The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Law of Requisite Variety

Tananarive came home from a trip to New York, with the news that our editor Malaika Adero, wants to split "Devil's Wake" into two books. I've never had to do that. Keep you posted on what that actually means in terms of structure and work.

When T. told me about this, she was apprehensive about how I'd react. Well, there are automatic difficulties, trying to make sure that each chunk of book stands sufficiently on its own to satisfy readers, for instance. Will we replace deleted material? Create new? Expand current scenes? Create new ones?

So many decisions. And each of them will be dependent upon underlying values and beliefs concerning writing and career, art and commerce. Once again, it's bob and weave time.

There is a principle called the Law of Requisite Variety, which states that '...the greater the variety within a system, the greater its ability to reduce variety in its environment through regulation.'

In layman's terms: in a system of interaction (i.e. between individual human beings) the part of the system with the greatest flexibility in it's behaviours will control the system.

In other words, rigidity is death. If I can be creative enough, flexible enough, relaxed enough about this entire process, we can make the book not only better and more satisfying, but better for our publisher, which creates a positive spiral of trust and mutual support.

How often does a character in your writing need to develop greater perceptual, emotional or even physical flexibility? How often does lack of flexibility in your own life diminish your results? Yogis like to say that the flexibility of your spine mirrors other aspects of your personality--that we store tensions in our muscles, especially our backs. To what degree is this true in your observations?

Just some things to think about.


1 comment:

Steve Perry said...

Didn't hurt George R.R. Martin's career any to split books. In fact, I think he's parsed one into five or six by now ...