Altering books (was RE: Silly Censorship)

minnow at belfry.org.uk minnow at belfry.org.uk
Tue Apr 29 15:06:28 EDT 2003


Rowena asked:

>In a similar vein does anyone know if it was the publishers or DWJ herself
>who suggested the cuts in reissues of Cart & Cwidder?
>This is a slightly different case, as the cuts are plot
>details/background, rather than of 'suggestive' material.

This is an interesting little history I do happen to know.  She didn't just
suggest those cuts, she insisted on them in order to put the book back the
way it was when she wrote it.

When C&C first came out DWJ didn't have much clout with the publishers, and
she had a particularly bossy editor who insisted on having a finger in
every pie and changing things in every book the imprint published.  (A bit
the way Robert Heinlein describes an editor as doing with his children's
books).  This editor required DWJ to add a whole lot of stuff that hadn't
been there and which DWJ felt was not in the least needed for the book to
work.

Another book that suffered was *The Ogre Downstairs*, whose ending was
actually re-written in its entirety by an editor, with a whole lot of pink
footballs in the last chapter -- at which point DWJ capitulated and did the
hatchet job herself rather than have this twee rubbish put out with her
name on it.  *Drowned Ammet* escaped butchery only because at a critical
moment the editor who'd been about to do her worst retired from the job,
and as a result the paperback didn't appear for many years, because the
whole project was cancelled.

I forget which were the others written around then whose content was
furpled with by others than DWJ.  Most of the alteration, since she wrote
it herself under orders, DWJ has left as it appeared, and just shrugged and
gone on to write other things rather than try to put right what she was
forced to do before she had the seniority to say "no, I simply won't, and
if you try to make me I shall take it elsewhere".  C&C was reissued after a
longish gap out of print and when she was feeling particularly stroppy, I
think, and also at a point at which *A Sudden Wild Magic* had finally
appeared, after being commissioned and then turned down because the person
who commissioned it "didn't see any sense of wonder in it".  So she felt
she could now insist C&C went out as she wanted it rather than as some
now-long-gone editor had wanted it.

One early book (I can't for the moment put a name to it, it may come back
to me) was sent back in typescript with editorial suggestions for
alterations and things that must be cut and added and  and  and     So DWJ
took the typescript and cut it into bits in an orderly way, and then
sellotaped it back together in exactly the same order as it had been in the
first place but so that the pages were all different lengths and it
*looked* worked-on, with an anxious covering letter saying she hoped she
had managed to incorporate all the improvements that had been suggested and
that it was now what was wanted.  It was published exactly as it had been
and now was, and the editor wrote her a kindly letter saying how sensible
she had been to take the editor's advice and didn't she now think the book
was a much better book for that little bit of extra work!  :-)

Minnow


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