December 12th, 2010


Building A Bridge

Over the weekend I received an email from a friend.  He asked: When is your story getting published?” 


Me: Well, Diyari may never get published. I have no control over what does or does not get published. It’s being critiqued. AGAIN.  I have to decide if it’s worth sending to an agent. One agent has to love it. Then said agent searches for a publisher who loves it.  Blah, blah, blah.


Friend: Just self-publish. It’s so easy.


Me: Groans. Frowns. Shakes head.


Now, before you start thinking this is another rant about self-publishing, let me assure you it is not. (Or at least it’s not intended to be.) I believe there is a time and place for self-publishing. I think people who feel comfortable with self-publishing should go for it.


That being said, I won’t be joining that crowd.  At least, not soon.  Why? Well, I have several reasons. Grab a chair…pop a squat.




For me, stories are bridges connecting the past to the present and the present to the future.  Stories, much like bridges, allow people to traverse large gaps, connecting different places and different histories and different lives.  And stories, also like bridges, are constructed out of elements that erode with time (i.e., ideas and trends of a generation) as well as elements that endure (i.e., events and experiences that tap into to collective consciousness of humanity).  If done right, a story (bridge) can withstand storms, shifts in the foundation, and daily wear-and-tear.


And in my humble opinion, creating a story (and a bridge) requires a team of people. Preferably, some of those people are experts.


Sure, I know the theoretical underpinnings involved in building and maintaining a story (bridge). I know how to form a coherent thought.  I know how to string multiple coherent thoughts together in order to create a mood, a story.


BUT…I ain’t an expert.


Plus, I’m too close to my story to see what my characters really need.  I always run the risk of creating 1) a shabby bridge that groans and creaks when a turtle crosses or 2) a system of overpasses that resembles spaghetti and causes vertigo.   


Admittedly, my critique partners know more about story building than I do, but they aren’t experts either.  Although they will catch more…uh…integrity problems than I, they can’t catch everything. How many of you have done draft after draft, guided by critiques, only to have an agent or editor point to a HUGE—eighteen wheeler sized--hole in your story?

An expert—publisher--has a different perspective and more resources.  Additionally, the expert knows that the materials needed to build a story (bridge) may change based on the climate, the soil, the intended traffic, the altitude, etc.


Admittedly, publishers miss things.  Similarly, some experts make faulty bridges.  But if the checks and balances are in place, the odds of such a tragic outcome are reduced. Thus, the end product has an increased chance of possessing more integrity and a longer life.


I don’t mind spending more time creating my story (my bridge).  I welcome the idea of working with experts.  I want to create the best story possible. I want a strong bridge.
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