Tag Archives: editing

Semi-Professional Editing

I’ve been thinking a lot about editing lately. I’m an editor for Flying Island Press and I’ve been doing some self-publishing (though not everyone agrees that that’s what I’m doing) which, best case scenario, involves no small amount of red-lining. The critics of self-publishing point out that there’s a lot of sub-par product out there. They assume, and in large part are probably right, that that’s because they aren’t professionally edited, as they would be if they were published “professionally”. It’s certainly not because authors are unaware of the need to have good eyes and skills applied to their work. One of the things that I hear again and again from my fellow creators is, “I know I need an editor, but those don’t come cheap.” So, we do the best we can and put our stuff out there.

I’m curious about a couple of things from my writer peeps. Have you used an editor for your fiction? If so, who and how much did they charge? Were they “pros”? Setting aside the raw definition of that word, I’ll define it to mean “someone who does it for a living”. Were they “semi-pros”, defined by me as “someone who charges a below market rate”? And if you did, how long did it take you to make back your investment?

If you decided not to use an editor and it was because of the perceived cost, how much would you be willing to spend? What is it “worth” to have someone look at your work if it will, to a degree, ensure a better product? I ask, in part, because I know there are people out there, in our community that are semi-pro/pro editors and I’m sure they’d like to know. I know two personally, Jenny Melzer and Allison Duncan. (Semi-pro is not an indication of quality or rate, but is based on the notion that I don’t think this is their primary source of income. No judgment on them.) I have no idea what their client base looks like, so I don’t know if the semi-pro, self-publishing authors out there are using them.

I do know that at present Allison’s rates are beyond my budget. Jenny’s are closer to the mark, but I haven’t sent her anything, yet. I’m just not sure I can justify paying her either. I’m actually kicking around the idea of forming a group to give us another, inexpensive option. But would someone, who charges less, be perceived by you as lacking in the necessary skills to justify any outlay? Is a semi-pro someone I can trust my manuscript to? What do you think?

Slave, Please

As a writer I don’t shy away from using strong language or imagery. If you’ve listened to Archangel, particularly the story that I put up in between novellas, “Power in the Blood”, then you know that. That’s an extreme example and not one for the kids (or even some adults), but if someone wanted to come along and replace every swear word or violent scene with something less offensive I wouldn’t be thrilled. I do think changes like these, as well intentioned as they might be, do damage to the text. But is that always a bad thing?

These thoughts have come about thanks to the whole Mark Twain/Huck Finn fiasco. For those of you that haven’t heard, a Mark Twain scholar has released a version of the book that replaces the word “nigger” with the word “slave”. This article lays out some of the history of the book and the different versions that have been released. Since it’s out of copyright, it’s open to people doing this type of editing. No one’s rights are being infringed upon, certainly not Twain’s. I don’t know that anyone can clearly say what he would have thought of this, but I would like to think he’d have a sense of humor. You can blame this on “liberal” political correctness, or on over-sensitivity, or on white guilt. Or perhaps it has to do with the editor’s own insecurities.

Whatever the reason, in this particular case, I don’t think this is a bad thing, per se. The government isn’t doing this, the original version still exists, and as stupid as replacing “nigger” with “slave” is (as evidenced by this post’s title), I think getting “up in arms” about it is even more ridiculous. If it means more kids will get to read Twain’s work, I’m okay with it. As it stands right now, fewer kids are getting assigned it, because of that word. For the record, while I think that’s even more stupid than the idea of a new “whitewashed” version, kids should be reading the classics. That’s true even if they (or possibly because they) will embarrass some of us about the true nature of the past, but better to read a slightly mangled version than none at all.

Whichever version kids get exposed to though, I want them reading books like Huck Finn. Of all the things I remember from reading it as a boy the use of that word isn’t one. As an adult I can appreciate why he may have chosen to use it and can dialog with someone about that. Good fiction reveals and means different things to different people.

I, Gatekeeper

For years (not nearly enough years) I’ve been writing fiction, well aware that my early attempts would suck (and well should those attempts suck). I knew that there would come a time when I was happy enough with my mad skillz to attempt to get by the “gatekeepers”. Those are the editors and publishers that work to ensure that their magazines and other products contained only that which they though was of sufficient caliber to be published under their name. Little did I know that there would come a time when I would be a gate keeper myself.

That’s right, for those that don’t know, I am part of a crack commando unit was sent to prison by a military court for a crime they didn’t commit team of writers and podcasters (*) who have set forth to make our own publishing company. Flying Island Press is our baby and it’s first foray into the e-zine world is called Flagship. There’s more to Flagship than just an e-zine though. We’re also going to be podcasting the content that we purchase. Yes, that’s right, purchase.

Flagship is a paying market and it’s also going to be For Sale. I know, I know, I’ve talked about the power of free on this blog before and I think there’s a place for it, but there’s also a place for paid publications and for you the audience to pay for quality content.

Since you, the reader, will be asked to pay for this mag, we at Flying Island Press will make you a promise. We’re not just taking any stories that cross our desk. There will be an editorial process. I will be one of the slush reader for the ‘zine and I will be hard on everyone that comes my way. So, in essence, I will be a gatekeeper.

This is an interesting place to be in, let me tell you. I’ll have to say no. It’s hard to hear no. I’ve been in a position to say no and I can tell you that’s hard too. Hopefully seeing all the prose that gets sent our way will test and teach me as a writer and as an editor. I anticipate that we’ll get plenty of awesome stuff and some of that just won’t be what we’re looking for. Let’s face it though, we’re also going to get plenty of poorly written stuff. And I’ll get to see it all.

I hope that as time allows I can do for some what some have done for me. Sure I’ll have to use the “Sorry, but this just isn’t what we’re looking for right now.” But I also hope that I can spare a few words of encouragement and tips for improving the work of the people I see. Only time will tell as to how much of that I’ll be able to do.

Of course that’s all assuming you guys get off you duffs and get writing!!!

So go to Flying Island Press, check out our submission guidelines (a little loose at the moment but we’re working on tightening them), and get your stories in.

(*) Crack team consists of –

Jeffrey “Dark Lord” Hite
Zach “Mad Poet” Ricks
Philip “Norval Joe” Carroll
Jean-Philip “J-P” Losier (I’m gonna call J-P the Ragin’ Cajun even though I don’t think he rages or he’s from LA)
Scott “In Search of a Nickname” Roche (I’d link to myself but I think that’s illegal in NC.)