Friday, October 26, 2007

a last word about bad authors

Then I'll leave this alone for awhile.

The last time I talked about MoD I, you rightfully asked for advice on what made a GOOD author. (Something to aspire to be, as opposed to a list of things not to do... I'm glad you're all so positively-minded. You should all be elementary school teachers; my friend Melanie, who is now teaching 9th graders, had to come up with a set of "positive" classroom rules. 10 points to whoever figures out how to say "No hitting" without using a negative!!)

Anyway, I just want to explain that MoD I is so particularly daunting because the author represents the trifecta of Bad Author:

1) The author is unavailable and unhelpful. During rounds of edits, the author took a long time and did the lightest possible work per my queries (sometimes not doing any work at all, and simply countering with another query). So despite pulling teeth, the manuscript is really in much the same state as it was in the beginning.

2) The author is hyper-conservative about his original text. Where I cut something that was wrong or didn't make sense, he reinstated. Any suggestions I made for making the text more lively, up-to-date, or enjoyable were nixed--and harshly. The author actually yelled at me in a mean, mean way for even suggesting.

3) The author is a not a super strong writer. Although the idea for the book is good and there is lots of strong research, because of the weak writing the information is often unreliable. Sometimes I'm not even sure of the intent because his language isn't precise.

Seriously--any combination of two of the above would be semi-manageable. But all three together...

And yes, it's true--you can say, it'll be his fault when his book sucks and doesn't sell any copies. So he'll see with time. Yes, it's true, we had only modest expectations so it's not like huge hopes are going to be dashed.

But my sad problem is that I hate to see my name associated with something I'm less than proud of. That's all. Otherwise I could let it die.

13 comments:

David L. McAfee said...

I can see how that's demoralizing for you, to be associated with a project you know will not do well.

It's actually pretty disheartening for me as a writer, too. If this guy, with little or no style, who is a "dismal" writer can get his book published...and I can't seem to...

well, draw your own conclusions. :)

Still, I would never treat an editor that way. It's the editor's job to point out ways to make a manuscript better. I can't understand why he would take offense. Heck, I'll take any opportunity to make my work better.

I dunno...takes all kinds, I guess. hang in there, MR, it'll be off your desk eventually.

moonrat said...

you have to understand the difference, though--we're desperate for nonfiction writers. there are so many nonfiction books to be written and not enough people to write them. so if you have a hook and some professional platform, you often get a book deal--even if you can't string a sentence together.

David L. McAfee said...

Ah, see...you didn't mention it was a NF manuscript.

Again, hang in there...and I'm sorry you hafta put up with this guy.

Colorado Writer said...

What a drag. I can only say TGIF and chocolate and gin, or whatever turns your crank.

Did I hear desperate for NF? Can you discuss what kinds?

Precie said...

Yikes. Yikes. Yikes.

And you inherited this project, right?

Oh..."No Hitting" without a negative:

"Express yourself with words instead of fists."

Terri said...

wow...looks like it's turned into a "you need me more than I need you" kind of mentality on the writer's part. But, seriously, *no one* can be THAT desperate! The writer should be the one honored by association...not the other way around.
Can you tell I'm disgusted? ::sigh::

Josephine Damian said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Josephine Damian said...

Moonrat! I have a non-fiction idea (actually several) and have what I think is a viable platform!

Hope floats.

But you can bet when this guy's book tanks, he'll blame everyone but himself.

angelle said...

hmmm NF. i wonder what expertise i have that i can turn into a NF book. "the art of friend-whoring". "how to stalk authors". "how to stay friends with terrible men who broke your heart".

umm...

Bernita said...

Perhaps you could ask not to be included in acknowledgements?

"No hitting" - "Hug time?"
"Hands are for holding?"
Don't mind me - I taught for a (mercifully brief) time.

Ello said...

Ugh! That's terrible. Now I know how sucky books get out in the world. I need to find a platform and write nonfiction!!

Don't worry, Moon! Your other stellar stuff will overcome this one rotten one!

Conduit said...

Something I learned at quite a young age is those people who are genuinely good at what they do are seldom assholes (pardon my french). It's the wannabes and those who didn't earn their position on merit that you've got to watch out for.

I won't speculate on which category your author falls into.

Leigh Russell said...

Hi Moonrat,

I write crime fiction - murders and so on - I'm not sure that I ought to try my hand at non-fiction.... best to keep my material fictitious I think!

My editor is lovely. She pointed out that I don't have to follow her suggestions. "But you're the EDITOR!" I replied in tones of awe as she scraped me off the floor. I exaggerate slightly.... but I'm new to writing and overcome by the experience of meeting an EDITOR! Not quite like meeting the Queen, but not far off.