Monday, January 12, 2009

Editor Escapades #1

Warning, some adult themes in this post.

Yes, before you ask, that's really ME in the photo. Of course, I don't always look like this, but there are days...ah, but I'm getting ahead of myself.

When you open a book or send off your latest submission, ever stop to wonder what life is like on the editor's end of things? What dark secrets loom behind glazed expressions and uninspired form letters? Allow me to share a glimpe of a typical day in the glamorous life of one mostly-mild-mannered editor--Yours Truly.

I wake up, dress, make herbal tea, and sit on the couch, pulling the laptop onto my lap over a cooling unit so my thighs won't burn. I situate my drink, pull the mouse within reach, and toss a throw blanket across my legs to ward off the winter chill. How much more perfect can things get than a job that involves the words couch, blanket, and tea, right?

Once comfortable and ready to read submissions, I note my computer screen is fuzzy. I've forgotten my reading glasses. Kick off the throw, put laptop with cooling unit aside, and shuffle across the room. Find my glasses. On the way back, I answer my 5-year-old's six (hundred) questions. I sit back down, put on the glasses, and reassemble my work zone. Child is now hungry for the food rejected moments earlier. Kick off blanket, set laptop aside, and head to the kitchen. After whipping up the feast, I must then partake, too, lest she develop an eating complex because her "working mom" is too busy to eat with family. Then it's time for the dishes--which she insists on drying herself...and who am I to deny a child who WANTS to do chores?

Before I can get back to couch, the phone rings twice--telemarketers. I feel very wise for turning off the ringer AND thinking to use the restroom before padding back to the living room. HA! Now I can get down to biz. Back on couch, laptop and throw in place...but tea is now ice cold.

Run to the microwave...ZAP! 45 seconds later and I'm back. Get comfy cozy, sip the warm brew, and click open the submissions database queue...which I can't read. I'd left my reading glasses on the kitchen counter while whipping up eggs and toast. Away, blanket and laptop. Up, editor chick. Away I go to fetch spectacles. On the way back my kid asks for 1.) a story, 2.) to watch TV, 3.) for me to take her swimming. I am reminded of why the first word babies often learn to say is NO, then sigh and take her to the desk and set her up with a computer learning program.

Back to the couch, laptop, tea, throw, AND glasses, I start sifting through a pile of submissions with a combined word count of two million words. Spouse senses a lack of outside distraction, and sits down meaningfully on the couch. I know the look; it's his, "We Must Talk...the Survival Of Our Species Depends On It" gaze. He is compelled to make a decision about a new mattress that has been ten years in the proces Right. This. Second.

Twenty minutes of frame types, pillow tops, and feng shui principles later, I snatch up the glasses, pry open the laptop lid, and peruse the submissions list. I bring tea to my lips to discover it is again bloody cold. Forget it--I no longer care that it's too early in the season for iced tea.

I've almost focused on the title line of the first submission on my list when DING! An instant message pops up over the front of the file, blocking my view. A submitting author wants to know why I haven't read their submission yet.

Good question.

Five minutes of assurances later, three new Emails pop into the submissions box. Two from staff, one new sub, which I carefully log into the database...a task rendered difficult considering the author has sent me a totally blank Email with an attachment titled, "Sub1." I download the file, only to discover it is a format my computer has never heard of. I respond asking the mystery author to please resend.

My attentions turn back to the submissions list. Several files cannot be opened, as they, too, were not sent in one of the formats requested on our submission guidelines. Those all receive "Please Resend" Emails. Two more are from authors asking me if I'd like to see their work, but haven't attached any. Another one addressed to Dear Editor, who sings our company's praises as the reason they want to submit--but forget to change the publisher name on their mass form letter.

The next file I open reads: ~_{+)@#@ojklj>m>MUOU$#4$~~~~@##@$%--for three hundred pages. Off goes another resend letter.

Hesitant, I click the next submission. Success! It opens AND contains actual words. No author's name or title at the top, but it's progress and I'll take it. It's a horror sci-fi, and I'm thinking it starts off intriguing. My eyes widen. My jaw drops, then hits the keyboard. Alien invasion by way of masturbating goo. Not pretty.

Deciding I need that tea hot after all, I jot a quick note to the author, explaining we're full up on semen-as-gooey-weapon stories, and hit the microwave. Daughter now needs a snack and some juice.

I come back, and haven't even got the laptop open before my husband needs input on the grocery list. I offer expertise and he's off--yay, a man who SHOPS!--and my daughter is in front of me again. "You forgot my vitamin."

I oblige, return, and review a story that has no Another with no discernible plot. And YESS!! One that catches my eye, ensnares my very soul with the promise of wondrous reading discovery. My eyes ping-pong back and forth, my heart speeding just a bit. After spending two hours reviewing the partial, I zip off a reply to the author asking for the full manuscript.

The reply shortly thereafter: "I already sold that. Didn't think about letting you know."

Spouse is back with the groceries, which I help put away. "So," he asks, "how's the editing going?" My stare teleports him wisely to another room.

I return once again to my couch/office, re-situate myself, and determine that I WILL find diamonds in the mine today. With steely determination I don my glasses...and my gazes focuses on the clock at the bottom of my screen. Time to go to my OTHER job.

Luckily, this diamond mine operates 24-7, so I can take another crack at it when I get midnight.

Today's Favorite Line Written: If he somehow succeeded, what would he become? With the world short one monster, would Mak's own flesh morph into something more evil to maintain the balance?
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Ginger Simpson said...

I'm not an editor, but that pretty mirrors a lot of my days when trying to get some writing done. Insert Grandson for children, emails for phone calls, and the fact that when I get up to get something, I forget what it was and end up doing something totally different and forgetting to get back to typing. What was your name again? Old age is challenging!!!


Lisa Logan said...

I thought this might close the continental divide between writer and editor!

And being the true editor I am, I greatly shortened the content--chances are, you had to endure at least four interruptions to read this blog as it was. ;)

Cheryl said...

Actually, I think it was seven interruptions before I got a chance to finish this entry, while I am trying to get two girls ready to go to swimming lessons--which one yesterday informed me that she now hates.

Don't writers and editors have such glamorous jobs? LOL! Thanks for the great article and a laugh or two.


Lea Schizas - Author/Editor said...

Ha, I thought you had a camera to spy on us, Lisa. So accurate with a few minor adjustments like:

five kids asking for either haircuts from their stylist mom, lifts, lunch, where's the other sock to complete the pair, and so forth.

My biggest delay is trying to read a submission that started off with a bang, lost me, regained me, then totally lost me and I'm wondering if it's just me or what. Back to the beginning just for a few paragraphs where 'it' lost me to regain my composure. Nope, author lost me. Rejection.

Biggest delay - answering emails.e

Margaret Tanner said...

Hi Lisa,
Very interesting to get a perspective from the other side of the fence. Next time my editor is late in getting back to me, I will remember what you wrote and not think nasty thoughts

madcapmaggie said...

Lisa -- I didn't start to write "seriously" until my kids were grown, but I play the flute and the piccolo and did (try to!) practice when they were little - at least I didn't have to deal with tea or email ...

Tabitha Shay said...

This pretty much says it for the life of an author, too. Yes, my kids are grown, except for DH and no matter how often I say, "Today, I'd love to get a ton of writing done, so please be quiet and don't talk to me..." Oh my God, those were the wrong words to say. His mouth develops diarrhea at a hundred words a minute, he loses everything in a two hour spill, because he's developed the 'Runs' of the mouth...when he finally takes his Pepto and quietens down, the phone rings...yep, those pesky telemarketers...Can I pull my hair out now? Or just leave my hero forever hanging over the crock pit???

Helen Ginger said...

This post is sooooo funny. I love it.

Lisa Logan said...

LOL You guys are too funny! It's nice to know we're all on the same page when it comes to the writing AND editing sides of things!

Norm Cowie said...

Bwah, ha, ha!

... urp ...

Lisa Logan said...

Right on, Norm! I know just what you mean, and couldn't have said it better myself. Heh.