A Writer in Editor’s clothing

Raise your hands if sometimes you forget your editor’s hat on when you are trying to write a first draft, so you do this instead.

Type, type, type, type, type, type…Oh this is the best stuff I’ve ever written…type, type, type, type…

Suddenly, the door crashed open and a wild-eyed man lunged into the room.

Oh yeah. I’m awesome.

Type, type, type, type, type….

Wait, what did I just type? Suddenly, the door crashed open and a wild-eyed man lunged into the room. What the ever loving fuck?

Delete, delete, delete…edit, edit, edit. Suddenly, the door crashed open and a tall grim faced man lunged into the room. Okay, much better.

Type, type, type, type, type, type…Wait, what did I change that last bit to? Suddenly, the door crashed open and a… Holy hell!

Delete, delete, delete…edit. The door splintered off its hinges as a tall grim faced man lunged into the room. Much better.

Type, type, type, type, type…Did the door open, or bang open? The door splintered off its hinges as a tall grim faced man lunged into the room. For fuck sakes. Really?

Delete, delete, delete…edit. The door splintered. Shards of jagged wood sprinkled across the room. A grim-faced man stood in the opening, his meaty hands, curled into fists.

Seriously? Sprinkled? Like glitter. You’re an idiot. <Checks thesaurus: Scattered, dotted, strewn, showered, peppered…> Hmmm, I do like me some peppered. The door splintered. Shards of jagged wood peppered the room. A grim-faced man stood in the opening, his meaty hands tearing the door from its hinges. Now that’s some good writing. Call me John Steinbeck.

Type, type, type, type, pause…Wait, what was… NO! Stop it! Just keep typing. You can do this. But I hate meaty hands…wahhhhhh!

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Beta Readering…Rendering…and an apology to all editors.

I’ve only dabbled my toes in the dark and dangerous waters of online writing groups. Writers, desperate for help in the form of beta readers, are putting out calls. Believe me when I say that those calls can quickly turn into the howls of a wolf pack on the scent of an injured deer. “I’ve written the most AMAZING, AWESOME book on the planet, but I just need a wee bit of help…”

Over the years I have been lucky enough to have had some of the most incredible writers and readers help me with my projects. I am, and always will be, grateful to everyone for the support and encouragement I’ve received. That’s why I try to return the favour in a pay it back and pay it forward way.

Even though I am not the best person to come to if you have questions about the correct use of punctuation, proper sentence structure or who, or what, is modifying a preposition. In fact, I’m pretty sure that I was attacked by a preposition the other day, it leapt out of the bushes and hit me over the head with an adverb before it skulked away to hide amongst a herd of nouns. But when it comes to picking out flow, hunting for authentic voice and identifying sections where the writer is trying too hard, I’m not too bad.

My writing used to consist of me writing for a few hours, then me thinking what I just wrote was crap, then me, fighting the urge to delete everything because I knew it was the worst thing ever committed to paper in the history of paper, including papyrus. It took a long time for me to gain the confidence that, on occasion, some of the stuff I come up with wouldn’t automatically induce uncontrollable vomiting. So I’m very cognisant of the fact that some people need to be handled with kid gloves. But I also know that if I don’t give an honest critique, the writer will never have a chance to improve and expand. Telling someone that their work is great without providing examples, is not helpful, telling a person that their work sucks, is also not helpful. Consequently, when I do a critique I spend a lot of time on the piece. Sometimes hours and hours. I don’t get compensation, nor until this point, do I expect any for this effort.

With this in mind, I’ve walked into the lion’s den completely unprepared. Given some of the material I’ve seen, instead of doing a critique, or beta read, I should just pick up a two-by-four and pound a couple of long spikes into it and then hit myself in the head—repeatedly. It would be less painful. It seems that the more confident and secure a writer is, the more horrific their work is. And instead of considering any of my suggestions, they choose to argue each point, ad nauseam.

Me: You’ve used loose in this sentence when you meant to use lose. ‘One thing Millicent knew in her heaving bosom was that, even though he was a demon from Demonland, she would never loose hope in Damion’s goodness.’ Plus get rid of ‘heaving bosom’ it’s a cliché and you’ve used it five times in the first page.

Writer: I see your point, but Millicent is so in love that she can’t bear the thought of his loss…it makes her breathe a lot.

Me: Loose means the opposite of tighten, or it can also mean to set something free. Lose is the act of having lost something. And I can tell you, being a woman, my bosom only ever heaved after I ran straight up a mountain and my body threatened to kick my own ass if I didn’t stop and suck in some oxygen.

Writer: Exactly, she doesn’t want to lose Damion’s love and it feels like she’s run up a mountain.

Me:  Well, show it then. And switch the word to lose. And get rid of heaving bosom.

Writer: Every one of my other beta reader said that this story was perfect the way it was and she wouldn’t be surprised if it was on the best seller list by the end of the month.

Me:

Writer:

Me:

Writer: Are you still there? Can I send you chapter two now? Hello?

Me: Hang on, I’m considering becoming an alcoholic…and a drug user.

Dear Every Single Editor in the World. I get it and I am so, so sorry.

Writing Romance

I sit in front of my laptop and stare at the last sentence I typed and start swearing like a sailor. ‘She quickly strode into the back room to where the coveralls were kept to keep the women from seeing her discomfiture.’ It’s shitty writing and in need of punctuation and a rewrite. I delete it, then type the exact same thing again. I can’t get my poop in a group.

So I check Facebook, then get mad at myself for procrastinating, go back to Word and stare at the sentence some more. It just sits there, mocking me. So I play a couple of games of Words With Friends to teach it a lesson. I seriously consider starting a game of Spyder Solitaire. What the ever loving fuck?

According to a couple of my Beta readers I need to add some mushy stuff to a chapter in order to make a better impact. I figure I can get away with another two thousand words. I’m at 825 words. I suspect that 821 of them have formed a club and have passed bylaws not allowing me in. Bastards. I should sow the entire field with punctuation mark bombs. Take this you double-crossing, shit smelling, back-stabbing assholes…*”!–&

I delete the sentence. Now I’m down to 804 words. I can’t write mushy. I was born without those genes. Why did I agree with my Betas? What do they know? Fuck…they’re right though. I consider ordering a romance novel, but can’t do it. It would be wasted money, I’d never read it. I stare at the new sentence; heat is suffusing my main character’s cheeks. GAWD this is painful. Okay, I can do this. Just type.

Five minutes later, rant completed, new sentence deleted, down to 794 words. I look out the window, water is coming out of the sky like someone inverted the lake. The perfect weather to go for a walk and think mushy thoughts.

Taking A Break

Me: It’s a beautiful day, well, beautiful days if I’m being honest with myself. I’ve been writing and editing non-stop for months. Time to take a break. Not even thinking about firing up my computer, time to do outside things.

My Brain: Blood splatters, actually more like molecules of blood, were enough to set the hunter on the right path…

Me: Stop it. Look, I’m going to pick up this shovel and work on this patch of ground that the chickens dug up.

My Brain: The ground looked like a bomb field, dirt and grass strewn about, as if overnight the yard had been visited by shoemaker elves bent on destruction.

Me: No, I’m not falling for it. There isn’t a story here. Go away. I’m taking the dog and going for a walk.

My Brain: It was only her and the dog now. Her life as she knew it was over. Everything of value destroyed. He had packed up and left the night before, suitcases swinging against his calves as he stepped out the door. Dana was gone back to school and the only food in the house was a half-eaten piece of cake, left over from her retirement party…

Me: Hmmm, that’s interesting. Why did he leave her? And why is there a half-eaten piece of cake…wait, no! I know what you’re up to and it won’t work.

Me: Hey, Dog! Stay away from that rail, you’ll fall into the river.

My Brain: The concrete crumbled near the rusting rails, she edged closer and peered down. Was it safe enough to use that route again, or was she trapped.

Me: Oh, that is good. And the body of the rat is missing. I totally know where this is going from here. Come on, Dog. I have to go fire up my ‘puter.

Spring Day

I feel like death, but it’s the first nice day since Batman rode into town and I’m going outside. I haven’t been for a walk in what feels like months. Sure, it’s only been a few days, but when all you do is sit and edit, the space-time continuum malfunctions and time slooowwwwwssssssss.

I take a dose of snot suppression drugs, turn off all electronic gadgetry (seeing as I cannot bear to spend another minute with my manuscript anyway) and I dress down for the occasion. Did I say it was a nice day? That term, nice day, is pretty subjective here on the east coast. Sure it’s overcast and raining, yes it’s muddy and sloppy, but there is a definite joie de vivre feel to the air, foreshadowing better days to come.  Did I say foreshadowing? I meant auguring—hmm—I’ll have to work on that.

Hubby has finished boiling down his second batch of maple syrup. It turned out to be even yummier than the first. He’s also done working on his trebuchet for the day. From what I can tell, it looks to be coming along nicely. We will soon be prepared for any possible invading Saxon hordes.  Now he’s relaxing and thinking. (That can’t be good.)

So, I have on my play clothes, I lace up my Keens, throw my jacket on and step outside. Immediately, I step back inside and change into my raincoat. If anyone was brave enough to squelch through the mud after me, they could probably hear me singing, ‘It’s a beautiful day in the neighbourhood’ as I listen to the pitter-pat of rain on my hood.

Writers are Strange Folk

“People who write are weird,” the hubby announces.

By the self-satisfied look on his face, I can tell that he’s come to what he thinks is a profound conclusion. My ire is immediately ruffled. (Side note: ires are easily ruffled on both sides of the marriage bed when you’ve been together since saber-tooth tigers roamed the plains. Same goes for upping one’s dander. )

“Oh yeah, why’s that?” I say, eyeing the knife sitting on the counter. I’m not really considering stabbing him. I don’t think.

“Well, why is it that you can tell me, without missing a beat, how to send a nuclear bomb into space and where to detonate it to cause the most damage with its EMP blast. But, when I say that I need help gerrymandering a flukelibber, you act like I grew a vestigial tail.”

“Listen, the minute Luke needs to learn how to gerrymander a flukelibber, I’ll be on your doorstep…”

“What? I didn’t say that. I said circumnavigate the poshmeadow. And who’s Luke?”

“Luke used to be Norman, who at one time was Alice and Chad, but their timelines were causing too many conflicts in the story arc. So—Luke.”

Hubby:

Me:

Hubby shakes as if trying to rid his head of bees. “Are you even from this planet? I give up. Anyway, I have to go see if I can clean out the buddhaboot. Can you hand me the nose-hair clippers?”

I hand him the nose-hair clippers.

Hubby: “For Christ’s sake, I didn’t say nose-hair clippers, I said wrench dibblers. Never mind. I’ll get it myself.”

A Writer’s Life

Holy hell! I’m sore all over. My neck! My back! My ass! My shoulder has frozen. I have mouse shoulder. Seriously, mouse shoulder.

My husband snorts. “How can you be so sore, you haven’t done anything but sit on your ass all day.”

The only reason I’m not up and out of my chair, wrapping my hands around his neck and throttling the life out of him is because my body has seized in place. Three responses jump into my head, simultaneously. 1) Fuck you. 2) Asshole. 3) I want a divorce. Instead, I opt for door number four. I need a drink. Make it a double.

I’ve been editing this fucking book for hours, days, weeks, months, years, centuries. My eyeballs are like peeled grapes dipped in salt and it feels like the proverbial turnip truck has parked its big ass on top of me.

Hubby: (Gets the idea that I may not be thrilled with his remark.) Seriously, I cut down four oaks and dragged them out of the bush.

Me: I had to kill Tommy, I cried for three hours.

Hubby:

Me:

Hubby:

Me:

Hubby: I fixed the deefinbaker on the flumigander and fiddled with the laplind until it barped seven times. I was shooting for five. (I may have misheard what he actually said.)

Me: I cleaned up forty thousand thats.

Hubby:

Me:

Hubby:

Me:

Hubby: I changed the tires on the car.

Me: I cleaned out the chicken coop.

Hubby: Really? Like the real chicken coop, not the make believe one in your story, right?

Me: I don’t have any chicken coops in my novel. And for your information, the stuff in my book isn’t make-believe, it’s creative ideas.

Hubby sits down in his favourite chair and starts watching YouTube clips on how to repair snarkbenders. I go back to editing.

Me: Oh for fucks sake! I can’t believe it. (I’m screaming so loud that hubby can hear it through his earbuds.) I rant for a solid five minutes and only slow down when the cloud of profanities over my head is so dense it begins to block out the light.

Hubby: What’s wrong?

Me: Oh, I just found another forty-five thats in these last two sentences.

Hubby:

Me: Okay, maybe two. One was totally legitimate, but the other one—well—it was just sitting there, taunting me.

Hubby:

Me:

Hubby:

Me:

Hubby goes back to learning how to eradicate the countryside of unwanted pandas. I continue to edit.

Me: Ouch…my back hurts.

Welcome to Writers of the World Unit…United…Union…Unite? Or WWUUUU?

Have you ever had the urge? You know the urge that’s like a bad case of crotch itch? Where you have to sit down, right this minute, wriggle your butt against the chair and then start filling blank spaces with breathtakingly stunning words? No? Me neither.

But, have you ever had a chicken get locked inside your car and not realize it until you’re parked outside your doctor’s office, eighty kilometers away? I have. That’s how my writing is, unexpected, horrifying and smelling a little like chicken shit.