Seventeen years ago I wrote a book, which you can find on Amazon and Google and elsewhere online. This is unusual only because my book was never published. It’s called “Goths,” fitting for a title that has left its traces on the Internet but does not exist. The traces themselves are ghostly. Other than the title, Amazon lists only the publisher (Random House Trade), language (English) and ISBNs (one with 10 digits, the other with 13). Google goes further by giving the publication date (March 1, 1998) and promising a cover image — but it turns out to be a placeholder. And unlike Amazon, Google neglects to mention that the book is a hardcover. Google admits, “We haven’t found any reviews in the usual places,” which in this case would be the planet Earth. “Be the first to review this item,” Amazon encourages, but has as yet found no takers.
Writing Workshops LA – which was founded by our own Edan Lepucki – is hosting “The Conference” on June 28 of this year, and the day-long event will consist of “educational and thoughtful panel discussions as well as smaller, in-depth presentations and workshops aimed at informing and inspiring every attendee.” Presenters will include award-winning literary agents, editors, and writers including Joanna Rakoff, Adam Wilson, David L. Ulin, Counterpoint’s Dan Smetanka, and Daniel Gumbiner of McSweeney’s. Don’t miss your chance to sign up for the early bird special before April 15th – the first 40 attendees will also get an invitation to a literary pub quiz event the night before.
When a novel is printed in multiple countries, it often has more than one editor. Slate interviews Emma Donoghue; her American editor, Judy Clain; and her Canadian editor, Iris Tupholme, about how they all edited Frog Music. They discuss everything from how to deal with editing disputes to the best way to get edits. “I much prefer to get everyone’s opinions separately, because if I got a single editorial letter, it would be like getting a note from God!” Donoghue says. For more on the editing process, read about our own Edan Lepucki’s relationships with her copy editor and editor.
As much as I wring my hands about writing, I also can’t deny the small satisfactions it offers me. Be it a turn of phrase, an image, a moment between characters — these are tiny but distinct pleasures that I can revisit anytime I flip through my work. It’s miraculous that these little darlings didn’t get killed in the rewriting process. My work never lives up to the dream I have of it in my head and that’s the way it should be; Martha Graham calls this “a queer divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others.” It’s the tension between this “queer divine dissatisfaction” and the fulfillment of writing something that pleases me, however minor, that makes me want to write at all. The flaws of my novel, California, are in conversation with its strengths.
Edan Lepucki, “Hug Your Darlings, Give the Moon the Finger: Writers On Delight”
Like passengers in a lifeboat, all the words in a concise text must pull their own weight.
When I edit, I try to look at the big picture first. What is this book trying to do? In some cases, it’s telling an exciting story, in others it’s exploring a fascinating set of characters, or in others teaching the reader something new. My job is to make suggestions on how the author can take what he or she is already doing and make it even better. Mostly, I try to think about how the reader will react to the text. Is there something a reader might not understand? If so, the author should probably clarify it. Is there something that will make this a more page-turning read? If so, let’s do it. And of course, along the way, you’ll catch smaller things — plot and character inconsistencies, grammar errors, etc. — but it all leads to the same goal of making it the best possible experience for the reader.
The day I bought Raw, I also wrote my own fiction, got my eyebrows waxed, started a contemporary literary novel by a writer who lives in Brooklyn, read a few book blogs, purchased a cappuccino made by a man in polka dotted Oxford shirt, posted a photo of my son to Tumblr, read some Dr. Seuss to that same son, and watched an episode of Millionaire Matchmaker (which, by the way, has totally gone downhill since assistants Destin and Rachel left the show). Such a rich cornucopia of experience, if I do say so myself! If your days even remotely resemble my own (and if you’re reading this, well, I bet they do), then you will find great pleasure in Mark Haskell Smith’s depiction of our contemporary diversions and obsessions, both the high and the low.
Because I read slowly, I also remember odd little details that provide a strong visual image, and so as I read along, if my visual image is jarred by a description, I’ll backtrack to figure out if there’s some inconsistency. I remember more details about characters in novels I’ve copyedited than I remember from my own life.