Sunday, December 5, 2010

600 pages!

"Why on earth should any book, let alone one about the lyrics of the band Black Sabbath, be 600 pages?!"

While no one's ever quite said that to me, I can see they're thinking it when I tell them how long my book is.

The truth is, there's a lot that can be said.

Black Sabbath were one of the most fascinating bands to ever craft music, and the subjects they wrote of have tremendous profundity. In the course of my first two drafts, I found myself looking at numerous topics and exceedinly well-developed themes that cut across the spectrum of social criticism, civil disobedience, spirituality, lament, environmentalism, hope, despair, emotional dysfunction, escape, love, death, dreams, drugs, fame, power, poverty, fear, war, fantasy, reality and transcendence.

600 pages came rather easily.

But the fact is the critics (namely my editor and proofreader) are right. It's too much.

Now, I know there are some of you who are like me, and think, the more the merrier. Bring it on! And I get that. But as "academic" as this book can get at times, it's not a textbook for a college course. My "everything and the kitchen-sink" is the product of second-draft syndrome (for some writers, first-draft). To make this into a readable, somewhat enjoyable experience, the kitchen-sink needs to go, and probably a lot more. There's just no reason "War Pigs," fascinating and important a lyric as that is, should be 20 pages!

I'm making progress, though, whittling it down to the essentials. Don't worry. There'll still be plenty of footnotes, side-bars, tangents and asides. I have no intention of turning this into a popcorn book. I firmly hold to the belief that Geezer Butler's lyrics warrant the same serious attention and discussion that the great poets of old receive when discussing their work. I'm not interested in writing a book for a perceived target audience of brain-dead metal fans who have a vocabulary of 60 words, 20 of which are profanities. Nor do I intend to cater to the pop-world mentality of marketable, all style, no substance books with lots of glossy photos, and snippets of statements that have already been said a hundred times. No thank you!

Black Sabbath fans deserve better. Black Sabbath deserves better. The artists whose works grace this book deserve better.

But more isn't necessarily better. And 600 pages (of just text) is simply too much. But I'm getting there, struggling to make that balance for the work as a whole, and for each and every song. And, now that I have a better grasp of what needs to be done, I'm enjoying the process. Hopefully, when it's all said and done, you'll find it's worth your time to peruse.

The Issue of Trust

I'm not a particularly trusting sort.

Many of us have deep-seated issues in this department. Some are far worse. Some are far better. And some are too trusting.

But because I'm not a particularly trusting sort, it always strikes me as particularly noble and grand when someone places their trust in me. I take that responsibility seriously. And it grieves me when I even inadvertently betray it.

When an artist allows me to use their work, it energizes me anew for the task. They've trusted me with not only upholding the terms of the agreement (that's a given), but with ensuring that my writing won't be an embarrasment to their art. This is thankfully not something that paralyzes me with anxiety, but rather it strengthens my desire to not let them down, which gives me a renewed sense of purpose. The work must be the best I can make it. That trust makes it worth it every time I get off the couch and onto the computer.

Trust is a fine thing. To live cynically, even in a cold, hard world, is no way to live. But with trust comes the responsibility of the one trusted to reward it with a good return. To that end, I return to editing my third draft.