Making the Sausage

There’s an old saying: once you see how the sausage is made, you don’t want to eat the sausage. And from my own experience, I know it’s true. Once I learned how to make a book, I became pickier about what lay between its covers.

I was never a book-a-day kinda gal, but in my pre-writing days, I could easily go through two or three a month. Sure, I slowed down when work and family took priority. But even when I didn’t have the time to read, I longed to read. Now that I’ve written dozens of books myself? Not so much. Don’t get me wrong. I still have a passion for literature. It’s just that finding a novel I want to devote several hours of my life to has become a difficult task.

Each of my manuscripts has been labored over, ad infinitum: the plot, the character arcs, the “emotional heart,” the theme, how many semicolons I can get away with…you get the idea. And then there’s the revision process where you’re ready to drive your car into a swamp if you have to “examine the story” one. more. time. So! If I pull a book off the library shelf and it doesn’t open right or the plot is sluggish or the characterization strains credibility, I want to throw it (or my e-reader) across the room. Partly because I either wasted money buying it or an hour at the library picking it out, partly because I’m amazed that big publishers are capable of offering marginally written fare. Alert: I’m not one of “those” writers who thinks everything the Big Six puts out is crap. On the contrary. But they have put out a few books that should have been edited with a heavier hand.

And now that I’ve self-published, I know even more about the sausage, er, book-making process. The formatting, the book covers, the ISBNs, the stupid table of contents that works in one store but not another…and don’t get me started on Apple ibooks–a nightmare maze of “contracts” and weird hoops to jump through and apps to download. Cripes, what is it with Apple and downloadable apps? Can’t they make one flippin’ thing that’s web-based? I digress… Bottom line: All this book business has given me a giant literary headache. And I don’t think “take two novels and call me in the morning” is going to work.

I took a screenwriting class eons ago where we learned about the three-act structure. The teacher told us that once we understood the “beats” of the story, we’d never be able to watch another movie like a “normal person” again, with abandon, with wonder, with wide-eyed amazement. We’d begin to see the sausage maker at work behind the story. So true with books.


Anyone else go through a time of disillusionment with books? I’d love to hear about it, if only to find out I’m not alone.



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