Friday, May 22, 2015

Hey There's A Weasel Eating My Editor

Hey, There's A Weasel Eating My Editor

It's been mentioned that in the art of writing a novel only five percent of the work is the actual writing. The other (I see everyone caught off guard except for those income tax gurus who do numbers in their sheep, reaching wildly for their calculators) ninety-five percent is editing. Okay I meant sleep, but even the sheep jumping over the fence don't get any breaks from the taxman. I know, I got busted for declaring three stamps purchased for personal use.
            Okay back to the serious side of writing. It is true that what a lot of writers don't realize is that the bulk of time in writing a novel is indeed editing, re-editing and after setting the novel aside for a while, another read through and usually more editing. Then off it goes to a publisher where they usually go through another couple of rounds of ....
... well it ain't washing laundry. More editing. I've been told a thorough editing job is like washing your clothes after you've been out hiking in the backcountry for two weeks. Which for some of us writers is what writing a novel is like; disappearing for weeks on end, scribbling like mad or pounding away on a keyboard. Before returning to the real world of hungry cats and a very cranky ignored wife or hubby.  Next step is digging out the bible of all editors everywhere, that thin little book, Strunk and White's 'The Elements of Style'. I can say my copy has suffered some ignoble fates, like being hung from trees dipped in birdseed, so Crows and Steller's Jays could peck at it. I've counted how many flushes it could take before separating from its bindings (surprisingly, thirty-eight).
            So, as you might have gathered, editing, for writers, is like taking showers when you're a kid. I remember the time when I was eight and we'd been camping for about two weeks. My mom said, "You need to take a shower at least once before we go home. Your feet are smelling so bad, you'll attract wild animals from miles around, maybe even a bear. They can smell a dead animal carcass from across a valley." I promised I would.
            In the middle of the night I awoke to a rustling noise. I peeked bravely out of my pup tent, armed with a bag of marshmallows, my beanie cap with a twirling propeller and my water pistol, only to watch a weasel gnawing away at my heel of my shoe. The next morning I hobbled humbly into the showers cringing in my shoe and a half. I hated those showers in the campsites. Usually getting one that either released a mere trickle, that couldn't drown a housefly, or one that produced cascades that could replicate the Niagara Falls.  Or the one I picked, screaming as the ice water hit me and yelling fifteen minutes later, when the hot water finally kicked in. All fifteen minutes of it, as if built up behind some pressure valve and scalding me to near the consistency of boiled potato.
            But I knew I didn't want to spend the rest of my life limping around with one shoe half eaten by gangs of weasels armed with plastic forks and knives (I hear they have this allergic reaction to metal forks and knives).
            So when the publisher sends back your manuscript for another editing go around, remember this positive affirmation if you don't want them or yourself being attacked by wild gangs of prowling rodents. "I'm a Writer, I Love Writing. I'm a Writer, I Love Writing." Repeat about twenty times behind gritted teeth before getting out the old Strunk and White and getting on with it.

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