Finding the Essence Is Crucial

“Writing is easy. All you have to do is cross out the wrong words.” Mark Twain

As each year passes, I find that I require fewer words to write. I still love long, languorous sentences if they serve a purpose, but I find more often that pithiness is key, and powerful. Often, I review what I’ve written and immediately see what to omit. First, I get my thoughts out, and then I edit.

“I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.” Mark Twain

It takes time to write well. It takes time and effort to edit well. But the result is worth it.

How much better to write of the “spare Lincolnesque man who limped through the grocery aisles surreptitiously filling his pockets with soups and raisins,” than to write, “He was a tall, thin man, with chin whiskers and a top hat, who dragged his leg as he haunted the aisles stuffing the coats of his pockets with canned veggies and soup and bags of food such as nuts and raisins.”

“A successful book is not made of what is in it, but what is left out of it.” Mark Twain

I am currently forcing myself to finish a book where the author desperately needed an editor to clean up his prose. If the reader knows the facts of a situation, and one character goes to share those facts with another character, the author can imply that the facts were conveyed, not make the reader sit through yet another iteration of said facts. Cut that part and get to the consequence of sharing that information.

Assume intelligence on the part of your readers: they can remember facts, they catch implications, and they are likely ahead of the characters when it comes to tying things together.

Tighten your prose. Still paint with the glory of the entire English vocabulary, but write succinctly. Allow each word to carry its own weight.

First-Page Critique #5: WWII-Era Story

zorraHere’s a new first-page joint critique from Meg Gardiner and me. The anonymous author’s page is below. Meg’s and my comments follow. Thanks to the author for submitting.

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Chapter 1

The barrels towered against the warehouse wall spilling out on the yard, one on top of the other. The stevedores tilted their heads and stared through the April morning haze. Their assignement started at first light. The warehouse owner wanted it done with a minimum of fuss, and before the regular hours of the harbour.

“How old did you say these barrels are?”

The youngest of the stevedores was barely 18 years old, with muscles straining against his shirt.

The foreman spat tobacco on the ground. “The oldest are from the last year of the war,” he said. “1918.”

The kid scratched his head. “Holy shit. Are you telling me that some of those barrels are older than I am?”

“That they are.” The foreman stuffed another wad of tobacco under his upper lip, and sucked tobacco flavoured saliva through his teeth. “We can use the crane to lift off the top layers and lower them directly on the barge. The barge will take them to the landfill.”

The kid wasn’t done being awed. “But isn’t it weird that the barrels have been here for so long? It’s 1940 for Gods sake. Why haven’t they removed them before?”

The foreman snorted and pulled on a pair of thick gloves. He was a big, burly man, with a face marked from a life on the docks. His shoulders were more powerful than the kid’s, as was his back.

“Our job is the clean-up. Get up there, you know how to work the machinery.”

The kid climbed up the crane. It gave him a tremendous feeling of power to look down on the foreman. One day he would take his girlfriend up here, and really show her … the view.

The thought made him grin while he started the engine.

A few hours later they were down to the last layer of barrels, closest to the wall. The barge had made one trip to the landfill already, and was waiting for them at the pier.

The foreman kept a close eye on the barrels. He waved up to the kid, and the crane stopped it’s creaking rhythm.

He bent over a barrel and looked closer at the metal hoops. He could clearly see rust, and he was unsure it if would hold.

If the hoops broke, the contents – litres of putrefied brine and rotten herrings — would spill all over his feet.

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Ann’s Comments:

I like this first page. Set in a different time, it interests me enough to keep reading. The last line leads me to believe that the barrels aren’t, in fact, full of brine and herrings, and I am intrigued to see what they will find left over from World War I.

The writing is solid and focused, but perhaps a bit wordy. Let’s look at some specific suggestions:

  • The barrels towered against the warehouse wall spilling out on the yard, one on atop of the other. The stevedores tilted their heads and stared through the April morning haze. Their assignment had started at first light. The warehouse owner wanted it done with a minimum of fuss, and before the regular hours of the harbour. [Assuming UK English in use.]
  • “How old did you say these barrels are?” The youngest of the stevedores was barely 18 years old, with muscles straining against his shirt. [No need for second paragraph.]
  • The foreman spat tobacco on the ground. “The oldest are from the last year of the war. ”
  • The kid scratched his head. “Holy shit! Are you telling me that some of those Those barrels are older than I am?”
  • “That they are.” The foreman stuffed another wad of tobacco under his upper lip, and sucked tobacco-flavoured saliva through his teeth. “We can use the crane to lift off the top layers and lower them directly on the barge. The barge will take them to the landfill.” [At some point, he has to spit.]
  • The kid wasn’t done being awed. “But isn’t it weird that the barrels have been here for so long? it’s 1940 for Gods sake. Why haven’t they removed them before?” [Careful with giving such precise dates like this. It can be easier, but weaker writing. Perhaps find another way to give an idea of the current date.]
  • The foreman snorted and pulled on a pair of thick gloves [this would be a good time for him to spit]. He was a big, burly man, with a face marked from a life on the docks. His shoulders were more powerful than the kid’s, as was his back. [This information should be important at some point, or we don’t really need to know it, unless he is a main character.] “Our job is the clean-up. Get up there, you know how to work the machinery.” [No need for separate paragraph.]
  • The kid climbed up the crane. It gave him a tremendous feeling of power to look down on the foreman. One day he would take his girlfriend up here, and really show her … the view. The thought made him grin while he started the engine.
  • A few hours later they were down to the last layer of barrels, closest to the wall. The barge had made one trip to the landfill already, and was waiting for the last load. them at the pier.
  • The foreman kept a close eye on the barrels. He waved up to the kid, and the crane stopped its creaking rhythm. He bent over a barrel and peered looked closer at the metal hoops. He could clearly see rust, and he was unsure it if would hold. If the hoops broke, the contents – litres of putrefied brine and rotten herrings – would spill all over his feet.

Simply tightening the prose helps move the story along and keep the reader’s interest. You could tighten further by leaving out some of the parenthetical prose (such as the foreman’s build, and the young man’s plan to take his girl on the crane). You want to capture the reader instantly. Too much chatter, and you risk losing the reader.

As I said, though, that last line grabs my attention. I would keep reading.

My comments:

All Ann’s suggestions are on the money. Using detail to show the era, the location, and set the mood are all great. But tightening this page will strengthen it, for several reasons:

1. Cutting the fluff (which isn’t that thick or fluffy, to be sure) will let the characters, setting, and events shine more clearly. Especially in dialogue, cutting echoes and verbal fillers will distill the conversation to its essence.

2. This scene is a set-up for the main story. Whatever spills out of those barrels is going to cause a disturbance in the world of the novel. It’s going to be the inciting incident that kicks off the plot. I’m confident that this the purpose of the scene because:

  • The author effectively creates a mood of mystery and anticipation (the barrels are so old! Their age is strange! They hail from the dying days of one massive war, and are about to be opened in the first year of another!)
  • The stevedores are minor characters who will probably only appear in this scene. Why? Because they’re “the stevedores.” They’re “the foreman,” and “the kid.” They don’t have names. That’s fine. But when minor characters appear, especially at the beginning of a novel, be careful not to give them too much personality. One identifying characteristic will be enough. If you describe them in detail, and show us their habits, and put them in lively conversation, and hint at their love lives, then readers will expect that they’re going to stick around and matter to the plot. When they don’t, readers will feel disappointed.

So: let the dock workers do their part. Don’t over-build them. Give readers one quick glimpse at the foreman (burly, tobacco-spitting) and the kid (fit, eager, young enough to be surprised) and then pry open those barrels. I want to know what comes spilling out, and see how the stevedores react.

Good job!

First-Page Critique #4: Pity the Living

zorra

Here’s a new first-page critique, of the British thriller Pity the Living. The page is below; author Meg Gardiner’s comments follow, with mine at the end.

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Pity the Living

Craig stood in front of the faded hardwood door and hesitated.  He glanced left and right. A few cars drove by, but there were few people on the street. He was a little surprised. This was a popular residential area, and he expected commuters and children to be heading out to work and school. He turned his attention back to the door and knocked, hard. Ten seconds seemed to be a reasonable time to wait for a response, but at three he was pulling out a key, its once sharp teeth smoothed by many years of wearing holes in pocket linings—some of them his. He tried to remember the last time he’d used it. Six years ago? Seven?

Craig pushed the key into the lock, the clicking of tumblers drowned out by the noisy squawk of Brighton’s seagulls. He glanced up and smiled. Those damn birds had probably started their morning racket with the rise of the sun, two hours earlier. The wooden door, swollen from years of neglect, squawked louder as he pushed it inwards. He hadn’t taken a step when the salt-fresh sea air was replaced by the unmistakeable stench of death. His stomach spasmed. He turned and threw-up the roadside breakfast-in-a-bun he’d eaten less than fifteen minutes earlier. His first thought was borne of pure shock, and he knew he’d forever associate it with this moment. That shit didn’t actually taste any worse the second time round.

Craig wiped his mouth on the back of his hand and turned back to the doorway. He breathed in through his nose, deeply. The smell wasn’t one he ever wanted to get used to, but this wasn’t the first time he’d smelled death. Those times were different, though. This time it was personal. This time he knew whose rotting corpse was waiting for him.

Craig pulled the sleeve of his jacket over his right hand and stepped over the threshold. He used his sleeved hand to push the door closed and stood for a moment, letting his eyes grow accustomed to the gloom of the familiar hallway. The two doors on his left were closed, as was the bathroom door at the top of the stairs ahead of him. Cheap curtains with no lining hung limply across the window to the right of the bathroom door, but did a poor job of keeping the morning light out.

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Meg’s comments:

This page offers a good mix of anxiety, determination, and mystery. I like the way we sense that this is a story weighted with history, and that the author creates this atmosphere without dumping backstory onto the page. The history is going to be revealed organically, strategically, after Craig opens the door. The page tantalizes us with hints—about Craig’s background, both personal and professional, and about the surprise that awaits him inside the house.

The writing is extremely competent. This submission has no issues with grammar, usage, or tenses. This might sound like a minor compliment, but writing competently is a tall hurdle to clear. When professional readers come across clean, proficient prose, we cheer. And the author knows to start the story in the right place: just before the main character crosses an awful threshold into a world soaked with death.

My suggestions relate to sharpening the prose, and pacing revelations. The author is interlacing description amid the action. That’s a good impulse, but in places it slows the flow of the story and results in long, convoluted sentences. Some details might not matter to the story, and can be tightened.

Opening paragraph: the author can reshape or cut most of the middle sentences. “Craig stood in front of the faded hardwood door. He raised his hand to knock, and hesitated. He glanced left and right. [Why? Checking for surveillance?] The street was surprisingly empty. This was a popular, leafy neighbourhood, but no commuters were driving to work, no children heading to school. And nobody was watching him. He rapped on the door, hard. He tried to wait ten seconds, but after three he pulled out the worn key. When had he last used it? Six years ago? Seven?”

One thing to change: the parallelism in the structure of these paragraphs. Each one starts with “Craig.” It’s too much. Paragraph two:

“Overhead, seagulls squawked. Craig smiled. Those damn Brighton gulls had probably been at it since sunrise. He jammed the key into the lock and pushed the door open. Swollen from years of neglect, it squawked louder than the birds. Instantly, a stench hit him. It overwhelmed the salt-fresh air. His stomach spasmed. He spun and threw up his roadside breakfast. The smell permeating the house was unmistakeable. Death.”

End the paragraph with the hardest hitting revelation!

“He wiped his mouth on the back of his hand. His first thought, borne of pure shock, was: That shit didn’t taste any worse the second time around. His second: I’ll never forget that a puked-up breakast-in-a-bun is what I thought about at this moment. He turned back to the doorway. He breathed in through his nose, deeply. [Clarify why? Because the olfactory nerves soon go numb?] The smell was one he never wanted to get used to, but this wasn’t the first time he’d smelled death. Those times were different, though. This time it was personal. This time he knew whose rotting corpse was waiting for him.”

In the final paragraph, do you want to show his emotional state as the first seconds of shock give way to action?

“He pulled the sleeve of his jacket over his right hand and stepped across the threshold. [If he wants to avoid leaving fingerprints, would he wipe the lock?] He shut the door with his covered hand and stood. His eyes adjusted to the gloom of the familiar hallway. His heart didn’t. It pounded. The two doors on his left were closed, as was the bathroom door at the top of the stairs ahead of him. Cheap curtains with no lining hung limply across the window to the right of the bathroom door, but did a poor job of keeping the morning light out.”

This is a solid opening page—but if the book is going to be an action-oriented thriller, then soon—very soon, within the next few words—it’s time to instigate some action. I suspect that those closed doors might hide bad guys. I hope so. Because as soon as possible, it’s important to put Craig into a scene with other people. That’s where conflict, dialogue, and story really get rolling. Don’t leave your characters alone!

Thanks to the author for submitting this first page. Good luck!

Ann’s comments:

I am immediately pulled into the story. You have used the senses to set the stage and provide something more than just the bare outlines of action.

He walked to a door, knocked, waited, let himself in, and found a body—This is so much more than that! We smell the salt air, hear the birds, hear the tumblers, see the neglected wooden door, and then smell death, not specifically but knowing that it is bad enough to cause the narrator to heave. Excellent use of the senses!

The rhythm of the sentences is also outstanding. Whether read silently or aloud, the sentences slip off of the page without staccato or pause. Such a rhythm makes it easy to read.

Though you haven’t explained who Craig is or why he is there, but you’ve given us a lot to work on: the fact that he has been there before, numerous times, and the fact that he has a right to be there (he has the key). There is mystery, and a touch of suspense, but we immediately know that he has a right to be there, of one kind or another.

I like the breakfast-in-a-bun reflection too. Cleverly written, almost an aside.

I have no line-by-line specifics to correct. You’ve done a masterful job with sentence construction and punctuation.

Unlike Meg, I like the description worked into the opening. I don’t feel that this is an action-thriller, but will be more of a detective/mystery, in which such details can and should play such a part. It’s also a difference in taste between Meg and me. I like the detail. She can’t wait to jump off the ledge.

Well written and controlled. Keep going.

First-Page Critique #3: The Neighbors

zorra

 

Meg Gardiner and I have decided to critique 10 first-page entries sent to us. All are unique, and each offers a different challenge for critiquing.

Here is #3, “The Neighbors.”

The Neighbors

Ten years ago she meets a neighbor. She never knew him entirely.  She walks the street hoping for more contact, which he doesn’t give.  He, only, smiles once, although she never forgets the embracing smells of cigarettes and whiskey. She understands what this smile means and considers the meeting never-ending. She considers him closer, seeing what her chances are for more. She smiles back.

Five years later he reappears, riding shotgun, arm and arm with a red Cadillac wheel and a chemical blonde in a Raggedy Ann dress. Skye still doesn’t know his name but upon seeing him and the chemical blonde, thinks, that’s what happened to him.

On a third occasion she’s cashier in a community bookstore. He walks into the bookstore. He doesn’t recognize Skye.

“We’ve met before, she said.

He thinks.

He leaves.

He comes back. He asks for her phone number, “I know you’ve given it to me before”, he says, “but can I have it again”?

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Ann’s Critique:

My first reaction is, what? This seems so disjointed. But upon second read, I find I am intrigued, and I’m beginning to think the author is actually in control. Now, I am curious about what comes next.

As to specifics:

  •  I’m interested in these sentences: “Ten years ago she meets a neighbor,” and, “Five years later he reappears.” It seems to me that this “misuse” of tense is intentional. I’d have to read more to know for sure, but I suspect it will have play in the piece.
  •  I’m not sure about the punctuation here: “He, only, smiles once, although she never…” Is he the only one to smile, or did he smile just that once? If the latter, then the sentence should be, “He smiles, once only, although she never…
  •  “She understands what this smile means and considers the meeting never-ending.” Excellent line. This sets the reader up for a possible stalker situation, or at least, unrequited love.
  •  ““We’ve met before, she said.” Need a close quotation after before, and here you’ve switched up the tense. Again, intriguing, but if in error, be aware of that fact throughout the piece.
  •  Finally, all punctuation should go inside the quotation marks in this piece. (Otherwise, colons and semicolons don’t go inside, but that’s another discussion.)

Overall, despite my initial reaction, I feel the writer is in control here (story-wise). I’d certainly read more.

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Meg’s Critique

My reactions parallel Ann’s. First read-through: Huh? The tenses and time shifts are all over the place. Second read-through: Huh. The author is shifting tenses in a deliberately edgy and controlled way, to pull us into the story with a contemporary, conversational voice.

This is both the story’s strength and a risk to its success. Readers who don’t give it a second read—that is, most readers—might feel confused. And if you confuse readers in the first few paragraphs, you’re likely to lose them. BUT—if this is aimed at a literary fiction market, where readers expect experimentation and word play, I think they’ll eagerly go along for the ride.

And I do suspect that this is a literary short story. At least, I hope so. Its concision, its quick half-scenes, give it a pace and momentum well-suited to short fiction. It really moves, in a series of rapid-cut snapshots. That gives us a lot to go on, and a lot to make us curious, in just 165 words.

If I’ve misread, and this is the opening to a novel, the mini-scenes will seem thin. But I don’t think this opening is meant to support another 90,000 words of story. In which case, keep it up—I want to know what happens with Skye and the neighbor.

(Ann has nailed all the punctuation and usage issues. Follow her advice.)

Thanks to the author for sending the page! This critique can also be found on Meg’s website.

First-Page Critique #2: Sci-Fi for Children

First-page critique: untitled science fiction for children

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Here’s Entry #2 in this blog’s first-page critiques.

The anonymous author’s first page is below. Author Meg Gardiner‘s comments and my edits follow.

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“Once upon a time…”

…said Mr. Pringle to his tired and mutinous children, all girls, as he dragged them in a ragged line through the Dolorous Garde, the gate on the westernmost side of Mayfair Gardens.

Usually these words begin a story. Here, they brought one to an end. Specifically, his.

If fate had let him finish, Manny Pringle’s last words on Earth might have ended in Paternal Advice: “…If thee were to be sick in company, Modesty, thee’d use thy hat”.

Or maybe in an Improving Proverb: “…I’d not have to remind thee, Patience: ‘Smile, and the world smiles with thee; cry, and I’ll give thee summat to cry about’”.

Or even with A Last Warning: “…Any wide-awake lass’d know only a fool gets ‘tween a dog and his ball, Prudence!”

Instead, as he hurried his family under the reverberating bronze dome, a bomb blew him out of his boots and into nothingness.

It was the boots that were to blame. They had been plaguing him all day. Only last Monday, they had been sat in all their dark glory on the two-pound-ten shelf of Lancashire’s finest bootmaker in (“Enoch Duckworth, Bootier. By Appt. to His Worship the Mayor of Cogthorp”).

“That sole had better last”, said his eldest daughter checking off her list.

“It’ll last longer than you, miss, and it’s almost as smart, if you ask my opinion”, said the shop boy.

A small face popped up over the level of his counter. “If we want your opinion, we’ll ask a monkey”, it scowled.

________________________

Meg’s comments:

This is a charming and fun opening page — which is an accomplishment, considering that the main character gets blown to smithereens. Its success is down to an intangible quality: the author’s voice. It’s lively, lighthearted without being saccharine, and has just enough of an edge to keep the story from feeling either gooey or dark. There’s a Roald Dahl-ish vibe to Mr. Pringle’s tale.

I’m curious that the author describes the story as science fiction, because the language is deliberately anachronistic, in a way typical of fantasy or fairy tale. It even starts with “Once upon a time.” (Kiddie Steampunk?) This can work, but the speculative/SF aspects need to get going quickly, especially in a children’s book. It doesn’t have to be in the first paragraph, because even in a kids’ novel there needs to be room for world building. But soon.

My main concern is with structure. This single page encompasses three disparate elements:

  1. It opens with the Pringle family on an expedition to Mayfair Gardens. That’s good: it’s an immediate scene.
  2. It veers into speculation about what Manny Pringle might have said, if he had survived. The imagined quotes, with their insightful labels (Paternal Advice, Improving Proverb, Last Warning) give us Pringle’s personality. But in essence they’re backstory. Coming immediately after the opening paragraphs, they distract and slow down the narrative.
  3. The final third of the page is a flashback to the purchase of the boots — an entirely different scene.

In other words, the page is trying to do a whole lot. Maybe too much. Starting with a dramatic event is a good impulse — it hooks the reader. Just don’t wait too long to come back to it. I don’t know what age range the story is aimed at, but if the narrative swoops back and forth too much, children can struggle to follow it. Be wary of that.

My only other comments relate to punctuation. Cut every ellipsis (…) on the page except, perhaps, for the first two. And maybe those as well. And put the punctuation for dialogue inside the quotation marks. (“That sole had better last,” said his eldest daughter.)

In sum, I would definitely read on.

Ann’s comments:

I absolutely loved this page. It intrigued me from the get-go, on many fronts. It was quirky, the language was elegant and playful, and I was hooked immediately. The father was a definite character, and the last line made me want more.

The tone of the piece could have been much darker, given the fact that Mr. Pringle blew up, but the fanciful and lively writing sets the reader up for something fun as well as mysterious.

As to specifics:

  • Using “Once upon a time” to start a story is risky, of course, but it works here, on two levels. First, it is something Pringle was actually saying. Second, it sets the tone for the piece. I see from your “title” that this is a piece of science fiction for children. In that case, this is an excellent opening line, but you must make it work for you later in the story.
  • You give examples of what last words Pringle might have spoken, led in with an ellipse, but the words don’t really follow on what the first part of the sentence was, “Once upon a time…” I love the possible quotes, but they don’t quite fit with the lead-in. That would need some remedy. And there are perhaps too many quotes, though I suspect this was due to his addressing each of his daughters, and perhaps giving us insight into their personalities (particularly to Prudence).
  • “a bomb blew him out of his boots and into nothingness. It was the boots that were to blame.” That is such an unexpected line. Caught me off guard immediately. I like that.
  • Only last Monday, they had been sat in all their dark glory  (“they had sat” is more concise).
  • “finest bootmaker in (…)   You don’t seem to finish the sentence after giving the bootmaker’s name.
  • I see by your punctuation that you are writing in British English, so I won’t comment on punctuation.

For a first page, this was exactly to my taste as appetizer. Well done!

Thanks for submitting. And thanks to graphic novelist Lucas Turnbloom for the swashbuckling editor icon!

Free First-Page Critique (Limited Time Offer)

zorra

Image by Lucas Turnbloom

 

I’ve often talked here about writing: story structure, character development, conflict, action, dialogue, revision, editing—the elements of craft and style. Now I’m going give you a taste of how editorial review works. By giving you the chance to submit the first page of your manuscript for critique here on the blog.

Here’s the deal:

I’m teaming up with my friend Meg Gardiner (Edgar award-winning author) to offer up to five people a first-page critique. Meg is an author and has taught writing courses at the University of California and workshops in the US, England, and Europe. I have also taught fiction writing, at the University of California San Diego Extension program as well as in writing workshops in the US. I’m also a veteran journalist, newspaper editor, experienced freelance editor, and writing coach.

Here’s how it works:

Submit the first page of your manuscript—400 words maximum. Meg and I will choose 1-5 submissions from the first 20 entries submitted. We post the selected entries along with our critiques both here and on Meg’s blog, Lying for a Living.

If you want to participate, email Meg the first page of your manuscript.

Email your first page in the body of the email. That means: don’t send it as an attachment. Put the text in the email.

Send it to: meg@meggardiner.com

Subject line: CRITIQUE [Title]

We’ll post critiques of the chosen pages anonymously on our blogs. The writers’ names will not be posted. However, readers will be able to comment on each post, and if the author wants to jump in and identify him or herself, that will be fine.

Who’s in?

Editors: Compliments Are Few. It’s No Life for the Needy

GREAT_COMPLIMENTS-234x300

I was complimented today. Why doesn’t matter. It was sort of a toss-off compliment, but heartfelt nonetheless, I believe. What struck me most was the realization that I rarely get compliments. Oh, I get them from my husband; they are frequent and joyfully received. But in life, in general, compliments aren’t generally tossed out like beads at a Fat Tuesday parade. People tend to be circumspect, stingy even, with compliments. I don’t know why. It’s not like you have to pay for them!

Especially as a freelance editor, compliments are few and far between. I accept that repeat work from my clients is the greatest form of compliment. But I realized today that if a person needs regular positive feedback, the life of a freelance editor isn’t for them.

I rarely miss a deadline, and when I do, it’s typically not my fault. (Simple fact. Project managers fall behind, and try as I might, I can’t catch up. But that’s rare…the inability to catch up, not PMs falling behind.  Despite obstacles laid in my path, I power through on weekends and late into the night to meet deadlines.)

Rarely does my extra effort result in acknowledgement, however, other than, “When will the next chapters be ready?” or something of that sort. I certainly never get a bonus at the end of the year, or regular incentives.

More often, I’m informed that rates are going down, due to yet another downturn in the economy, so freelancers (while vital to the publishing industry) will not receive the pay they currently receive. Hey, I accept that. I’ve chosen this career, and I have no illusions. Though vital, freelance editors are a “dime a dozen,” even the great ones.

But, I readily admit, it was nice to get that compliment! I read it and reread it and grin. It’s like an unexpected gift.

Remember that when you work with your editors, writers. Please. Editors are like dentists. We might cause pain, but ultimately, you are better off because of us! Be aware that compliments go a long way in the heart of an editor.

Applause