Alt Sunday Read no.5: Read an extract from French travel writer Slyvian Tessonâ€™s award-winning book Consolations... http://t.co/5x2jgKxHCo
WRITING IS LIKE MAKING PASTA.
I've come to the conclusion that writers spend more of their time re-writing than writing and that our craft is like making pasta. The flour, salt and oil represent the ideas we have for our plot. Mixing them together and rolling the dough out to the size and thickness of a slice of white bread, is our first draft. THEN it gets put in the pasta machine and rolled to a less coarse version. And then again! And then again! Until you have something delicate, tasty and refined. Something that other people would want to eat and enjoy.
I'm on my fifth rolling of the dough and would love to give it to an editor who can put it through the machine. But the problem is I don't own a machine and if I did, I still couldn't make my own pasta i.e. edit my own book. Even best-selling authors have editors. So, it's not something you can get rid of once you've garnered enough experience. That is, every writer needs someone with a pasta machine, who knows how to operate it and knows when it had gone through the mill enough times. The other problem is, people who have the machine (the skills and knowledge to do good editing) naturally charge for their own time. This makes the pasta dish the public is going to enjoy a very expensive one for the writer. Even if you are not into self-publishing and have decided to take your chances with mainstream publishers, you still need an editor to get you pasta to a standard that would entice them to invest money in your book. So, writers are stuck between the proverbial rock and a hard place. In order to make money from their craft (or just be compensated for the years of effort that went into writing a book) they need to spend money which they usually don't have. Is there any way out of this?
Perhaps there is. If editors could club together with writers and, instead of demanding to be paid up front for their very valuable efforts, agree to delay compensation until the book goes to market, there may be a way out of this dilemma. The writer and editor (and perhaps marketer) could then agree on how to split the profits.
Hi Susan! With a few very lucky exceptions, the average royalty cheque for a fiction novel for the first year's sales works out to about one-tenth of the cost of editing (and editors are NOT paid well in this country). You see the problem. Writing books is like training a racehorse (another very expensive pastime) -- it might win a big race one day, but doing it for love has to be enough.
If the book is good enough to be published, the publisher will pay the editor. For those who need an editor before seeking publication (more and more folk out there), I know many who scrimp and save. They work second jobs. They put aside their 13th cheque. They ask spouses/families for an editor for their birthday or Christmas present. All this, and their book might still not find a publisher. Many authors understand this -- for them, paying an editor out of their own pocket is less costly than paying to do a course or a MFA, and they're guaranteed individual attention. In cases like these, the editor becomes a kind of supervisor and the MS a "dissertation", and there's a clearer understanding that you're paying the editor to learn something valuable (hopefully) from her. Good luck!
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