty lines. I look forward to seeing it in print, and to the next book in the series. I'm sure Michelle will love it. :-)


Posted by: Anonymous Anonymous at 4/03/2006 5:41 PM

Funny you should say, "An orchestral performance can't be too perfect." I know a producer/composer and engineer who spent weeks mixing orchestral arrangements, removing all the chair squeaks and page turns, tweaking the relative sound levels over and over, then when they turned in their final mixes to the record label, they complained that it was too clean. The released mixes, the ones on the final CD, had all the chair noises and page turns back.

And, I know just how hard it is to get a raw, edgey sound with a rock band in the studio. Sometimes, it's not the producers fault. Mostly it is, but not always.

Exactly how any of this compares to writing a book, I couldn't say. Just that, yeah, sometimes you gotta just stop messing with it.

Posted by: Anonymous Anonymous at 4/03/2006 6:11 PM

BTW, that was me.

Kathy S.

Posted by: Anonymous Anonymous at 4/03/2006 6:12 PM

I love hearing the chair squeaks and page turns in an orchestral recording. Makes me feel like I'm there.

Thanks, Cecilia (one down, two to go)! Glad you liked it. It wouldn't be slick, tame and over-produced at this stage, anyway. I was referring to the final product, after several drafts.

Posted by: Blogger Jeri at 4/04/2006 8:08 AM

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