Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Tipsy Tuesday

One thing that I come across from inexperienced writers, more often than I like, is what seems to be a prevailing attitude that the editor (once they get one) is there to fix spelling and grammatical errors, sentence structure, etc. (I've actually had people tell me this, sad to say.) Here's the thing. Yes, the are. To a very limited extent. What you want your editor to focus on is the story content--plot, character development and the like.

Raelene Gorlinsky, publisher with Ellora's Cave, had this to say on February 15th on EC's Redlines and Deadlines blog:

First she writes, "If you can’t take the time to round up several people to help you make your submission completely clean, I’m not going to have any faith in your willingness—or ability—to spend the time on revisions and editing. Bluntly, it implies to me that you are lazy, stupid or unprofessional."

Pay attention here! Editors do NOT want to work with authors who are lazy, stupid or unprofessional. So make your work as shiny as possible before you send it off.

Raelene went on: "So you believe that your time is more valuable than mine, that I should be your typist and proofreader? That I should waste time slogging through this mess you sent in? You need a reality check. A professional and experienced editor is focused on story development—working with the author on plot, character growth, relationship development. NOT wasting editorial time on things the author should be responsible for, like spelling, grammar, punctuation, sentence structure. Yes, an editor may (maybe!) choose to contract a fantastic book even though the author needs a little help with one or two specific writing mechanics—maybe the author doesn’t quite understand how to use dialogue tags or is choppy about POV switches. The editor may feel this is something they can teach the author—but will then expect that the author learns this and the next submission will not have the problem.

Let’s be frank about this: Great story ideas are a dime a dozen. Yours just is not unique. I can open the next ten submissions and find something just as good or better than yours, no problem. So it is how you present your great story that counts. Gee, would I contract the wonderful story concept that will require massive amounts of effort trying to teach the author how to write cleanly, need excess copy edit/proofing time, and mean working with an author I suspect is unprofessional and unskilled? Or should I contract the equally great story that obviously has been through multiple self-edits and much proofing and is nearly 100% “clean”, allowing me to focus my editorial skills where they should be? That’s not a hard choice."

When I read this, my first thought was, Raelene reminds me a lot of Kate Duffy with her tell-it-like-it-is attitude. (Then I got sad for a bit as I thought about Kate.) But you need to know that Raelene isn't the only editor saying this. The point is: Learn the technical aspects of writing so your editor--who is overworked and underpaid!--doesn't have to spend time on things you should have already attended to.


Colleen Love said...

I have to say, I love editors! I have learned more from them than anyone could imagine, and hope to keep learning! I feel like a young Padawan in their presence! :)

I have heard people say, the editor will correct the little things, and I think that's rather rude! I would think a writer would only present the very best of their work, because, IMO it represents that person, as well! Especially the attitude that goes with it. :)

Great Tipsy Tuesday, Sherrill! :) I'll get to where I want to be, someday. Until then, I am enjoying my journey there. That is the best reward of all, doing it myself, and meeting people a long the way! :)


Jamie D. said...

I guess it surprises me that anyone would send work that sloppy out...unless they just don't see it. But as she says, that's what beta readers are for. Seeing what we can't.

There's really no excuse for bad grammatical errors and sentence structure in a finished ms anyway. How can anyone read their own work without cringing if it's that much of a mess?

Sherrill Quinn said...

Thanks, Colleen. My advice is to always have at least one critique partner (more is better!). As competitive as things are, writers need to turn in the most polished manuscript they can.

Jamie, I think a lot of writers, even when they turn in a manuscript that's free of typos and grammatical errors, still think what they've written is crap. Sometimes we're our own worst enemies, any way you look at it! LOL