Editing then vs. now
On the differences (or lack thereof) in this surprise early-week edition of AFN
warning: flashing gif at the end.
I’m sure the astute among you have noticed that it it is not Friday or Saturday, the days on which these newsletters have been coming out with, I am proud to say, regularity for the last five and a half months. Last week the brain weasels were very powerful (and also I was finishing up a read on a book for work) and Friday and Saturday rolled around and I simply… didn’t!
My apologies for that. There will be two this week, to make up for the lack last week.
Heads up: there is a beefier than usual Housekeeping section, with an alert about upcoming supply chain shortages that will mess with your Christmastime book-giving, an event announcement, and an announcement of a back-to-school special I’m running!
I thought today I’d talk about the differences in the editing I do now, versus the kind of editing I did when I was an agent. The most obvious difference is that now I am paid for the editing once it is done, rather than completing it in the hope of payment down the road. (Remember, kids: when you’re dealing with agents/publishers, money flows TOWARDS the author, not away!) I thought initially that being paid for this work would change the way I thought about editing/the books I’m working on—happily, after nearly ten months, that has not been the case.
I’m still editing for the same things: internal consistency of style, character, plot, pacing, tension. I’m still giving feedback on world building and character names. I’m still asking the same questions (largely: but how do they FEEL? over and over and over) and pushing for the same kind of changes that I would have asked my clients to make, back in the day. And frequently did ask them to make.
Which is not to say that every edit is the same: on the contrary. Often, if a book has a similar issue to other books I’ve worked on (and they often do) it’s a case of the same problem manifesting in different ways, with different phrasing. A lack of interiority can be expressed by the characters never expressing any thoughts or feelings about what’s happening, or it can manifest in emotions and thoughts being described through solely physical details. (If I never see a clenched fist in a manuscript ever again, it’ll be too soon.)
I think the biggest change is that I am cognizant of this being a much more transactional relationship, and therefore I have to deliver the information differently. When I was agenting, my edit letters were much less formal than they are now; they also had to make sure that I was delivering feedback, which could sometimes be critical, in a way that wouldn’t poison our long-term relationship. This meant that though I had my thoughts on proposed revisions ready & written up (most of the time) when I offered rep, I didn’t give that feedback in a formal way until we’d agreed to work together. Though I try always to deliver feedback in a constructive and encouraging way, inevitably, the process of receiving this feedback is emotional for authors who have put a lot of work into their novel. So presenting it on the phone in a more conversational way was one way to mitigate that—now, I don’t have that luxury. But, being transactional, I know my job is to give them feedback which, if implemented successfully in a revision, will take the project to the next stage of the process, whatever that is for them. Authors are also coming to me with different goals, now. Up front I find out about the goals for the project: self-publishing? Traditional publication? I worked on a lovely memoir for an author who wasn’t sure if they wanted to pursue publication at all, since the material was so personal.
In all these circumstances, my job is to present my assessment of the book in a way that both describes and illustrates the feedback - this means I’ll usually describe a linguistic tic, and then provide 1-3 examples so authors can see what I mean. It means I need to prioritize my recommendations for revisions: if there is one large structural issue, and a number of smaller things that I noticed and still want to point out, the smaller things don’t need as much page-time in the edit letter as the larger issue, which might need more page time to point out.
After I turn in the material (i.e. the edit letter, and the manuscript with whatever comments or changes I’ve made, depending on the service) I schedule a video chat with the client, and we have a chance to discuss the feedback. So I do have the opportunity to connect with authors for a conversation—after the fact.
Even though I don’t get to have the very long-term relationships that I had with my former clients, I’ve still been able to have multiple collaborations with authors; it’s an amazing feeling to get repeat business because someone found my feedback helpful. It’s also been enormously rewarding to still be involved in story the way I’ve been able to the last ten months; to still engage with story and plot and emotion and, even if it’s a different relationship, still be able to work with authors to achieve great things.
Are you a person who likes to buy books? Are you a person who likes to give books during the various December holidays? Well, have I got (bad) news for you: due to a series of cascading supply chain failures, pub dates for some of the fall’s books are moving, print runs are shrinking, and basically, everything is a little bit borked. My pal Rebecca Heyman has a good action plan in her newsletter here, and here’s a good twitter thread on the various causes of the slowdown. If you want to be proactive, Rebecca suggests three tactics to deal with this shortage:
Preorder the books coming out in the next six months that you really want and preorder them NOW. Where possible, support indie bookstores by shopping your local or bookshop.org.
If you’re not an ebook person, consider becoming one while this is going on.
Is there a book that’s come out in the last three years that you haven’t read but wanted to? Now’s a great time to explore the backlist of an author you like! Chances are that pricy hardcover has gone into a paperback printing! In the coming weeks I’ll be putting together a Backlist Gift Guide of my own, linking to my bookshop page.
Speaking of Rebeccca, she and I will be doing a #FirstLineFrenzy on Instagram Live at 10:30AM EST on Wednesday, September 29! If you’d like to submit a first line for critique, fill out the form here. There are already a lot of submitted lines for considerations, so we probably won’t be able to get to everybody (alas.)
To celebrate the impending arrival of cool weather, I’m running a back-to-school special! For $25 you can get a critique of your query and the first ten pages of your novel, from now through October 5 (my birthday, coincidentally). To take advantage of this limited-time offer:
Pay the $25 fee using Venmo (linked here).
Snap a screenshot of your receipt.
Send the screenshot and your query + 10 pages to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’ll confirm receipt of your payment and materials. All critiques will be returned within two weeks of receipt.
Please note, manuscript pages should be sent in MS Word format, 1” margins, 12pt Times New Roman font, page numbers in bottom right corner, header with Author last name and title, and first line special indent 0.5”. Incorrectly formatted pages will be reformatted according to these specifications, which may result in the shortening of your submission.
And finally, as always, do you have a question about writing, publishing, books? Is there something you want covered in this newsletter? Do you long to hear my thoughts on Wonho’s new mini-EP? Leave it in the comments or in a reply to the newsletter!
THIS WEEK IN HOCKEY
Before I get to the (lack of) events in the hockey world this week, I want to draw your attention to the impending possibility of a nationwide IATSE strike. My sister is a union member, and the things they’re negotiating for with the studios—better wages, humane hours, meal breaks—are so basic it’s criminal. IATSE members are the camerapeople, art department members, and more who make the golden age of TV happen, and they deserve our support—not that they got any onstage at the Emmys on Sunday. If you want more information about why they’re negotiating, follow the Instagram account @ia_stories.
When I say there’s not a lotta hockey news, there’s not a lotta hockey news. Zdeno Chara signed a 1-year contract with the Islanders, returning to the team he was drafted to twenty-five years ago. That’s longer than most of the Caps prospects have been alive. Meanwhile Alex Ovechkin turned 36 (handsomely) and Sidney Crosby wished him luck in beating Wayne Gretzky’s goal record. The Caps play the Devils the night before my birthday—coincidence? I think not!
The Book Biz Tries to Avoid Supply Chain Disruptions by Jim Milliot (Publisher’s Weekly)
A BISG webinar held in early July sought to draw attention to the growing challenges in the book industry’s supply chain. Panelists pointed to shortages of truck drivers and trailers, congestion at the ports, and escalating transportation costs as factors that, in the words of David Hetherington, Book International’s v-p of global business development, were putting more pressure on the supply chain than at any time he could remember. In the ensuing two months, things have gotten worse, as printing capacity continues to shrink and labor shortages have made it difficult for printers, retailers, and wholesalers to fully staff their businesses.
“Consent”Is the Wrong Framework for Experiencing Art by Gretchen Felker-Martin (Gawker)
What do we mean when we talk about consenting to an experience? In the Western world, the term is most closely associated with sociopolitical analysis of sex acts and the willingness or unwillingness of the individuals involved. Since the mid to late 1990s, “consent” has been a prominent topic in mainstream discussions of sex, popularized by studies like researcher David S. Hall’s 1998 Electronic Journal of Human Sexuality submission "Consent for Sexual Behavior in a College Student Population.” Cut to 2021 and you might see the word deployed in contexts which could be generously described as “radically different” and less generously as “connected only by the most willfully wrongheaded and myopic conflation of experiences it is possible to imagine.”
“They’ll All Be So Fancy; Why Don’t You Be Plain?” Fashion and Religious Ecstasy in 1939’s The Women by Daniel Lavery (Shatner Chatner)
The Women is often remembered for its all-female cast (tagline “It’s all about men!”), although there’s a brief shot of Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. on the back of a magazine in an early scene, which goes a long way towards establishing protagonist Mary Haines’ relationship to her never-seen husband Stephen as something closer to Teresa of Ávila’s ecstatic union with the divine than, say, Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy. Mary is hilariously good, in the tradition of a saint, or Ebony Dark’ness Dementia Raven Way, every bit as wedded to wifeliness as she is to her earthly husband. She suffers from an early and public injury to her Dignity, and it is from this Fisher-King-like wounding that the rest of the plot hemorrhages. On first viewing, it is possible to mistake Mary Haines for a mere Proverbs 31 drip, but George Cukor knows better than to film a drip — she’s Christ in couture, suffering limply and euphorically through her stations of the cross, betrayed by every kiss and torn apart by thorns.
The fatal hike that became a Nazi propaganda coup | How Hollywood Sold Out to China | Adam Baran and Brontez Purnell on New York’s Lost Cruising Spots | We All Simp for Alfred Molina | How televangelist Tammy Faye Bakker became an unlikely ally in the AIDS crisis | “It just gives you motivation.” Seth Jones eager to shut his critics down and lift the Blackhawks up
(re) READING: Romancing the Beat: Story Structure for Romance Novels by Gwen Hayes
LISTENING: Wonho “Blue”
WATCHING: Only Murders in the Building
This has been A Faster No, a dispatch on publishing, writing, books, and beyond. Is there something you’d like me to talk about? Leave it in the comments or reply to the email! You can support the newsletter here. If you purchase a book from any of the links to Bookshop.org I get a small commission at no cost to you. I am available for developmental editing and editorial assessment services via Reedsy.