Sunday, October 2, 2011

What's in a Name?

by Leann

Time for rewrites on my new book, The Cat, The Wife and The Weapon. I like "having written" rather than writing and especially love rewriting. It is a way to help the "baby" grow and then let the "baby" out into the world. Every book is unique and this time, a little something made me realize how important character names are to me.

I've changed names in my works-in-progress plenty of times without a problem, but this time, when I came to an editorial comment in the rewrite to change a character's name, it dawned on me how I have never changed a character's name AFTER I've finished the book. I guess it would be like choosing your child's name, filing the birth certificate and then changing your mind and doing it all over. Coincidentally, this actually happened in my mother's case. Her name was Virginia and then became Marian. (Not even close, huh?)

But there it was in the margin of my rewrites from my editor: "Please change this character's name." I was dumbfounded--not so much by the request but by how much it bothered me! This character is my creation and the name is right ... well, at least in my mind it's right. How could such a small thing bother me so much? For the first time in ten years, I actually called my editor to discuss the change. She is not a "phone talker." She prefers e-mail, but I needed to understand and she needed me to understand. Sometimes the only way is to actually hear the rationale, not read it. After the call, I understood and we compromised. Easy five minute conversation. We are both happy.

I was reminded, however, that when a book is in its infancy, not ready for public consumption, even small changes can seem monumental. In an article on fiction writing I once read, the writer talked about how you know when a book is ready. It's when you can let it go out into the world and not feel worried or sad. It's sort of like how you can't wait for your kids to go to college. (Please leave. Please!)

The rewrites continue and I am now fully aware my little book isn't ready to walk out the door quite yet. I'm pretty touchy about it right now. How about you? In whatever you do, is there an emotional bond that cannot be broken prematurely? Or am I just a little weird? :-)