First Cuts


I knew there had to be a catch: I’d asked the general Twitterverse writing community if anybody knew what the rules were for quoting other works in fiction, but either nobody knew or the post didn’t show up in front of enough people to find someone who actually knew the answer. In particular, I needed to know about song lyrics: my main character was a musician and it seemed likely that his everyday patois would include a fair amount of “sampling” from pop culture. I didn’t get an answer, so I decided to go ahead and write the draft freely: I could edit it later if I needed to.

Well, I’ll need to: alas. Song lyrics in books are like music clips in movies: you have to get the rights and they’re going to cost you money. The auteur part of me wants to stand my artistic ground and insist “I *must* be able to use this lyric, no matter the cost!” The idealist part of me wants to include lots of musical references so that the success of the book could translate until a reward for the very musicians that inspired me (not that they need my help). The realist in me realizes that I can’t even afford to pay a proper editor right now so let’s not get carried away trying to add on other expenses.

Mostly, I realize, I’m just going to have to cut. Oh well, it was nice while it lasted. Maybe it’ll help me cut down my word count.

I’m a little bit low key embarrassed because this seems like an amateur mistake to make, but then again I’m still an amateur when it comes to prose so I think I could be forgiven for my enthusiasm. I’d tried to find out what the rules were, but maybe I would have flaunted then for the first draft anyway: rules don’t belong in the first headlong rush of creativity- that’s where you should feel free to play with all the colors on the palette. But I recognize that the rules need to be observed if I want to ever go from “writer” to “published writer”.

I still have a few months to go before I break out the red pen, though: I’m not allowed to touch it until the end of September. My hope is that the intervening time will allow me to get some perspective on the work so that editing will feel less like a death by a thousand cuts. Admittedly, I keep sneaking peeks at it now and then- reading a few pages here or there as I hear my readers tell me about bits they’ve just read. I’m in limbo waiting for responses, just trying to bide my time.

~ by Gwydhar Gebien on August 1, 2019.

2 Responses to “First Cuts”

  1. ::volunteers enthusiastically to beta read::

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