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Max Barry wrote the novels Syrup, Jennifer Government, Company, Machine Man, and Lexicon. He also created the game NationStates and once found a sock full of pennies.

Blog

Fri 23
Jul
2004

Company re-organization

Company Is it a good idea to sell a book to a publisher, then extensively re-write it? The marketer in me says, “No.” (Also, “Put pop-up ads on NationStates!”) But that’s pretty much what I’ve done with Company. At first I was just going to do a little tweaking: snip a sub-plot here, pat down a character foible there, that kind of thing. But the more I re-wrote, the more I saw that needed re-writing. Then, before I knew it, I had a new second half to the book.

(Of course, when I say, “before I knew it,” I’m using artistic license. No-one actually ends up with a novel “before they knew it.” I’m always seeing this in movies: someone decides to write a novel and two weeks later they’re typing THE END into a laptop at Starbucks and exhaling in satisfaction. Two weeks! I can’t get a sentence right in two weeks. Also, I hate people who write novels at Starbucks. And people who exhale in satisfaction in public; them too. So you can see why this annoys me.)

This is something of an addiction of mine; I’m always throwing out the last half of novels and trying again. I never intend it; I just get obsessed with improving things. This is not necessarily a bad thing, if you ignore the fact that I’m spending enormous chunks of time writing bits of novels only to cut them later (which I try to). But now I’ve done it to a book a publisher has already bought, and, presumably, thought was pretty good.

So I’ve confessed to Bill, my editor. As I e-mailed in the new draft, I put the question to him: am I a hard-working, committed author, or just some kind of idiot? He replied:

It depends on what you’ve done. If it’s turned into a searing portrait of the artistic struggles of male ballet dancers, I shall not be pleased.

He’s reading the draft now. There are no ballet dancers. But I’ll have to wait and see what he thinks.

Comments

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Doujin (#1250)

Location: East Peoria, IL
Quote: "Omnium Finis Imminet"
Posted: 3385 days ago

No one else left a comment! Anyway, Max if you always see a need to re-write your books you should do it. Although I'm sure that your first draft that was bought by your publisher was good already, but whatever you need to do to feel good about your book I guess

Galen (#1516)

Location: In a land far, far away, sometimes referred to as college.
Quote: ""It is absurd to divide people into good and bad. People are either charming or tedious. " - Oscar Wilde"
Posted: 3266 days ago

I would love to have you write a "searing portrait of the artistic struggles of male ballet dancers," but maybe that's just me. Although, the dougnut wouldn't make much sense... maybe they could have eating disorders?

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