Sent three manuscripts back to their authors so far this month; had three more come back in. Considering I'm supposed to be holidays until Sept, more than I really want to deal with. But of course, my grad students (all of whom are classroom teachers) are also off this week and scrambling to get their theses off their desks before they have to return to teaching; and authors just send me stuff whenever they happen to finish the current round of revisions.
Did enjoy editing the last three manuscripts, though, all of which were by professional, full-time authors. It is a pleasure dealing with professionals because when you say "this has to go" (and explain why) they say, "okay, right, how about this instead?"
In contrast, many beginning writers / grad student argue back and try to explain why I don't understand their 'vision', that their mom and fiancee thought it was really good the way it was, and that making the revisions I'm suggesting would take, you know, a lot of work. For example, guy a while back wanted to self-publish a collection of short stories, and when I pointed out flaws in about half the stories, he explained that I had obviously missed the point of the story. Okay, in one case that was even true -- but if I miss the point, is that because I'm dense, or because he hadn't written the story clearly enough to get the point across? (I am inclined to the latter interpretation.) He also pointed out that all the stories in the collection had been previously published, so obviously those editors had loved those stories. Okay, well and good, and its true that all the stories showed talent and promise. But getting published in ezines and small press lit mags is not the same as getting paid for your stories, so if you actually want to sell books (to someone other than your Mom and fiancee) you have to up your game. The only people reading ezines are other aspiring authors; if you want to reach actual readers, have to move up to the next level. Stories good enough for non-paying markets may not be good enough for paying markets; for every hundred writers getting published in Ezine Monthly, there is only one making a sale to a pro market. Helping authors move from 'good enough to get published' to 'good enough to get paid' is what development editors do. But, you know, only if they take the advice.
So it was refreshing to work with a couple of professional writers for a change. In one case, I shredded the manuscript, not pulling too many punches, and the author's response was an enthusiastic 'Great! Finally getting some input I can use!' Brain stormed some alternative approaches back and forth via email for awhile, and she has now come up with a very workable structure that promises to be best thing she has done yet. Really looking forward to next draft.
Of course, I say all this from the perspective of an editor/prof. When it comes to my own novel, I fully expect to defend each scene, line and comma to the death. Well, that's human nature, isn't it? I have already identified the two editors and two writers I'll be sending the manuscript to for scrutiny as soon as I'm finished, and while my brain is fully aware that at all four are going to shred it and demand I do better, in my heart, I am secretly hoping they will tell me how brilliant I am and tell me the book is perfect as it is.
As if. In the real world, that never happens. If an acquisition editor doesn't ask for any changes, its because the manuscript has already been vetted by one or more competent editors (usually other writers).
I do have one published author who has routinely sent me manuscripts with which I can find no fault (I was able in one book to identify a confusion between the SS and Gestapo, but that's so minor a correction as to hardly count) but his wife is one of the finest editors around, so it's not like I'm ever seeing a first draft from him. I've only ever met two authors who were strictly first draft writers (one an SF author, the other an academic) and all I can say is that the rest of us are consumed with jealousy.