Saturday, August 27, 2011

Publishing bleg

Hey all--a quick question, hoping that your collective wisdom can give me some direction. I've almost finished polishing and ligamenting this book manuscript together, and I think I'll make my goal to mail it out the day after Labor Day. But there yet remains a glaring hole in the pages: I haven't written my conclusion. Though I frame it out tentatively in my proposal/abstract, I haven't actually produced the pages. In part, I've wanted to wait until I heard back from some reviewers, so make sure that what I'm thinking the conclusion ought to do aligns with a potential publisher's vision of what the book does and how it should wrap up. So it's not laziness on my part so much as perhaps overdeveloped circumspection.

Folks who've been through this process: should I worry? Should I attempt to bang out a fast and necessarily slapdash conclusion, or should I just acknowledge that it's still germinating?


Doctor Cleveland said...

I don't know about your process, but for many people writing is a way of thinking things through. I think working on the conclusion is a way to hurry the germination, or at least protect it from any premature frosts.

Renaissance Girl said...

Right, Doc--I totally do use the writing as a germination stimulus. It's more a question, at the moment, of time and urgency. I need to send the MSS to the edtior by Labor Day. And it's not going to get written by then--first week of school, not quite done with the ligamenting, etc. So how do I register the lack of a conclusion in my materials when I send them toward the editor?

Sulpicia said...

I'd echo Doc, and wonder if it might not be possible to bang something short and sweet out as an interim measure? I'm not great at getting my head round conclusion-writing, and my own effort is both very short and cannibalised a blog post, worryingly, but I'm taking heart from Robert Mills' concise conclusion to Suspended Animation, and might still have a rethink.

Doctor Cleveland said...

Okay, more seriously, what you want is for the publishing house to be able to send it out for external review, which means sending the reviewers a manuscript which is officially complete. They likely can't send it to reviewers saying, "Here's everything but the coda." If you're listing something in the abstract, I think that you need to provide some version of that or else revise the abstract.

If the conclusion is still a work in progress, I think reviewers will understand that. And many reviewers like to be able to recommend improvements, so allowing them to make easy suggestions such as "the conclusion still feels like an early draft," isn't necessarily bad.

Also, I suspect that most reviewers will have a strong sense of the book and its merits before they get to the end. So finding the conclusion slightly underwritten is unlikely to be a deal-breaker. So I lean toward banging out the draft. But I do reckless things sometimes.

The other option is to present the book sans conclusion but add that conclusion in a later stage of the revisions.

ntbw said...

Hmm. I recall that my first book manuscript actually got sent out for review lacking not simply a conclusion but actually the final chapter! I indicated the missing chapter in the cover letter; the editor was fine with sending it out like that, in large part because manuscript was already long enough to work just fine without the additional chapter.

The reviewers' suggestions for revision actually led me to rethink several things, one result of which was to help me to see that the book was in fact complete without that last chapter. So, what was to have been final chapter ended up becoming the the first chapter of the second book. I then proceeded to rewrite the introduction in such a way as to make clear the new contours of the argument, indicating how the previously penultimate chapter was in fact a conclusion.

As a frequent manuscript reviewer, I have to say I'd probably rather not read a banged-out, hasty conclusion. If the manuscript were otherwise good, my assumption would be that the author would produce a good conclusion.

And, as an author, my fear would be that a banged-out conclusion would leave a bad last impression in the reviewer's mind, perhaps tainting his / her overall assessment. So if I were in your place, I probably would send it on without the conclusion but with a note saying a coda is in the works.

That's all kind of long and convoluted, but the upshot is that it might well be OK to send it on as is, provided the editor doesn't mind.

Flavia said...

I've got no wisdom better than that offered here, except to say: can't you email your editor and ask?

I understand why you might hesitate to admit that the whole thing isn't done, but I really don't think it'd screw you over to say (with a minor lie), "hey: the conclusion is super-short and super-rough. I don't feel great sending it out as-is. Can I send you the MS without, or would it be better to send the whole thing in another month?"

You know the dude and I don't, but he still seems in the best position to answer this question.

Sulpicia said...

Asking the editor sounds like the most sensible course to me. Banging out was perhaps a poor choice of words on my part though, as I didn't mean to suggest something underwritten or hasty - more something that concisely outlines a conclusion, but that could still be further fleshed out and developed after some second thoughts. But, I doubt it'd be rejected without a conclusion, and the reader's comments, plus the thinking time, will help its development.

Brad said...

Find three people that are not like you and that are too brutal with their honesty... Sit each one down and ask them for their feedback. Make sure you understand the role of a conclusion. The human heart demands resolution. If you are producing a work of fiction then you owe it to yourself to listen to a piece of music that tells a story. Listen to the lyrics and hear the flow of the music in the resolution. Take 'Cat in the Cradle' for instance. The story being told doesn't preach. It teaches. Every story with a resolution teaches the heart and the mind. Make sure you fold the conclusion with grace and not with a scalding gasp of mustard gas...