ARCs, Endings, and A Letter to Three Wives

Since the time of publication of For Darkness draws near, and I’ve been sending a lot of ARCs out into the world (and seeing a lot of reviews pop up on my twitter feed of late), I suppose it’s time to come clean.

I’ve become one of those authors who changes things in her proofs.

I know! 8 books in, and all of a sudden I start getting wild and crazy. Always before, changes would be for minor clarification purposes, like changing a “she said” to “Elliot said” in order to make it clear who is speaking, or adding timeline clarifications, like “two weeks later”. You’d have to look really hard to notice.

This is in contrast to a few writers I know, who are (cough, cough) infamous for rewriting swaths of their books at the proof stage. But I was never that person before.

Well, there was that time that the ARCs of a book randomly skipped paragraphs throughout its entirety. That little fiasco gave me heart palpitations the entire time the ARCs were circulating. (And no, I’m not telling you what book it was). But that wasn’t me making changes so much as making sure the changes I’d already made were implemented in the final book. It was a printer error.

Anyway, I feel like I should let you know, the ending of For Darkness Shows the Stars is different than the one that appears in the ARC. Now it ends on a total Austen crossover, with Mr. Darcy in a bathtub.

Kidding. I just wanted to post that picture. Hello, Fitzy. (Do you think Lizzie calls him that once they’re married? Emma and Mr. Knightly have this whole conversation about what she’s going to call him, and I assume Anne calls Captain Wentworth Frederick, and Elinor and Fanny already call their guys by their first names, but somehow… I mean, “Fitzwilliam?” I think she might just call him Darcy, don’t you?)

I digress. What I wanted to say was that this time, the changes are more than a “Elliot said.” And, seeing as how there are so many more consumers who read ARCs than there used to be (it’s crazy to think that when I started in this business, six short years ago, ARCs were read primarily by booksellers and professional paid reviewers, rather than bloggers, fans, and anyone who wants to pony up on eBay), I thought I’d give y’all a head’s up.

On every ARC of every book I’ve ever written are words to this effect: “Reviewers are requested to check all quotations against the final bound book.” Let’s be honest here — do you think most people do that? After all, these days, most online reviews post before there’s even a final copy to check against. I remember a few years ago, one book even made the “changed ending” between the ARC and the final copy part of their internet marketing campaign.

I read the ending in question in this case. I didn’t consider it a real change. It was more of an extended clarification.

Basically, what happened to me was this: an early, early reader of the ARC got confused about what happened at the end of my book, so I went in and made sure no one else would be.

I think I’m in good company, though. One of my very favorite films, A LETTER TO THREE WIVES, has a famously confusing ending. On the DVD commentary of the film, Joseph Mankiewicz’s son relates an anecdote about how his father, the director/screenwriter, received a telegram from the aide to Douglas MacArthur saying he needed the ending explained to him before the general left the country. After watching and discussing the film on a regular basis with my mother for a period of year, I learned that she had interpreted the ending very, very differently than me.

Actually, she interpreted it the way General MacArthur did, so she’s in good company, too, as apparently even strategical geniuses can get this one wrong. All it takes is a different read on one character’s one line (shown in the screenshot above) to take the ending of this film in a totally different direction. I mean…. not for me. I think the final line of the film cinches the intended interpretation, but apparently not everyone (like my mom and General Douglas MacArthur) feels the same.

And yes, I’m being very, very non-spoilery, here, because if you haven’t seen A Letter to Three Wives, I highly recommend you do so ASAP. It’s fantastic.

And so, with the lesson of A Letter to Three Wives in my head, I went ahead and added in the clarifications, in case there was anyone who might have gotten confused by what exactly was going on. (Which I don’t know if there was — I haven’t seen any readers who got confused yet, but I also avoid reading as many reviews as possible, so it may be out there).

Though, honestly, it might have been cool to get a telegram from… well, from anyone, as I don’t even know if they send telegrams anymore.Though I suppose people don’t send you telegrams if they are confused about the ending of your book these days. They just rant on your book’s Amazon page. Or maybe Twitter. Either way, I’d prefer to avoid it, if possible.

In passing, this is my favorite telegram (click to embiggen):

Ah, Dorothy Parker. I wonder what you would do if someone ranted at you on Twitter.

I’d follow Dorothy Parker’s Twitter feed so hard you guys, you have no idea.

(Have I thrown in enough random references in this post? Darcy in a bathtub and Dorothy Parker? I blame the combination of upcoming-release-day insanity and revision-mania.)

Posted in movies, PAP, writing life

2 Responses to ARCs, Endings, and A Letter to Three Wives

  1. Phyllis Towzey says:

    Hmmm, will have to see the movie. Love the telegram. Really can’t wait till FOR DARKNESS comes out.

  2. Connie Onnie says:

    Thank you for the Darcy in a bath I needed to be Darcied today :).