Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Invisible Multiplier by Michael Davis

The Invisible multiplier

Until I became published, in my novice mind, the process was simple: get accepted, turn the manuscript over and that’s that’s. Yeah, right. Like the iceberg, there’s a massive hulk under the surface that the reader never sees. Forget the promotional activities, forget dealing with the rewrites to satisfy the submission reviewers, forget the Errata reviews, etc. There’s an invisible multiplier to the quality of a finished novel that few would ever understand, unless they’ve had a great Content Editor (CE). I’m one of those lucky authors. I’m smart enough to recognize the quality of a story when I submit it now, and honest enough to admit the contribution made by my CE. It’s not the theme or sub plots. That’s there. It’s the molding, polishing, refining where the true talent of a CE shines through. I will admit; I’ve always had the same editor, Cindy Davis, primarily because I get down on my knees each time and beg my publisher. But I don’t have to work with a dozen different editors to recognize the contribution (and enjoyment) I experience with Cindy. So what does she do? What she does appears simple on the surface, so simple in my first novel I kept hitting myself saying, “Why didn’t you see that, moron.” Then I realized, as an author, seeing the things a CE sees is not a talent I possess. I take pride in the realism of my stories, yet she is able to bring out the hidden possibility that lies beneath the surface. Here are a few examples.
1.     Consistency – As an author creating fiction across 300 pages, sometimes you forget that you gave the heroine a black jeep on page 23 and changed it to a red Elantra on page 125, or the hero was born in Maine, then strangely admits he’s never set foot in New England. Yet the CE enforces that consistency across the story.

2.     Perspective – What is a story without internal monologue, it’s boring. My CE can ask a simple question, “Did he really forget his wife that fast?” or “Doesn’t she think it’s suspicious that he just happened to have that in his pocket?” Your first response is, “Well sure, the reader knows that,” but when you think about it, no the reader doesn’t. As the author, the images in your mind tell the whole story, but you forget they’re not inside your head. I remember a particular scene in one on my recent novels where the hero is franticly searching for his wife, concerned that some really bad guys have taken her to get to him. In his search, he discovers a possible source by solving a rather obvious puzzle. Well, my CE asked,  “Doesn’t he think it’s strange that after everything that’s happened, he was able to stumble upon this answer?”  Well of course he does, dah.” Then I realized, she was right. The thoughts, twists, confusion, reluctance, fear that would be going on in his mind were not there and they were damn important to the story. In fact, it lead to an entire new scene I created to convey the hero consciously allowing himself to be trapped because it was the only way to get to the woman he loved. Afterward, both of us stood back and admitted, “damn that’s good” and it was, but it wouldn’t have been without her probing question.

3.     Five senses/environment – A simple question to an author - “What was she smelling, what color was it, was there nothing on the walls, did the animal make a sound, etc.” Yes, indeed, such a straight forward question, yet so profound in the reflection of realism in the story. And again you fill like an idiot for not recognizing the void in the first place. Fact is, when your creating the entwined storyline, you forget those special fine brush strokes that really make the story come to life and made the reader become absorbed in the story.

4.     POV – Now, this is the killer for me. It’s my mega button above all others and Cindy knows it. She loves to hammer on that button. Out of respect from her insight, I do everything I can to conform to her strict “No POV switches, Mikey” posture. Except in the bedroom. That’s where we fight and argue. You see, I want to be in both the hero and heroine’s head because I am into the sensual elements (I’m a guy, if I’m going to reflect romance, got to be an intimacy side, cause that’s how us guys demonstrate love in our minds). I want to know what’s going on in both their minds, (after all, we boys and girls are such different creatures).. So that’s were our battles occur, over and over again.

5.     Fun factor – In 98% of the cases, I truly enjoy the interaction with my CE. She’s witty, smart, has a neat sense of humor, and can take my loving male jests with a fleer. Except for POV. Then I just sigh, shake my head, and attempt to comply in all but a few cases.

All and all, I really feel we work on a project as a team, and I consider myself lucky to have hit the jackpot on the first roll of the dice. I know the stories came out of my warped mind, but by the time we’re done, it’s our story, and I think she feels that way too, otherwise, how could she read it over and over so many times. I also sense that exposure to sure a talented person has allowed me to expand my horizons as an author. I find myself asking, “Given they just tried to kill him, wouldn’t the hero be seeing dragons behind even turn of the road?” Or, “no Mike, you started in Ryan’s head and he wouldn’t be thinking of himself as the young man.” But I also recognize, I have to be careful. Swell a woman’s head too much, and you’ll pay for it in the end.

So this round of brew is to you, Cindy, girl. And remember, you still own me lunch, although I honestly forgot what the bet was, but I didn’t forget I won.

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