experiment: editing a novel

There was a wild and brief point in my life when I thought I wanted to be a book editor. Nothing sounded fabber than sitting in a NYC publishing office all day reading novels. Clearly, I didn't pursue this past my high school lit-mag days. And good thing. I'm convinced copywriting is much more challenging and fun, and brings home much more bacon. Yes, literal bacon. What can I say, I love breakfast for dinner.

I still enjoy the occasional editing gig, though. I've edited (uh, rewritten?) all sorts of scribble (grad papers, applications, short stories, love letters . . . break-up letters) but the prospect of editing a novel, for a good chunk of money, for someone I don't know personally, was yes, kind of a trip. Let me disclaim: I'm not a professional editor, nor have I ever taken any kind of editing class. I can offer no formal qualifications, other than, "Yeah, I can do it. Totally." Confidence will get you most anywhere.

As Sara (not her real name) was narrowing down her list of possible editors she decided to have the three finalists undergo the "audition" process. She sent along the first ten pages of her 298-page working draft.

It was an editor's wet dream and nightmare. Horrible. Tripe.

On the one hand, that means you feel useful as an editor. Your mission is clear. You get to swipe away at the manuscript freely, marking it up until your margins are crowded red. On the other hand, that means you spend an hour reconstructing something that will for all intents, never get published. The narrative struggled. The imagery struggled. The usage struggled. I struggled.

Random Excerpt:

“'I love it! It is so beautiful Timothy', she spoke gently a little overwhelmed by its beauty, and the wonderful craftsmanship.

'I love it!'

He said nothing. He grabbed her hardly, and kissed her with passion and lust.

'Its beauty does not compare to the sight that stands before me now', he replied kissing her again.

The men outside finally pulled the last piece of Hannah’s luggage from atop the carriage to the ground. They anxious to settle in town, rent a room, and go to the saloon, where they would fall down drunk by the end of the night. They wait patiently, for Timothy to return outside, and pay for their service, as Hannah promised he would.

Seriously! Stephanie Meyer hits pay dirt and all of a sudden every amateur author in Utah is empowered and starts churning out the crap. I did some quick math, and realized that at this impossible pace, the pay would come to about 3 bucks an hour.

I came to this realization after I had already ripped the thing to shreds, so I just sent her my revisions anyway. She wrote back a few days later and said she knew she needed to fix some things before she could actually hire an editor, but that yes, she would keep my email address handy when that time came.

What I also realized (in between thoughts of "is this a joke?" and "is English her first language?") was that, most likely, I had been totally punkd. Probably by some supremely wily 7th-grader who solicited semi-pro work before turning in a short story for her English class. Which story I (and two others) had eagerly rewritten for her. It's actually pretty genius. I had to give her some manipulation points.

What I have learned:

I am now terrified to ever send out a substantial manuscript, for fear that editors will have a similar reaction to my work.

Craigslist can't be trusted. Any person named Adrienne can tell you that much.


casey elizabeth said...

ew. gross. your work is not at all that, um, dumb.

when i see you, will you grab me and kiss me hardly?


Kerianne said...

HA! Oh I am giggling, that was a delightful read.

Alex and Katie said...

“I love being a character in a piece of fiction that will not be read beyond Utah moms in need of a good lay.” Timothy whispered in her ear.

She laughed.

She couldn’t agree more. And moved her lips slowly down to his neck.

Alison said...

there is a lot I don't know. namely that Christina was getting married and now she is, married! But I saw it on Becca's blog and I'm blocked from Christina's blog, so will you tell her I say congrats? the trials and tribulations of a woman not on facebook.

I also don't know you have so much self-discipline to stay self-employed. I can't do it.

And I REALLY don't know how we missed the class at BYU on writing for lusty teens. I think we would have really excelled in that class.