Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Why I show my work to Dave

Several folks have asked why I break my "nobody sees my work before I finish it" rule with Dave. The short answer is that he always makes my books, stories, and essays better. The longer answer is perhaps more interesting.

Dave's spent a lot of years building complex plots. I'm still relatively new to that art, so on that front alone, he has taught me a great deal. I always look forward to learning from him in this area.

What's even more useful is that he is good at seeing the story I'm trying to tell and for the most part directing all of his comments toward helping me produce that story. He does sometimes genuinely think I should take the tale in a different direction, but when he makes comments toward that end, he always states his intent. This clarity of focus and communication is invaluable to me.

Finally, after dozens of books he simply possesses a strong, almost instinctual understanding of how to fix certain classes of problems.

For example, while writing Children No More, I hit a point at which I had a problem but no great ideas for solving it. I called Dave, told him just enough of the plot that he could see the problem, and literally in seconds he gave me a very rough--intentionally so, I should note--solution. I refined it considerably and adapted it to my purposes, and then I wrote the bit in question. No one will ever be able to identify this issue from the text alone, and I probably could have solved it on my own, but his approach was better than my best idea at the time, and the book is better for his contribution. That's what matters most, of course. My ultimate loyalty and commitment in each book must be to that book--and not to my ego, a prospective audience, or any other damn thing.

As I write more books, I ask Dave fewer questions, but all my books have been better for his contributions--and in the end, that's why I show the second drafts of them to him.

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