Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Another serving of humble pie

So lately I've been doing some freelance work for an editor with whom I've never worked previously. It's a pretty good deal -- he gets the assignments, thanks to his many years in the business, and then farms the ones he doesn't have time to do out to me. That way, I don't waste time writing query letters and pitching stories -- which is incredibly time-consuming and doesn't offer much better odds than that Powerball drawing I didn't win -- when I'm just going to be taking a bunch of time off when the bambina comes along in June anyway. He pays me fairly, I'm getting some good exposure to new markets, and he's very easy to work with.

What's the downside, you ask?

Well, it's my pride. I am a good writer; hell, I've been making a living as a writer and editor for almost 10 years. I've won some fancy-pants awards and gotten some prestigious jobs. But in the last few gigs I've had -- actually, in the last several -- I have been very lightly edited, if at all. (A lot of that was due to the fact that I was working for places without a lot of resources, where my stories were solid and other writers' stuff needed a lot more work from the editors on staff.) At times, that has been frustrating to me; I've felt like my writing was stuck on a plateau and that I wasn't being challenged.

Turns out I also got a little thin-skinned in all those years of my stories -- including the vast majority of freelance stuff I wrote -- being published pretty much as I'd written them. This new editor... he combs through my work sentence by sentence and word by word. He has nailed a couple of my bad habits (overly complex sentences with about a million clauses being one of them with which RCW readers might perhaps be familiar) and called me on them. So I'm now becoming reacquainted with the glorious art of revision, a habit I really have not practiced in years.

And you know what? It's hard. It's also surprisingly hard to get exactly what I wanted, which is an attentive editor who takes my work seriously and wants to improve it. I'm having a hard time not feeling apologetic about the work I've given him, and I'm irrationally upset about not being the Good Kid Who Does Everything Right. Which is absurd, because every time I talk to this guy he tells me how happy he is that we're working together and how pleased he is with my work. To him, this level of revision is normal. To me, it's torture.

In the long run, it's going to be really, really good for me. In the meantime, I think I'm going to need a steady supply of chocolate (since mojitos aren't allowed) and someone who will sit by my computer and tell me at 10-minute intervals that I'm smart and nice and, gosh darn it, people like me.