Sunday, June 6, 2010

Are You Sure the Editor is the Idiot?

But Why Not?Image by Tex Batmart via Flickr
Advice for Writers: Have your tantrum. In private. Then get to work
I do some freelance editing for publishers. For one in particular, I am a rewrite editor. In this role, I work directly with writers. It's my job to get a manuscript (ms) into publishable shape. When I'm done with the ms, it goes to a copyeditor.

In other words, they don't give me an ms that simply needs a few commas tweaked and some verb tenses changed. The publisher gives me the ms because they've decided it needs substantial work. Anyway, I sent one such marked-up ms to a writer last week.

I spent a lot of time marking it up, because it has a lot of problems. I don’t want to go into much detail, because I don’t want the writer or house to be identifiable. (This is the reason I've not used a pronoun to identify the writer, either. I don't even want gender to be clear.)

And the writer turned it around in about an hour. Yeah, really. Made precisely one fix. My queries and suggestions were essentially blown off. The writer's responses ranged from "I don’t care" to "this is an unimportant detail" to "nobody will notice" to "it doesn’t matter" to  "fix it if you want." To my most significant structural notes: "I disagree." Then the writer sent it back, as if these responses took care of the issue.

As you can imagine, I wasn't thrilled.

The writer clearly thought the publication contract was the finish line. And that I was an annoyance. A buzz-kill. And that if I was ignored, I would go away.