Cussedness Corner

"My work may be garbage but it's good garbage." Mickey Spillane

Editorial Burnout


My editor, who is also a novelist in her own right, has told me that she’s getting burned out and I’ve begun to look for a new editor.

The job is mainly comprised of telling me I’m wrong *grin.*

All authors have a blind spot. We assume that something is there because we know it ought to be. I sometimes leave out words in a sentence, but no matter how often I read through the manuscript, I still miss it because my mind tells me it is there because it is supposed to be there.

One of my best first readers is Dutch. English is his second language. Yet he catches more errors than anyone else. I write fast and sometimes I have a habit of typing ‘sent’ when I mean ‘send;’ bent when I mean bend. And then the blindspot kicks in and I miss that in the re-read. I also tend to overuse words. I could almost see my editor grinning when she said to me the other day “There’s a whole lot of smiling going on in this scene.” Oops

The flavor of the month appears to be ‘glance.’ I caught myself and the next thing I knew I was overusing ‘look.’ Sigh.

One of the nicer things about being one of my publisher’s best-selling authors is that Jean has allowed me to pick my own editor. That means that I get someone I can trust. Mary Renault wrote an article back in the 80s about languages that had no gender endings. For instance, male and female rulers were both referred to as “king.” It served as the basis for her novel The King Must Die about Theseus and the amazons. It was predicated on the way that gender endings — or the lack thereof — could lead to misinterpretations of prophecy.

It had always sat in the back of my mind that I wanted to work with a language that lacked gender endings and how that might put a kink in prophecies that would otherwise be true ones. Another thing I have always been interested is in how language changes and the meanings of texts are altered over the course of translations. My inspiration for that was reading about how many translations of the bible there have been, most of them without going back to the original source text. As a result we have translations of translations and the meaning of many passages becomes blurred.

These aspects of my novels meant that I needed an editor that I could trust to keep the intricacies in mind as they did the edit. The average copyeditor would have butchered it for spelling and grammar issues that were deliberate.

Writing it is challenging simply because it is too easy to slip up and violate my own rules. I have to be extremely conscious in my final drafts to catch all of that. And sometimes I don’t catch it.

A good editor has to be brave enough to argue with me about content and yet be willing to help me find a solid compromise. The conclusion of Blood Dawn was substantially improved by that process.

My character of Isranon was inspired by Ghandi. My first few drafts made the character appear to be weak, rather than showing that his pacifism was actually an active choice and required great strength to maintain. Thanks to a host of first readers and a good editor, the strength required to attempt to lead that kind of a non-violent life in a very violent world comes through.

The upcoming Blood Hope is a key book in the series. I have already turned it over to one of my first readers before starting the final draft.

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This entry was posted on March 15, 2007 by in Janrae Frank.

Janrae Frank

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