Thursday, May 20, 2010

Editing Fail

by Zachary Steele

I are an writer.

It isn't the best start, I grant you, nor is it the best use of the English language, but it's what the cat wanted, and so shall it be.  Because, let's face it, cats get what they want, and there's nothing we can do about it.  Sure, we can whine, stomp our feet, curse to God, and grandmothers departed, but the cat will just tilt its head, perk its tail, give you some simple affection and commitment-free gratitude, and watch as you crumble to its will.  You have to have masochistic tendencies to own a cat.

And so, too, to be a writer.  Because, in the end, your cat at home has nothing on the editor who helps make your work into the shining beacon of literary beauty that it will become.  And she will usher you through the process with a harsh, and heavy hand, and you will whine and wail, stomp and holler, and ultimately capitulate to her will, because, well, that's the order of things.  Because, hey, you want that book published, right?  And for all your great skill, and crafty craftiness, you don't always know best.

I got a hefty reminder of this recently, when my dear, wonderful publisher (believe it or not, that was quite sincere!) call me in for a meeting to discuss my forthcoming second book, Flutter: An Epic of Mass Distraction.  She didn't bring a hatchet, nor did she wield a blunt object to throttle me with over mistakes, miscues, failed plot points, or the like.  Rather she wanted to let me know how thrilled she was over the course of the book, how much improvement there was from Anointed, and how excited she was to launch it full-force into the market.

When I finished it, that is.

Did my cat just bite me?

The problem, you see, is that my manuscript ended on an open note, hopefully to lead into a continuation in the third installment of the series.  That was my plan, and I stuck to it.  But, you see, that continuation--as my publisher so directly put it--was better served as the third act of Flutter, and not as another novel.

That sound you just heard was my heart dropping.

There is nothing quite so painful as handing over a book you slaved over, listening to the raves of the person who ultimately hands it to you, the reader, and realizing that what she is saying is wonderful, thrilling, and terribly horrific all in one.  You realize, then, that all the time you put into the book was not for waste; no, it was incomplete.  That you have another couple of months work ahead of you before it can finally depart your world of creation, and enter the world our dear readers deem as, 'reality.'  That your release date has just gone from a set date, to an undetermined endpoint, contingent entirely upon your ability to get it done on schedule.  All before your burrito even arrives.

I asked my cat, Maggie, what she thought of it, and she said something about how she knew I wasn't finished all along, had told me so many times, and it was my fault I thought she was begging for treats.  Then she rubbed my leg, mewed, and waited for treats, which I dutifully offered with my head hung low.

But you know this when you get a cat, and if you don't, then you shouldn't have gotten a cat to begin with.  They will abuse you, mentally wear you down, and make demands you feel small children would be offended by.  And at the end of the day, you'll smile because she's curled up against you, purring away, and making you better for the experience.

Or at least that's the way I see it.

Such is the order of life.  Cat Editors can be harsh, uncompromising at times, and cut you with their claws, but you love them regardless, because you would be nothing without them.

Zachary Steele is the author of Anointed: The Passion of Timmy Christ, CEO, and the forthcoming Flutter: An Epic of Mass Distraction, and has been featured on NPR and in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Publisher's Weekly, and Shelf Awareness. He can be found boring the world with his thoughts on his blog, The Further Promotion of ME.


Anonymous said...

Cats may be critical but they are honest. They don't know how to lie - except about whether you already fed them or not.
Wishing you luck with your writing project. Hope it all works out.

Anonymous said...

It's hard to have to soldier on when you think you're done, but you're taking it well. And no doubt your readers will benefit.

JLC said...

Each of your pieces surpasses the last on this site. I'm a servant of a cat too. Now, if only I could find a publisher with a good cat editor! Thanks for amusing us while instructing us.

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