Mark Terry

Friday, May 08, 2009

5 Lies Writers Believe About Editors

May 8, 2009
Jeremith Tolbert wrote this post, "5 Lies Writers Believe About Editors" that is definitely worth a read. To wit:

“Editors are just like us.”  No, we’re not. You don’t have a neverending stream of bad writing coming at you day in, day out.    You get to read for pleasure, selecting material that has been through at least one filter.  Whereas you turn on the tap and get a stream of nice drinkable water,  we put our mouths to a sewer pipe and hope to get at least one swallow that won’t give us raging diarrhea.


Blogger Erica Orloff said...

That was a hilarious list (I checked out the whole thing). Someone recently said to me that he thought a recent rejection should have included constructive feedback. To me, that very idea is insane. Editors aren't in the habit of developing authors they haven't even signed. Let alone, sometimes, the ones they HAVE signed. Most writers have absolutely NO idea of the crap that gets tossed at editors. If you swim in a pool of moderately talented writers, you start to think that ALL writers can write decently, follow guidelines and so on. Nothing could be further from the truth. Add to that that "moderately talented" probably isn't good enough anymore in this economic and publishing climate.

6:56 AM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

Absolutely. I wrote something similar on the BookEnds blog yesterday, because I noted that most people, if they want to get a job somewhere, make sure they have a nice, neat resume, fill out the application neatly and carefully, dress up for the interview.

But a tremendous number of people apparently think all they have to do to get published is write something down and send it in. My gut is that it has to do with the fact everybody thinks they're a writer because they know how to write. Rather different for sculptors, painters and most musicians. But most of us learned how to write in the 1st grade and think they can do it.

7:02 AM  
Blogger Jude Hardin said...

Hmm. I used to think agented submissions were taken a little more seriously than the not-right-for-me pig shit in the slush pile.

But I've since discovered how utterly naive I was. Oh, well. Live and learn, right?

9:01 AM  
Blogger Adam Coronado said...

Mark, you remind me of when I might be getting my teeth worked on and the dentist says, "Oh, you're a writer. Yeah, I'm probably going to take that up when I retire."

What? Like crocheting or something? It's so hard to not tell him, "Yeah, I was thinking the same thing regarding dentistry."

9:08 AM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

I think he's mostly talking magazine SF publishing, although I think editors and agents still get an awful lot of crap. Well, agents get tons of it.

9:47 AM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

Doctors and dentists. I think they all want to be novelists. I can't believe how many of them think they'll become novelists when they retire. All I can think is they must be unhappy with their jobs.

9:48 AM  
Blogger Erica Orloff said...

An agented submission can sometimes mean an agent really gets editors fired up over a very hot prospect--but then it has to BE a very hot prospect . . . something with a huge hook or whatever. Generally, they get you read in weeks or months instead of . . . oh, like never . . . for most slush. But even agented material isn't always a match for them--and they just have such a VOLUME of reads that your book has got to grab 'em on page one and NEVER LET GO.

When I read slush, if a writer didn't have me at page 3 . . . forget it. The publishing company I read for said give it three chapters, but then the director pulled me aside and said, "Look, after a while, you KNOW by the end of the first page."

12:17 PM  
Blogger Erica Orloff said...

I still will take on developmental editing of fiction for aspiring authors. I have YET to meet a surgeon who can write.

Honestly. I've worked with four of them over the last 15 years. Awful stuff. And let me tell you, it got significantly worse after the success of Gray's Anatomy (TV show)

P.S. My word verification is "Derica."

12:19 PM  
Anonymous Christine said...

Hey, don't knock takes some skill...really.

I think back in the 20s, when everyone had to actually type their books on manual typewriters (as Mark pointed out recently), editors did not get quite as much slush pile, and so folks like Maxwell Perkins could afford to give constructive feedback.

It's amazing to me just how much the legends about those glory days keep showing up in people outside the writing treadmill.

12:29 PM  
Blogger Angela said...

Great list--thanks for posting it!

2:39 PM  

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