Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

COBRA: A Nuclear Farce

Well, my next tome is done and dusted, I think.  I had a teleconference a week ago with my gentle reader at Impress, now under the canopy of Untold Publishing, and it was a great relief to me that he didn’t want to suggest any radical structural revisions.  It was also a great relief to me that Cobra made him laugh out loud.  It is after all supposed to be a farce, if a rather dark one.  The last thing I want to do is to bomb.  As stand-up comics like Bob Monkhouse used to say, “I’ve often died in Glasgow.”  You just never know.  I could be like that guy in Good Morning Vietnam who sits in for Robin Williams’ Adrian Cronauer and is absolutely appalling.  The only thing worse than writing a comic scene that is not funny is writing a sex scene that is supposed to be erotic but is funny.  Isn’t there an annual literary booby prize for just that?  I’m breaking out into a cold sweat.

My editor had some suggestions about expanding a few themes.  But the bulk of the editing came in the form of marginalia, suggestions about a word here and a word there, and clarification sought when something seemed obscure.  I have spent an intense week working my way back through the manuscript.  I’m exhausted!  It was a good week to choose because the weather was foul.  I just got on with it.

I’m not sure that I’m very good at this type of negotiation.  I have to admit that I am not a team player.  But I also have to remind myself that I’m not Beethoven.  Don’t change a note!  Nor am I Beethoven’s contemporary, Sir Walter Scott.  (Incidentally, last year was the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth, and this year is that of Sir Walter.  It has come with much less fanfare.  Now Scott did have disagreements with his publisher.  Interestingly, in the new and scholarly Edinburgh edition of the Waverley novels, the editors have gone back to Scott’s original manuscripts and tried faithfully to reproduce them.  I have a notion that Scott’s star will rise again.  He is always contemporary.  And he can be very funny.)

So I don’t want Cobra to turn into a camel, a horse designed by a committee.  But on the other hand I don’t wish to be pig-headed.  So I have done my best to take on board all advice, to evaluate it, and make adjustments accordingly.  The trick is to take an idea, to recast it in one’s own mould, to work it to advantage, and hence to make a virtue of necessity.  And don’t sweat the small stuff.  If my editor has changed a word and said in the margin, “OK?” – largely I’ve replied, “OK.”  Just occasionally, I’ve stuck to my guns. 

And now on this Ides of March the weather has turned fair and I emerge from my purdah, like an alcoholic who, having been on a massive bender, gets sober again and moves about the world with a sense of new discovery and of wonder.    

My publisher has suggested that with a fair wind, Cobra might come out in early May.  This would be fortuitous, because the Holyrood elections are on May 6th, and this would lend Cobra a certain topicality.  Faslane, and Coulport.  They never go away.  At least, not yet.                   

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