Friday, July 5, 2013

Editing: Entering the snake pit

I'm one of those authors who finds the editing process very stressful. When I submit my manuscript to an editor, I have read and re-read it at least a dozen times. I have deleted, added, altered and rearranged. I have, I believe each and every time, made it perfect.

Then it comes back full of redlines and inserts and comments and I pout for at least a week.

The editing experience is especially harrowing when the editor is one's close friend--more harrowing for the friend than for me, I'm assuming. Drawing lines through text written by a friend is close to telling her she ought to shed a few pounds or quit drinking. Or both.

My good friend, Velma, though knows how to tip-toe around my tender heart. I had to laugh out loud when I opened her email attachment.

Here is what I'd written in my upcoming SciFi, DISPASSIONATE LIES: 

"Porter’s monitor was strewn across the floor—sharp-edged chunks of metal and glass entwined in a hibernacula of cords and wires."

If I were an editor, I imagine I would have crossed out hibernacula tout de suite and my comment would have been something like "WTF?"

Two residents of the hibernaculum under my back patio

Instead, Velma very lightly told me that there's a place for flowery, obscure language and that the first page of a SciFi novella is not, in her humble opinion, one of those appropriate places. 

Here's her comment:
"Hibernaculum is singular, hibernacula is plural.  I get the picture, but I don’t know if everyone would.  You could also use medusa of cords and wires – do you think more people would get it?  If you use hibernacula, I suggest you use singular.  Either is fine."

I imagine she imagined me to be quite proud of having chosen such a vivid, visual word to describe the chaos on the floor of the Tenth Floor. I imagine she fretted over how to gently point out that perhaps we could create a visual that a tad more readers could share. Even though the SciFi genre attracts readers with an intellectual bent, since I didn't know what a hibernaculum was and who Medusa was until well into my fifth decade, I'm guessing many of my readers would share that WTF? feelings if either of those two words sprang (slithered?) from the page. (No, Velma, I don't think that more people know medusa than can visualize a hibernaculum.)

At any rate, we're still friends and I thank her for being so sensitive to my emotions.

Self-editing is always a challenge and sometimes a chore and never entirely successful but for some useful tips on both the process and the attitude check out my guest blog on FAMOUS FIVE PLUS

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“like a good episode of The Twilight Zone"

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