Back when my agent was negotiating the contract for Slaves of the Switchboard of Doom, I was aware that my editor had a lot of projects on his plate; heck, even he was aware. It was him who told me.
Which is great, of course: you like to see good people working, after all. But it concerned me a little.
So I proposed a new clause for the contract: the Pierrot Clause. Any time I had to wait for feedback from my editor, he would be required to wear a Pierrot costume. All day. Every day.
Me, I thought this was genius. Who wouldn’t want to see people contractually compelled to wear costumes out of Commedia dell’arte? I mean, it’s literate and it’s ridiculous. Everybody wins!
Maybe Steven King could get the Pierrot Clause into his contracts. Sadly, I just don’t have the clout; I had to give it up. This is perhaps the biggest reason why I’d like to be a bestselling author. I’m convinced that the Pierrot Clause is a thing that’s meant to be.
So, maybe next time. In the meantime, though, and in the most polite way possible, I am waiting for feedback from my very busy editor, and I’ve decided that what we have right here is the next best thing. I will imagine him giving me feedback. In full color. As often as necessary. With ray guns.
I can’t wait to see what he has to tell me about exposition and passive constructions. Maybe next week!
So, if you’ve been paying attention, you know that I’ve been getting editor’s notes from the Bizzarro World, Mirror Universe evil twin of my actual editor. He’s tough, but he’s fair.
Or so I thought until this morning. We’re a little early in the week here because my imaginary editor is off to his own Bizzarro World version of Worldcon (which, this year, is really saying something). And I have to admit to a bit of surprise.
This is a terrible accusation to make against Chapter Three, a chapter I’ve known for quite a while now and which I feel privileged to call my friend. Chapter Three has never had a mean thing to say about anybody. And although it features a description of an inertrium warehouse, and has some things to say about architecture and the usefulness of decorative statues, I’m frankly puzzled as to why this Mirror Universe editor thinks it’s a non-stop festival of exposition*.
I’m starting to think he’s just got it in for me. But that sounds kind of paranoid, now that I’ve typed it, so maybe I’ll just go back and read that chapter again.
* Please don’t confuse this with the yearly Altoona Festival of Exposition, with which I am not affiliated and which, in any case, can’t be called non-stop because they take a break on Thursday night for the parade.
This may confuse you. It confused me. In your case, though, I may be able to clear things up by directing you here and here, where you’ll find that in my real world editor’s absence I’ve been taking feedback from my imaginary editor, instead.
This may not be less confusing. I can’t help you there.
I’ve got two big objections to my imaginary editor this week. Since it’s just you and me here, I’m going to share them.
First off, this week’s feedback isn’t constructive. In fact it crashes through the walls of constructive criticism and roars down the road through a cascade of nuns and orphans, only to plow into a ditch filled with kittens; then it explodes into a roiling, toxic cloud of what we have to call destructive criticism.
This may sound harsh.
Honestly, though, how am I supposed to improve my manuscript based on this kind of feedback? I’d have to travel back in time and make sure that human language was at the top of my to-do list before I even got out of the crib. And, you know, that’s pretty much how I think things went. I mean, my ‘first word’ was actually a complete sentence, which was “Get this stuff off of me!”.
So the utter brutality of this message is my first objection.
My second objection to this is that I have it on pretty good authority that it’s not even original. The story is that Harlan Ellison, at a writers’ workshop, once delivered this same bombshell to a writer who I’m pretty sure was not having the best day of his or her life just then.
So my imaginary editor cheats. Of course if you’re going to steal it’s good practice to steal from the best, and that would have to be Ellison. But it’s still stealing.
So I’m wondering whether I can leverage this plagiarism in some way. Risky, I know. But I’m starting to suspect that the history of publishing may be filled with these little stories of extortion, blackmail, and mayhem. There’s Christopher Marlowe, for example. There’s François Villon. And there’s my imaginary editor.
Times like these, I really wish I could have my real editor back. He seems like such a nice guy, especially now that I’ve seen the alternative.
Publishing? Not for the squeamish. Not for the weak. And apparently not for robots, either.
As is his habit, my imaginary editor has sent me his weekly feedback. (Confused? This all started here, then continued here and here).
Up to last week this evil twin of my actual editor was on an escalating cycle of negativity. I’m not ashamed to admit that I was pretty apprehensive while I waited for his newest message. So when I saw this one, I had to sit back and consider what it might mean.
This really looks like a play for sympathy, doesn’t it? Maybe last week – when I called him on his plagiarism – he decided to back off. Or maybe he’s trying to tell us that even a Mirror Universe editor has his problems. Or maybe he’s just softening me up for next week’s bombardment of red ink which, by the way, never washes out.
I like to think I’m a compassionate person. So I probably shouldn’t be smiling quite so much when I see that he forgot to pack his space helmet. Should I?
Anyway, there’s an upside. Just eight more weeks of this… and we’ll have a calendar!
It’s a new (or newish) week, and so I’ve received my weekly feedback from my imaginary editor. If you haven’t met him before, you can catch up here, here, here, and here. Go ahead: I’ll wait till you get back.
He seems to have kept to that pensive mood we saw in his last message. But at the same time… I sense a return to his original
brutal malicious uncompromising assessment of my book, Slaves of the Switchboard of Doom. It’s subtle, but it’s there.
And I guess I can’t deny that a sentence will sometimes develop sentience and leap off the page, eating the cat, if applicable, or otherwise the dog, on its way through the window and into the street outside where it’s likely to cause a car wreck – or, conceivably, a train wreck – before it slinks off into the shrubbery and into its own intensely private, eventful, and undeniably long life in which periods are far outnumbered by semicolons. It can happen.
But on the other hand a long sentence that seems to wander can be a great setup for a quick, pithy punchline that slaps the reader right in the brain before he or she knows what’s happened. Which is pretty great.
I was sure that in my many editing passes I had winnowed out the ones that didn’t do that, and left only those that did. But I can’t tell. That’s because my imaginary editor never got around to telling me which sentence he’s talking about.
Maybe it was Chapter Twelve.
Anyway, I’m off to figure that out and to daydream about the return of my actual editor. As one does, in moments like these.