The editing business really is going gangbusters! It’s a drought-and-deluge affair, and just now we’re in the middle of Noah’s Flood. Just moved two academic articles off my desk; we’re about to wrap up the current issue of CLS; another Chinese mathematician is in the wings; two indexes are in the offing; and I’m 10,000 words into an 89,000-word fantasy novel.
These bursts of incoming always get me all excited: if I could get this much work coming in all the time, I could make a living on this business!!!!!
But of course, as a practical matter, over the summer all the academics will go into estivation, not to be heard from until about two weeks before Christmas, at which time they’ll show up with a raft of arcane tomes all needing to be indexed by January 5. The Chinese mathematicians presumably spend the summer calculating, once they get their grad students out of their hair. The grad students flew into a frenzy along about April, pleading to get their dissertations in order by the first week of May.
In between times, nothin’ much is up. And of course, that means in-between times, I’m not earning much.
I’d like to get through 10,000 words a day for my current budding novelist. That would move his magnum opus off my desk in about 10 days, after all is said and done.
But lemme tellya, it ain’t easy. I had a slight head start this morning. It’s now 3:30 p.m., I’ve been working nonstop since 7:00 a.m., and I only just arrived at the 98,863rd word. After I finish lunch/dinner, I’ll easily make today’s goal. But…
If anything urgent comes up, this will have to go on the table till whatever new crisis is dealt with. And there breathes nary a Chinese mathematician who is not in a state of crisis….
But truth to tell, the hardest job is working with the wannabe Great Novelists of the Western World. Whereas reading their copy is infinitely more fun, and whereas (bless’em!) they never burden you with the terrors of APA, Chicago, CSE, AIM, or AMA documentation style, and whereas you do not have to ride herd on the batsh!t things they do with their references, NEVERTHELESS…
You do end up having to teach them how to write.
Most fiction writers, when they hire an “editor,” are really hiring a “developmental editor.” That would be something very like a writing coach. They want someone to show them how to write dialogue. How to build a character, how to wrangle point of view, how to set a scene. Oh hell…what a scene is, for hevvinsake! They are amateur writers, and they crave with all their lively being to become professional writers.
Academics, on the other hand, are professional writers, and about 90% of them are pretty good at what they do. They don’t need coaching on how to write. They need to have their documents regularized to fit their publishers’ endlessly complicated requirements. They need to have their references checked. If they’re native speakers of languages of the World at Large, they need to someone to make their golden words sound like English. Sometimes like American English, sometimes like the Queen’s English.
Writing coaching is more like teaching than like editing. Sort of like teaching graduate students, because generally your client will take the lesson and run with it. About a third of the time, the result is far better than anything you could do and better even than you hope your soaring student will accomplish.
But like teaching, it’s one bitch of a lot of work.
Explaining something that you know — that you know so well it’s second nature — is not easy.
I’m thinking I may give creative-writing clients a free copy of the new book, as a kind of lagniappe. It’s ready now in PDF format; it won’t take much to get it into PoD format. And in a few weeks, I expect Wonder-ebook-Builder will have it in Kindle and ePub format. Why not give it to clients as a kind of textbook?