Is Underwriting a Profession and Overwriting a Death Knell?

"For whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee."

“For whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee.”


I am no expert on this subject, mind you. I’ve done my share of overwriting; and try as I may, I still keep the guards at the door to stave off attacks. But I must admit that I am far less vigilant than a few years ago.

With overwriting less desirable than underwriting, the question arises, who determines when a passage is overwritten?

Often folks say it’s the editor

All right, so who gives the editor the right to lash out at a passage labored over and loved?

Writers used to say the publisher gave the right, because the publisher was the ultimate authority. But this no longer holds, because today I control what is written and how it is written.

Does it follow that I must forever slave away to chip and hone each passage, to make it lean and mean as possible. Many say yes; but I say no.

Why, if underwriting is the norm, would I say no to such an acceptable practice? Because writers are no longer constrained by the smothering hand of accounting.

Since the onset of eBooks, publication costs have made way for the true master of the written word, the author. Today, a novel isn’t restricted by its expense, but is rightfully driven by story, narrative, description, dialogue and dare I say it, “writer intervention”. After all, it is my story and if I wish to intervene, so be it. Mark Twain intervened in his stories, and some say he fared pretty well. But writer intervention is a topic for another post.

Thankfully — and it’s many decades overdue — the Death Knell now tolls for the near past and not for the near future.

In so many of the great classics, writers wrote reams describing minutiae and readers adored it. Why? Because in olden times, readers adored the language, the grace and the flow of it, its audacity and its mundanity, its nuance and its brashness. Writers wrote impassioned stories, eloquent, verbose, beautiful and long-lasting. Back then money did not make authors duplicitous. Readership was all-important. Maybe this was because mass printing was new and publishers were happy to print long and elegant manuscripts.

Then along came the corporation, the almighty disciple of profit, and bottom-line became king.

Yet, I, along with many other writers, am happy to declare that the king is dethroned, and dictates no more. Given that changing habit takes time, readers conditioned to simplicity, boredom and formulae will for a time expect the same. But heed the winds, ol’ miserable, irrelevant ones.  For whom the bell tolls: it tolls for thee.

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