Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A plan comes together

I was approached at the beginning of December by the author of a first fantasy novel who, after considering all the options, decided he wants to self-publish it. I expressed my reservations about self-publishing fiction, but he insisted he knows how to market the book once it’s done. I also expressed my reservation about editing fantasy fiction, as I’m unfamiliar with its conventions. He said he’d worry about the conventions of the genre if I could help him with the mechanics of writing. Deal.

So I took a look at his 300,000-word manuscript (about four times as long as anyone’s first novel ought to be) and saw that there was plenty of fat to cut. But the cost to the author for me to do the work was going to be high. Instead, I did a sample edit of less than a page to show him what I had in mind, and I sent him away, after some additional conversation, to cut out the excess verbiage himself. All it would cost him is his time.

Today he sent me the first few chapters he had reworked according to my suggestions. The length of these chapters was down from 45,000 words to 10,000 words. And instead of slogging through the molasses of overwrought, florid descriptions, I’m breezing right along, watching the characters and the plot develop apace. He’s doing such a good job of self-editing that I’ll be charging him my very lowest page rate for light copyediting. Easy work for me, lower cost for him. Everyone’s happy.

I love it when a plan comes together.


Katharine O'Moore-Klopf said...

You, sir, are no true curmudgeon. Sounds like damn fine coaching on your part and a quick study on your client's part. Well done!

Dick Margulis said...

Mostly the latter. This was a classic case of watch one, do one, teach one. I gave him the standard sort of critique and advice any competent editor would have offered, with a concrete demonstration on a single paragraph, and the light switched on for him. That's not my usual experience, unfortunately. The author deserves the credit on this one.