• Bridge Ladies

    Bridge Ladies When I set out to learn about my mother's bridge club, the Jewish octogenarians behind the matching outfits and accessories, I never expected to fall in love with them. This is the story of the ladies, their game, their gen, and the ragged path that led me back to my mother.
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No Room For Me No Fun For You

THIRD IN A FIVE PART SERIES: How Writers Sometimes Think

A writer gets his manuscript returned from his editor with a six page editorial letter and the manuscript red-lined within an inch of its life. He knows the dude means well, but he’s full of shit. Sure, he’ll read through the edits and take a few (give the dog a bone), but mostly he thinks the book is great as is. Aren’t editors just wannabe writers anyway? He knows the book is great and tinkering with it could diminish its essential power. Writer #2 is mortified by all he has done wrong, all that needs to be fixed. He thanks god for his editor, who has saved him from any number of embarrassing mistakes. Did he really change tense three times in one paragraph? He slavishly attends the edit. How did the book get acquired in the first place, he wonders, slinking back to his desk.

Can anyone formulate the question?

44 Responses

  1. Are you a confident writer or does insecurity rule your abilities?

    I had to look up ‘slavishl’y so you know my answer.

  2. Is confidence a no brainer?

  3. Which writer will still be alive when dawn breaks on the abandoned amusement park?

  4. Which writer is more likely to have his next book pushed hard by that same editor at the acquisitions table when the sales on that last book tanked?

  5. Shorter stuff is where I’ve lived until now, so maybe I don’t get attachment book writers may have to their own words. Throw in the fact that I think I’m damned lucky to have my editors, and we have a situation that works. Those guys are smart, talented, and well intentioned, so if they want to make changes, the changes get made, and we move on.

    I see my job as giving them stuff that doesn’t need much red-lining in the first place, and theirs as seeing what I can’t.

  6. The question, of course, is: This can’t possibly happen to me, right?

    Fuck. Don’t answer.

    My skin is thickening even as we speak.

  7. Which writer is more likely to publish more work and attain wider acclaim/fame?

  8. First, I want to know why the editor resorted to red ink. Honestly, this isn’t elementary school. With hi-lighters, gel pens and all other manner of writing devices available, editing a manuscript could look more like a well-crafted map towards success rather than an autopsy! Would writers accept (more willingly) edits that were presented in a different format?

  9. Why bother?

  10. Which writer is mentally healthy enough to do this dance for a living?

    And if anyone has the answer to that, I’d appreciate hearing it. Quickly, please. . . .

    • You send it out and it comes back marked up. Then you remember that they want this book to sell as much as you do and you get to work. The pleasure part of writing comes first, then it’s all business. Separation of church and state.
      And when you freak out, your friends send you chocolate and wine prescribed in copious amounts. I’ve got that part covered.

  11. Thank you and may I have another?

  12. Who dies?

    (apologies to Stephen Levine)

  13. Which of these authors will be successful? The answer – both – or neither.

  14. I saw in the JCP catalogue that they are selling Betseyville products. This blog could be called Betseyville.

  15. Did I remember to buy dip for the potato chips?

  16. Which one is the Rhoda and which one is the Mary?

  17. One is too hot, the other too cold. Goldilocks knew how to find the correct balance.

  18. The question is: Why is she fussing?
    At least she has an editor who cares, rather than an agent who thinks she’s an editor but has no clue. Welcome to my life…

  19. Which of the two writers has the better editor?

    • That’s the trick: the right editor for the right material. I had an editor once who was brilliant at certain material but not at the story I had to tell. It was still a valuable collaboration. The manuscript is better because of the editor, but at a certain point, I had to put the brakes on.

    • This is the right question. If your editor is Melanie Kroupa, you jump up and down because she chose you for a second book. Then you watch the magic happen. No red pen. Questions and suggestions written in pencil that make you feel important and valued. After several revisions, your book is still there, but it is a thousand times better.

  20. Which of these writers would you marry and which would you have sex with and then run from as fast as you can?

  21. Well, I’ve had a text come back with ugly yellow highlighter all over. I was aghast. Angered. But what it did was shift my viewpoint and make me swap seats for a minute, trying to see what my editor saw. Often he was right. He was more clean, more clear. But not always. Sometimes I fought hard, found alternatives, had to understand why I was so vehement and remove my Self from the text. It was very useful and I think I’ve come through a better editor, a better reader.

    Sometimes my suggestions were just better than his. That was sweet.

  22. “Can anyone formulate the question?”

    Quizas, pero night ich. Being a grad school dropout, I don’t even understand what you mean. (I was never constructed enough to be deconstructed.)

    All that aside (please!), when I was a young, inexperienced, scantily-trained writer (didn’t always make it into the box), I was psycho-nervous about and glass-ego repellant of editorial feedback. That was long ago. Now I welcome editorial feedback. Sometimes the editor sees something I didn’t and I am ver ver glad for it. Other times I disagree with the editor and the editing dynamic necessitates I present defensible reasons for my intransigence.

  23. Answer: #3, Neither

  24. The question is a Chinese box of questions: How do you know the editor in question is someone to whose judgment you should give your self over? And how fully? And when do you reach the point where you are clear-eyed and secure enough about what you can and cannot do as a writer to accept a trusted editor’s input? And when do you know you are right to reject it? And when do you know it’s not you, it’s the editor? And deep inside, seldom reached, is the teensiest box of all: When did you, Ms. or Mr. Literary Fat Cat, stop really caring about editorial input, and your editor become too cowed to give it to you anyway, so that your late career output is sort of in insult to what made your name?

  25. How do writers find the right distance from their work to appreciate good editing and resist it when it’s not quite right for their voice or their aims? It’s a question of the right mix of humility and confidence.

  26. Isn’t it all what the writer does with that initial reaction the important thing? Isn’t the action we take afterwards to power through the crap that gets triggered the key to success? Whether we’re inward or outward blamers or any other manifestation of egoic junk we’ve cloaked ourselves with, it’s just what we do with it that matters.

    But the real question for me now, is…How does one get the song “Take The Skinheads Bowling,” out of one’s head? Three days now. Three days!

  27. If the editor is Maxwell Perkins you suck it up and do as he suggests. Slavishly. If your editor is of a lesser light, you seriously consider their suggestions, etc., anyway. This is the way it works: You write. They edit. Establish a symbiotic relationship. Make your editor Yin to your Yang. Bonnie to your Clyde, King to your Queen, Watson to your Holmes, Bella to your Edward/Jacob (depending on which team you’re on). And so it goes.

  28. How crazy is the writer, who actually has a book deal, to not listen to his/her editor! At least half of it anyway.

  29. Learner or non-learner.

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