That which does not destroy us: delivering a novel to the workshop

In my day job, I am a marketing writer. In cartoons like Dilbert, and in much common belief in tech companies, marketing people are blithering idiots who have no idea of what the products do, who the customers are, or even what business they are in.

That hasn't actually been my experience. People actually expect marketing people to know a lot about the business they are writing for. In my case right now, that's a wide range of medical devices, from heart valves to hip implants. So, sometimes people are a little uncomfortable telling me when I have something wrong ("does he really not know that a good market for facet arthroplasty might not develop?") Well, no, I don't. That was just my guess.

But what I say to them when they wonder if I really want to be corrected: "Either you think I'm an idiot, and it's just between us, or you and some thousands of other people think I'm an idiot." There's really no way around it. Unlike most jobs, mine is practiced in the open. By definition, the world sees pretty much everything I produce.

I'm not telling this so that you'll feel sorry for me, or respect me more.  Or both. Paradoxically enough, we do frequently want both of those things simultaneously.

I'm telling you because I just turned in the manuscript of my novel, Timeslip, to my writing workshop, the Cambridge Science Fiction Workshop (CSFW). Finally, someone other than me will read this thing.

The CSFW is a powerful tool. It has a procedure set, a corporate culture, and a long-serving subset of members that makes it effective in uncovering a wide set of shortcomings in a manuscript. Like any workshop, it is a great servant but a terrible master. In my experience, they can only make a book better. Not that every suggestion or even observation is good or pertinent.

And it's done in private. No reader will ever have to experience that poorly motivated character or that impossible use of steam power. Just those brave folks of the CSFW.

It's long past the time when luck had anything to do with it, but I won't mind if you wish me some anyway.