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Shooting Yourself in the Foot

June 24, 2013

It happens. You get in the middle of something or you're dealing with the after effects of something when you realize that it sucks and... Well, it's your own damn fault.

Nearly a year ago now something was put into play. I should have said “no thanks”, but I was desperate for work. When they called to tell me the total, $3,000 of the original offer was missing. This made the amount of money laughable. I should have said no, but I needed the work and there was a promise of future work where perhaps good money could be made. What should have taken three months of my time took six because they just kept asking me for rewrites, saying that if this one’s good, there will be more work down the road. I wanted to quit with every rewrite. Only the first rewrite made the book better. With each one of the other three rewrites, the book got worse.

The experience has made me question my writing, the publishing house, everything I want to do with my life.

It made me question the way I write, not because I don't think I'm the best writer in the fucking world because of course I do. They gutted this book. They took all the fun out and made me add tons of useless descriptive narrative to “suit the fans”. I thought if this sort of crap is really what the fans want then it's no wonder my career and my publishing house is struggling.

I wonder if anyone out there still cares about what I think is important about books. To me it is now and always has been about who can tell a story that gets me to thinking about things I've never thought about before. Pretty words, perfect punctuation, and all grammatically correct tied up in a letter-perfect, no typos whatsoever bow. Books have their place, but is there no room at all for the real storyteller anymore?

On a panel at a so called “literary con" (yes it's every bit as stuffy as it sounds), one of the panelists concluded that anyone who couldn't spell properly and didn't use proper punctuation (show me two people who agree on punctuation and then you and I can try to figure out which one of them is a liar) shouldn’t be a writer.

The smug bitch isn't a writer herself. Nope. She was married to a writer. Let me just tell you why she's not a writer: because in my opinion anyone who reads a book with a red pen in their hand — who isn't an editor — has very little imagination.

I'll take a writer who has heart, a writer who can tell a real story — even with a few typos and punctuation mistakes and even some spelling errors, and tense problems — over a writer who is letter-perfect but whose work leaves me saying “so what?” any day of the week.

Let me try to explain something. The people who have the best stories have had the most interesting lives, and interesting usually means hard. Generally people who have to work for everything they've ever gotten from an early age didn't have the opportunity to study or for further education that some people have.

I do not and never have believed that the world should belong only to those lucky bastards who never had any shit rain on their head. I certainly don't believe that the world of fiction writing will be enhanced if they can just keep all the little people in their place.

Fixing a writer’s work, well that's what editors and copyeditors are for. Do I mean send something unreadable in? No. What I mean is that everyone makes mistakes and there are supposed to be people in place to stop most of those mistakes from getting through.

Now why did I say most and not all? Because some of the things a fistful of copyeditors masquerading as readers are going to bitch most about probably weren't mistakes at all, but was that writer's voice. I’m sorry if you come from New York, but that’s the way people talk down here.

I have seen copyeditors remove a writer's soul from their work and shut the writer's voice out in an attempt to make every fucking word grammatically correct.

What did I miss? When did we all start running up to the gate to be branded, even pushing others out of the way to get branded first so that we can be just like everyone else? I'm sick to death of the status symbol book trend, and so very tired of listening to people bitch about a typo as if it were the end of the world.

And the simple fact is that I didn't feel as if the industry was completely dead to me until I took that writing job; the one I knew I shouldn't take in the first place, the one I made no money on, the one that wasted six months of my life.

I shot myself in the foot. But maybe I did that a long time ago when I wouldn't get into the box and write like everyone else who was making the big time.

Selina

If you enjoy these bitches, please contact Selina directly at selinarosen@cox.net. Thanks!

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