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? :-)


Dru said...

I know exactly what you mean. I write reports and if the words I use doesn't seem right, I can't send it out. It's one of the reasons I write my report and don't like at it for a day, because half the time a better word can be found and used.

Good luck with your rewrites.

dollycas aka Lori said...

Wow, I guess I would be really offended if I was asked to change a characters name in something I had written. So much work goes into writing a book and to have an editor say "change this name" would blow my top. With the advent of Facebook I have gotten to learn so much about an author's writing process and I would assume a character's name who be up to the writer unless of course you were using a famous person's name and smearing their rep some how. Now I really can't wait to read this book!!

Leann Sweeney said...

Lori, I'm glad you don't have a copy of my editorial comments. LOL. In truth, I have a wonderful editor and changing the name is like peeing in the ocean!!! I feel lucky to have such a hands-on editor as many others just don't put in the work she does to make my books better. If she ever leaves, I might not write another book, that's how much she means to me. But this change was a surprise coming from her--and the reason was a surprise, too, and one I cannot share. But it was a GOOD reason!

Kate Maxwell said...

Very intriguing...the reason for the name change.

And once those kids go off to cannot wait til they come home for the weekend! :)

Linda McDonald said...

I've often wondering how often an editor asks for an author to change a name. I love picking out names in the stories I write. It is like naming children for me. So, I think I'd be sad to have to change it, but, I would also be open to finding out the reason why the editor would want the change. It sounds like you were the same and understand it and all is well with the change.

Vickie said...

I don't think you are weird. But if you are, that's okay. Like I tell my weirdjin 8 year old daughter..."It's a good thing we like weird in this family"

Rita B said...

I do craft type projects,sew.quilt,etc.. To give them away is fun. But you are doing something that is coming from your heart as well as YOUR mind, not some editor's. I can understand your feelings, writing is such a personal thing,it's all from inside you,not just following directions like me. As soon as your 'baby' get's big enuff to send out on it's own, let me know...........I sure enjoy reading them when their all 'mature' :^)

Nancy said...

I'm glad that you got the issue of the name change settled with no hard feelings. However, I really would like to know your editor's reasons. Not fair that you won't divulge them. (kidding, but still would like to know:)