What It Is (posts below left; rate sheet, client list, other stuff below right)

My name is Bob Land. I am a full-time freelance editor and proofreader, and occasional indexer. This blog is my website.

You'll find my rate sheet and client list here, as well as musings on the life of a freelancer; editing, proofreading, and indexing concerns and issues; my ongoing battles with books and production; and the occasional personal revelation.

Feel free to contact me directly with additional questions: landondemand@gmail.com.

Thanks for visiting. Leave me a comment. Come back often.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

More Interludes Than Running Text

A book designer and I have worked together for years, occasionally contentiously, but I think that often came from the stress of dealing with mutual clients who really have no idea what they're doing. And that's OK; we're professionals with decades of experience doing this kind of work, and they are not.

One book series we worked on, or tried to, came from an author who didn't understand that most good books have a story -- you know, a beginning, a middle, and an end. When things work out really nicely, even individual chapters read that way.

This author would include so many sidebars and boxes and pull quotes and illustrations that determining the actual theme of the book became damn near impossible. As a copyeditor, that's a problem for me, because part of my job is coding the text: instructing the designer how each element of the book should be treated. When a chapter is 75 percent non-body-text, it's a sign of bad organization.

As much as my book designer pal and I tried to explain it to the author, the concept never really seemed to sink in.

Another problem is that this author is the type who wants to sit down with a designer and create each page to accommodate all the switches and turns. That might have been OK decades ago. No one has the time anymore. It's an age of specialists. And if you're an author reading this, take away this one fact: In a perfect world, the person designing your book should never have to read a word of it, nor care in the least what the book is about. The text should arrive at the designer's coded and ready to go.

And here's a little secret, too: I don't really care what your book is about either. When an author asks if I want to know what a project is about, I'll generally say, "It doesn't really matter, but if you want to tell me, go ahead."

What's my point? I have a few.

A. I'm too busy to be writing this blog entry. But I'm avoiding a very particular project. Why am I avoiding that project? Because it involves me getting down and dirty with artwork. Czar don't do artwork -- at least not with a smile on my face. But I know that once I get started, it'll be easy and I won't dread it next time . . . that is, unless I wait for the muscle memory to fade.

B. If you came here expecting the further tales of Ulysses, it's going to have to wait. I might just go Raoul Duke and start repurposing emails I sent during the course of the project to some of my pals. It's a story that must be told, because it informs much of what I do. That is, how do I approach a stack of paper when my goal is reaching the bottom of that stack of paper in the most efficient manner, regardless of its content?

For example, I just finished working on a collection of short stories and poems -- the kind of stuff I studiously avoid in the New Yorker, because fiction and poetry ain't my bag. But what do I do when I'm in the middle of a really intense short story and I don't want to turn the page because I'm already emotional as hell and living on the edge, and nothing at all can send me into weeping spasms? I was reading one story in particular, and I was in good page-turning, moneymaking mode, and I got to a point where I didn't want to know what was going to happen next -- because I didn't know how my fragile psyche would respond.

That's a good story. My usual metric for whether I like the fiction (novels) I'm paid to read is if I care about what happens to the characters by about 30 pages into the manuscript. In a short story, though, that number of pages is vastly compressed.

Frankly, I never had that feeling about Ulysses. But I personally don't think that Joyce's book was designed to make readers care about those characters either. Maybe I'm wrong.

C. I've said this three times today to different people: Anyone who is good at what they do seems absolutely exhausted these days. And the exhaustion just seems to attract more work. There's really no way out.

But . . .

I just lined up 5 days at the Abbey of Gethsemani. Early October.

If you see me there, ignore me. I promise you I'll do my best to give you the same treatment.


Aunty Belle said...

Ah....hang on. October is sooner than ya think--may it be all that ya need it to be.

Send that short story thisaway post haste! Thar's too few good stories these days, so it seems to me. The Short Story is a very difficult to pull off well.

czar said...

@Aunty. Thanks. You're right. October's going to get here very quickly. Good thing to keep in mind.

I'll include a printout of two short stories along with the article on regional dialect I plan on sending you. Things to do . . .

Blessings on you as well. Interesting discussion going on at the front porch. I always feel like an interloper in this blog circle. How'd I get hooked up with you folks anyway?

Oh, right. Moi. Blessings on her, too.

moi said...

Short stories are difficult to do well, so if they make you emotional, that's a good thing.

I get very emotional about Ulysses. If you count homicidal as an emotion.

One of these days, I'll blog all the fiction I hate.

czar said...

@Moi: I was emotional. One of them just about sent me into meltdown in anticipation of the next turn of events. Be curious what it would be like if I read it under normal circumstances -- not that a return to equilibrium is on the horizon.

When I go to Gethsemani this time, though, I'll have something I didn't have last time: Gmail auto-response. I'm open for suggestions on the wording.