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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Open Discussions About Writing » Developmental Editing (Page 1)

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Author Topic: Developmental Editing
extrinsic
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In a realm by themselves, developmental editors engage in an intense, one-on-one editing correspondence with writers. They are appreciably different from "beta" readers, reader panels, workshop critique, and so on. Developmental editors in as many passes as agreeable between writer and editor work through reworking a manuscript for strongest potential. Developmental editors can be pricey; they can be reasonably priced, depending on degree of treatment agreed upon.

They can be godsends; they can be incompetent, narrowly focusing on mechanical style and missing altogether audience appeal, voice, or craft or all the latter, which are what a developmental editor's function is. They can be indifferent in an assembly-line manner; they can overtreat and in so doing impose their creative vision upon another's and, consequently, usurp ownership.

I'm curious. I'm a few months away from hanging out my journeyperson developmental editor shingle.

Do you think a developmental editor might be useful for your projects and growth as a writer?

Do you think a developmental editor risks and rewards justify the expense?

How about after going through a year's work and still not finding an agent or publishing house interested in the product, would you feel the effort and expense were wasted and perhaps feel aggrieved?

Do you think a developmental editor could foster appeal improvement for a self-published product sufficiently to justify the time expended, the effort, and the expense?

Do you think a developmental editor's contributions should be noticed on an acknowledgment page? A cover? Or other front- or backmatter?

What do you think a reasonable rate structure might be?

Assuming a roughly $25.00 per hour editor time on task;

Light: one pass, and a several page report summarizing and citing strengths and shortcomings. For roughly six to ten hours of editor time on task, $200.00 or so, negotiable.

Medium: several passes, and a section by section evaluation of strengths and shortcomings. Roughly up to twenty hours editor time on task, $500 or so, negotiable.

Heavy: however many passes both parties can manage, and a scene by scene assessment of strengths and weaknesses. Roughly up to five hundred hours editor time on task, Several thousand dollars or more, negotiable.

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Grumpy old guy
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extrinsic, this is just my own silly opinion and worth every cent you've paid for it. In an early draft stage, I think such a person could be exceedingly useful. I would envision such editorial advice as: form and structure, character development and other such 'gross' constructs that go into making up the story. Obviously, plot and pacing are also issues that could be addressed.

At a later stage, say prepping for your final draft, I think the uses are more problematic and I'm not certain how detailed advice about the shortcomings of my manuscript would be received. The reason? I've just expended a lot of time, and torrid emotion, creating my 'masterpiece', I'm certain I would be irrationally overprotective of it.

So, that's the catch, as far as I see it. The greatest benefit would be achieved with early intervention but, most writers, and particularly those just sampling the water with their toe, wouldn't realise this.

One last point, and this is not me sniping at you [Smile] . Every time I read your posts, and I do look forward to them, I have to pause for a few hours to ruminate on the meaning I have taken from them, and sometimes a day or more. Even then I'm certain I've missed some of the subtler nuances. I'm not sure that a report I think I understand, but aren't quite certain I do, would have a lot of value for me.

Phil.

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MattLeo
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I think a competent developmental editor is definitely worth it, *particularly* for self-edited works. I could certainly use one.

I disagree with Phil in that I see the developmental editor being useful fairly late in the process, after the first draft but obviously before the final draft. I find that when a manuscript reaches a certain point, making it better becomes an almost impossible task. Feedback from beta readers starts to thin out; to become less critical. You know there's another, higher level you could bring this manuscript to, but you need someone who can get the feel of the story yet think about it objectively at the same time. That's a specialized skill -- a talent in fact.

As for the business plan questions, these are tough. I don't think becoming a great developmental editor then hanging out your shingle is enough. I think what you need is a plan to develop a platform, and a strategy that will help you pick and foster winners.

The platform is mostly self-explanatory (blogs, social media, podcasting, classes, writer's conference appearances), but I think that bears on the issue of acknowledgement. I think credit could be part of the deal you cut with authors for your services -- that you will be named in the acknowledgements and possibly even on the title page of self-published works, depending on how much the author is willing to pay you up front. He can pay part of the bill in advertising your services, if you think his ms is going to be a winner.

Personally, I think $25/hour is low, in any case I suspect you'll have to structure your prices this way: $X per thousand words, Y hours of additional correspondence included, $Z/hour billed in fifteen minute increments thereafter. There's always a tension in a consultancy between getting paid for what you do and giving the customer that all-important sense he's being taken care of (and not being nickel-and-dimed to death).

Now onto handicapping. I think this is going to be a critical part of your plan. In my business experience, you can't build a thriving consultancy of any kind on customer failure, and the vast majority of mss out there are going nowhere, either in traditional publishing or in self-publishing, short of your taking their idea and writing the ms yourself. *If* you can find a way to attract a potentially successful clientele *and* you can point to that success, your chances of having a viable business are greatly enhanced. I suspect you'll need to prime the pump with some winners before your business really takes off.

This obviously is going require a good platform. You could have a blog or a podcast in which you critique first chapters and show how to improve them. Maybe they'd submit a query, ms, and summary, and you'd discuss one of thee a month or so gratis. This would attract more submissions than you could handle, but you can probably tell within 100 words whether a ms is worth reading further. The point is to start getting some mss so you can find a winner or two.

The tricky part in any service business like this is that you have to take customers who are muddling along without you then convince them to part with what looks like a lot of money to them, but not much money to you if you're trying to pay the rent.

So one thing to think about is how to bring customers inside the front door with something that's a lot less expensive than the multiple thousands of dollars it would take to do even a basic job of developmental editing on an entire mss. Whatever this service is, it probably should cost no more than a couple hundred dollars and take no more than three or four hours of your time.

I have no idea whether you can do this successfully as a freelancer. I have a friend who tried; she had an excellent platform and was a first rate writing coach, but in the end the effort at promoting herself was too much work. I pitched some of the pump priming ideas, but by then she'd already burned out trying to find people who'd send her several thousand dollars for a read through, even though they knew she was good because of her top-notch platform.

One thing that strikes me as remotely possible is that you might get a manuscript in the pipeline with enough economic potential to make it worth coming to a royalty arrangement. A single success could make your business, and at the outset you're in a much the same boat as the unpublished writer. Eventually as your record of success grows, your ability to command more up front grows. But initially you don't have any proof you're any good, at least not the dollars-and-cents kind of proof.

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Owasm
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The idea is good. Most of the editing pricing bouncing around on the internet is per page. You might want to survey what others are charging. That per page is based on a standard MS format.

I also think that you will have to lower the level of your pedantic style in working with the people that hire you. They want good understandable feedback and that requires dialing back on the expository that you show around here, but you probably are already aware of that.

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extrinsic
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Literary agents, though they represent writer clients, have closer relationships with publishers than potential writer clients. Agents do to varying degrees engage in developmental editing through in-house, freelance, or stringer editors. Publishers do a degree of developmental editing for a large fraction of products, either using in-house or stringer editors. Large firms do less and less product development, though, prefering finished product from established writers who have come up from and been proven as performers by smaller firms. Smaller firms have less editorial skill and skill trusts than larger firms but greater self-interest and take greater risks and potentially earn greater rewards. There's a double bind: less skill, greater potential.

Thinking a product will go from writer desk to print, the likelihood is rare, is a naive expectation. Very, very few manuscripts skip development and "cut to the chase," go directly into production.

Editors, agents, and publishers speak for readers when a writer has not fully taken into account audience sensibilities and expectations. A house aesthetic may direct a writer's work toward a specific audience, the house's loyal audience following or a niche thereof. This house favors this aesthetic; that house that aesthetic, and so on. Topics, subjects, genres, mannerisms; age, race, gender, ethnicity, religion, lifestyle groups, etc.

A house knows its preferences perhaps less intimately than is desirable, though they know it when they see it, and some latitude is a best practice so the house doesn't become so narrowly focused it misses out on potent performers. Agents know these audience appeal characteristics, that's their stock in trade. A freelance developmental editor ought, too, as a best practice know them as well. A writer should too but producing product takes center stage.

Freelance developmental editors are an up and coming market, for writers making side revenue, for dedicated editors, and especially for the benefit of self-publishers looking for more than mediocre results. The digital age is still in its infancy. If self-publishing will come into its own, self-publishing writers must rely on astute, comprehensive, and conscientious editors to see them through to the winning goal, including guidance on audience appeal, voice, craft, mechanical style, formatting and formats, markets and marketplace potential, and publishing culture.

I'm barely out of my developmental editing apprenticeship, but I've studied the gamut and know the complexities ahead, the wants and problems wanting satisfaction. I've also entertained projects for the past dozen years as my studies advanced, for skill development. I've made a few gross errors, but learned from them.

I've considered hundreds and hundreds of projects for no charge. I responded with an average of a page commentary for most. Some, I didn't think the project was ready, the writer emotionally prepared or ready for the time, effort, and expense, nor the project suitable to the state of the culture at the time. Several were only looking for confirmation and encouragement that their projects were ready for prime time. Well, most were looking for approval and disinterested in development. A few were ready, both project and writer, for a light editing touch and marketing suggestions. The latter all were picked up for publication.

I know now how and when to weigh in with what. Starts, what to focus on as a writer develops a project's drafting plan and writes a raw draft. Middles, after a raw draft and on to the reworking phase. Ends, final polishing for submission.

The first law, though, for a developmental editor is not to impose one's creative vision on another's. A degree of trial and error projection is not amiss, however. This goes to the second law of writing: the writer should write the narrative, not the audience. Either way, imposing or projecting creative vision on to a project or published work usurps ownership. I might as well have written it myself and left the creator out of the loop altogether.

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MAP
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I've heard published writers go on and on about how wonderful professional editors are and how no number of beta readers could ever make up for one professional edit. But it is hard for me to understand a professional editor's value since I've never had one look at my work.

I have a hard time understanding how a development editor would be different from several beta readers, but I'm sure that is just my lack of experience.

I have no doubt that an in house editor makes those traditionally published books so much better than an author could alone, but I think hiring a freelance editor would be different.

An in house editor takes on works they believe in and has a stake in whether the book does well, so it is in their best interest to make the story as good as they can. If it means bruising the author's ego, they'll do it (unless it is a big name author then maybe not). But you see my point. They have an invested interest in the success of the book.

If a self-published author hires an editor, that editor gets paid whether the book does well or not. They have no stake in how well the book sells, but they do care if the author is satisfied with their service because word of mouth will be key to growing the business.

You've stated that you've looked at a lot of projects and "most (authors) were looking for approval and disinterested in development..." I guess I see a conflict of interest here. A freelance editor would want to have a satisfied customer, so how tempting would it be to just tell the customer what they want to hear?

I think there is a balancing act here. You'd want to help the author make a better book, but you are not personally choosing these books like an in house editor would. I'm sure you'd have to edit a lot of books that you see little potential for doing well, right? And what do you do to not offend the writers? Do you tell them the truth and risk them being angry and bad mouthing you? Or would you tell them what they want to hear and move on?

I just think it is different when an author is paying the editor. I'm really curious how this would work.

[ February 23, 2013, 08:52 PM: Message edited by: MAP ]

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rcmann
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@MAP - Presumably it's not a case of either or. Comparing beta readers to editors is kind of moot if one of your beta readers *is* an editor for example. Or is themselves a published author ten times over. Alas, most of us don't have access to friends who are that literate.

Unfortunately, some of us don't have access to the funding required to hire an editor either.

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Bruchar
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extrinsic,

Yes, I see the value of developmental editing, and I'll be the first here to endorse you, since your advice on The Deer Thief's first thirteen lines has been an enormous benefit. With only that input, I am examining the entire manuscript with new eyes.

As for those who have thin skins when it come to honest guidance, well, all I can say is that if they want to go beyond amateur status, Get over it.

Price? The best is to price below the competition and as your workload and reputation increases, go above them. I've started many businesses that way.

Is it worth it, even if the mss gets shelved? Yes, it's (hopefully) a business expense and the cost of education.

Fostering appeal? That should be the main goal. It's a tough world out there and any advantage to rise above the competition should be taken. Whether the editor has those skills would determine if a writer would become a repeat customer.

Acknowledgment? I assume that placement of that would be agreed to in advance, as part of a negotiated working agreement. Simple thanks on the acknowledgement page could also be open-ended to reflect the author's true feelings.

Good luck with hanging the shingle.

[ February 24, 2013, 10:20 AM: Message edited by: Bruchar ]

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extrinsic
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quote:
Originally posted by Bruchar:
extrinsic,

Yes, I see the value of developmental editing, and I'll be the first here to endorse you, since your advice on The Deer Thief's first thirteen lines has been an enormous benefit. With only that input, I am examining the entire manuscript with new eyes.

That's how developmental editing works, a few well-chosen and sincere comments on strengths and shortcomings covering small sections guide a writer toward strengthening a whole. I've noted openings tend to signal similar strengths and shortcomings throughout parts, parcels, and wholes. That's how I believe developmental editing must be; otherwise, intellectual property ownership comes into question.

When I evaluate a project, I ask for first and last chapters and a middle chapter with especially high antagonism, tension, and causation. In the process, I learn whether a work has legs on it, and whether the writer is courteous and prepared for more in-depth work.
quote:
Originally posted by Bruchar:
As for those who have thin skins when it come to honest guidance, well, all I can say is that if they want to go beyond amateur status, Get over it.

I'm not in the business of thickening writer skins. A writer either has an open mind and wants an open exchange of ideas or the writer is too emotionally invested to work toward betterment of a work and writing skills in general. I do not believe "talent" plays as large a role as literature culture places on it. Talent's not objectifiable either. I believe talent comes from passion, dedication, and effort. Or as Thomas Edison famously said, Invention is ninety-nine percent perspiration and one percent inspiration.

quote:
Originally posted by Bruchar:
Price? The best is to price below the competition and as your workload and reputation increases, go above them. I've started many businesses that way.

I've priced out hundreds of self-selected, freelance editors. They run between extremes: some focus on line edits, mostly proofreading and discretionary copyedits; some focus on middling picture concerns, like plot holes and unsettled show and tell; very few drill into big picture concerns, like theme, structure, content, organization, expression, and audience appeal, none that I've seen cover the gamut.

Price-wise, an average for a ten or so-page report on an entire manuscript runs $500. One editor I checked out charges by the word and requires copyright assignment from writer to editor as a way to assure payment and is pricey. More of a ghost writer than a developmental editor. Work-for-hire developmental editors work freelance, stringer, and in-house. Stringers are on retainer with publishers but largely freelancers. In-house editors do more than editing and add a bit of gloss but otherwise tend toward letting concerns stand if the writer insists, since their stock in trade anymore is accomplished, polished writers with proven revenue track records. Every once in a while, some first-time published writer comes in, though, with a winning product.

quote:
Originally posted by Bruchar:
Is it worth it, even if the mss gets shelved? Yes, it's (hopefully) a business expense and the cost of education.

No writing is ever wasted, even rewriting and revision, though an objective metric, about the only one that matters anyway, is audience approval, either expressed as revenue or commentary: popular and critical acclaim.

quote:
Originally posted by Bruchar:
Fostering appeal? That should be the main goal. It's a tough world out there and any advantage to rise above the competition should be taken. Whether the editor has those skills would determine if a writer would become a repeat customer.

I believe strengthening appeal without compromising creative vision and reading and comprehension ease is the singular priority for a developmental editor. Fascinating aspect, though, repeat clients repeat less as they become self-reliant because of the learning process.

quote:
Originally posted by Bruchar:
Acknowledgment? I assume that placement of that would be agreed to in advance, as part of a negotiated working agreement. Simple thanks on the acknowledgement page could also be open-ended to reflect the author's true feelings.

Good luck with hanging the shingle.

Yeah, an acknowledgments page usually notes a contributing editor along with other external assistants. I've gotten front-cover billing though. See, my CV speaks volumes regarding ethos, like three degrees in creative writing, a dozen book, magazine, digest, journal, and newspaper, print and online publication positions.

Acknowledgments traditionally used to be frontmatter. They've migrated to backmatter of late. Right before a colophon and "About the Author" pages. Which raises a function developmental editors have for self-publishers: novel design, formatting, layout, and other technical aspects like copyright registration and e-format.

[ February 25, 2013, 11:43 AM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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babygears81
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Extrinsic-I see developmental editing as a great service. In fact, I plan to hire such an editor when I finish the edits on my novel. Once I've made it as good as I am capable of making it, I want another pair of eyes to look over it for me. Odyssey offers something like this. The first 20,000 words for a little under 300 dollars, if I recall correctly. However, the whole mansucript would be quite pricey at that rate and something I personally, couldn't afford.

I think, as you have suggested, the prices should reflect the level of editing. This also helps provide clients with options to best fit their budget. Starting out a little lower until you build up a clientele sounds like a good idea. I do wonder a couple of things:

1.)Once you send your report back to the author, if they have questions about what you have written, or need to have a conversation about why you feel that way, is that back and forth permitted?

2.)If so, does it affect the price?

It seems you are mindful of the most important thing: the difference between editing to strengthen the appeal of the story versus imposing your own creative vision on the piece.

Best of luck to you.

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History
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There is no doubt that a fresh set of experienced eyes is valuable to authors, new or established.

The cost of this experience is, unfortunately, the mitigating factor for many. When you take into account that the median new novel advance is $6000* (and unagented advances may be half this), unagented editorial services are expensive.

Extrinsic, your quote of "an average for a ten or so-page report on an entire manuscript runs $500" is a bargain, and even babygears estimate of "20,000 words for...$300"--i.e. $1500 for the average 100K word manuscript--is also reasonable (although this would be equivalent to 25-50% of the median advance). Of course, the purchaser need know that no editor can promise that their services will lead to publication.

Perhaps the most effective developmental editor would be one who has worked as/for a publisher who knows (and has the trust/respect of) the current editor/publisher and is familiar with the types of stories and novels they would be most likely to purchase.

When querying an agent, it has been stated that it is important to focus on ones who have represented authors whose work is similar to your own and has a track record for success. Selecting an editor similarly seems prudent.

I think you are brilliant, extrinsic (although I do not believe I've had the benefit of a critique by you for any of my stories a capite ad calcem). Your posts are very erudite and informative, albeit at times obtuse regarding the mechanics of writing and publishing in your use of language the literary equivalent of medical jargon. [Wink] I spend many minutes googling the terms you use.

I have no training as an editor myself, nor have I any plans of offering my services as one (except in return for critiques of my own work); yet, to my chagrin, while my own works collect rejections like decorator crabs deposit detritus upon their shells, a number of the works of those I've critiqued have gone on to be WOTF finalists or professionally published. These authors have been very sincere in their thanks, and the acknowledgement pages of their novels, which has been very gratifying and has ameliorated my disappointment in failing to be a published author myself the past year and a half--well, ameliorated them somewhat. [Wink]

Thus, I think we are lucky to have so many fine newly rising authors here at Hatrack willing to help one another; and perhaps (albeit unprofessionally) we could use our internal resources to editorally support our Members and possibly financially support the long-lamented Hatrack Member anthology. Just a thought, extrinsic.

The SFWA provides advice and recommendations regarding developmental editorial services that I highly recommend to anyone considering paying for editing: http://www.sfwa.org/for-authors/writer-beware/editors/

Respectfully,
Dr. Bob

*http://www.tobiasbuckell.com/2005/10/05/author-advance-survey-version-20/

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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I'd like to offer a bit of a caveat for those who go seeking mentors of whatever kind as they try to sell their work.

There's an old saying that goes something like:

Those who can, do

Those who can't, teach

And I have a real problem with that kind of idea.

In the first place, many who "can" just go ahead and "do" without really understanding how they do what they "do" or what their process is. Such people are NOT good mentor material.

In the second place, in many disciplines, just because you "can" doesn't mean you know how to teach, or that you should teach (see above). It requires a different skill set to be able to teach, and that includes being able to understand how those who "can" are able to do what they "do" AND being able to share that understanding with (aka "teach") others.

In that vein, writing requires a different skill set from editing, and while it is possible to teach as an editor, editing requires a different skill set from teaching. There are a few writers out there who can edit and who can teach, and other combinations of the three skills, and those who are willing to do so are even fewer, not many, and definitely not most.

So, when you look for help with your writing, be sure you know exactly what kind of help you are looking for, and then be sure the people you ask for that help are people who have the right skill set to actually help you.

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extrinsic
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quote:
Originally posted by babygears81:
1.)Once you send your report back to the author, if they have questions about what you have written, or need to have a conversation about why you feel that way, is that back and forth permitted?

2.)If so, does it affect the price?

I'm open to continuing correspondence between writer and editor. In terms of clarification and elaboration on points of interest, I consider those included in an initial quote, to a point. Additional evaluation and scrutiny, though, I consider further work and billable.

Say a writer wants to know whether a recast portion strenghthens or weakens the selection, then I consider that new work and billable. If a writer wants to know more detail about narrative distance, for example, I'd expand my comments and refer the writer to reference sources and cite examples so the writer gets a handle on the principle, probably at no extra charge.

A continuing correspondence accomplishes two outcomes of significance; one, cooperatively establishes a working, professional interaction or spoils it to the point neither wants anything to do with the other. Actually, early preliminaries cue me into whether I can have a professional, working, courteous interaction with a writer. I've gotten nasty, crude, irresponsible replies, some my failure, most the writer's unprofessional conduct. If I get a hint that a writer will behave inapproriately, I'll just pass, make no proposal, and comment that I don't think the project is quite ready for a developmental editor. And two, cooperatively increases both writer and editor's writing, reworking, and editing skill sets.

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extrinsic
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I feel your frustration, History. I've sampled your work. I believe you've got a firm grasp of voice and craft. Mechanical style is not even on your challenge radar. Where I feel your weakness is is audience appeal. There's an audience for ethnic Jewish literature, in this age, where the Jewish immigrant experience standing is in particular. Your work reads like a fully assimilated Jewish person's, as much part of U.S. and Western culture as any other ethnic identity. Yet preaches assertively. I don't feel anyone really likes to be preached at or lectured to.

First generation immigrants strove for participation yet resisted assimilation. Second generations strove for fitting in in spite of differences without losing touch with their roots. Third generations abandoned cultural roots. Fourth generations self-deprecatingly mocked their ethnic cultures. Fifth generations celebrated cultural identity and about enjoyed as much assimilation as they could tolerate. I'm waiting to see what sixth generation immigrants will express identity-wise. I'm seeing identity assertion as part of global civil rights movements coming forward. The challenge for asserting identity is cooperating socially and culturally while standing ground.

I've resisted commenting on your writing because I feel the ethnic content is a little over the top for most readers' sensibilities, mine certainly, probably ethnic Jewish readers, and perhaps even rabbinic and Talmudic scholars. You write like the Yiddish Papa of first generation immigrant experience dispersed by one of the diasporas. Yiddish Papas spend their waking moments absorbed by spiritual meditations and indifferent to mundane concerns. They live a spiritual life of the mind.

I don't see an obstacle with Yiddish Papa characters, per se. I do see challenges with making them appealing to audiences. Considering who, what, where, when, why, and how they might appeal to the audience you target and the meaning you seek and desire to share could see you past the goal line.

[ February 26, 2013, 06:53 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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extrinsic
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H.L. Menken famously said, "Those who can, do; those who can't, teach." Menken held a dim view about cultural institutions. He was as much part of the problem as those whom he criticized. Finding fault and not much to praise, he struck a chord with like-minded audiences.

Doing, teaching, and mentoring are three different arts: to degrees overlapping; to degrees distinct, distinguishable, and divisible. Doing to degrees involves intuition, trial and error, and frank, blunt self-evaulation. Teaching addresses willing, interested participants, and to degrees through forced or coerced compulsion and degrees of oversight. Mentoring involves a dynamic conversation freely exchanging ideas.

To doing, teaching, and mentoring I would add guiding. Each sojourner along the Poet's journey will encounter many helpmates. A guide might help a sojourner past one minor hurdle along the journey, say, past wandering lost in the dark, like past narrative voice struggles. A challenge is knowing when that guided leg of the journey is at an end and it's time to move on, mindful of deadfalls and cognitive leaps and other guides ahead.

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redux
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One of the maxims of The Temple of Apollo at Delphi is "know thyself." The other two - "nothing in excess" and "make a pledge and mischief is nigh."
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MattLeo
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quote:
Originally posted by extrinsic:
I feel your frustration, History. I've sampled your work. I believe you've got a firm grasp of voice and craft. Mechanical style is not even on your challenge radar. Where I feel your weakness is is audience appeal. There's an audience for ethnic Jewish literature, in this age, where the Jewish immigrant experience standing is in particular. Your work reads like a fully assimilated Jewish person's, as much part of U.S. and Western culture as any other ethnic identity. Yet preaches assertively. I don't feel anyone really likes to be preached at or lectured to.

I think it is a little dangerous to extrapolate too much from small samples of a writer's work to such pronouncements. I suspect I may have read a larger sampling of Dr. Bob's works than you have, and like many writers he uses different styles for different works -- different narrative personas, if you like.

I would disagree by the way that people don't like to be preached at. The *LOVE* to be preached at, as long as they instantly recognize what is being said as the truth (for most people preferably one they already know). What they don't like is being made to work hard to extract a lesson -- at least the manifest lesson. It's OK if a sermon yields *extra* with additional study, but it should make some sense at first glance too.

One of Dr. Bob's narrative personas (I feel sure you won't mind my discussing this, Dr. Bob) I think of as an elderly and wise Jewish story teller. This persona has a special fondness for rhetoric -- as well he might. Love of elaborate skill with words might well be the quintessential trait of Jewish culture. So it is essential that he be this way, but the rhetoric comes out of the inspiration tap a bit too thick to be readily digested. The narration needs a bit of lightening, particularly this fellow's penchant for rampant pleonasm.

I can see how someone might take that raw voice and react by saying, "I don't like all this preaching," but as with all reactions we ought to take it cum grano salis. I think it's more a case of "you're making me work too hard to read this." This is where an intelligent and sensitive editor could really help. The target, I would think, is to give readers a flavor of this narrator's personality without requiring them to acquire a new set of reading skills -- such as would be fostered by regular Talmud study... [Smile]

Another of Dr. Bob's narrative personas is the one he uses in his Rabbi Crane stories. That persona uses a neutral and easily absorbed style; it fits right in with the mainstream of contemporary urban fantasy. As you say it's mechanically impeccable, and the early drafts I've read have all the basic elements of a cracking yarn, but here again the services of a developmental editor would help him trim, tighten and focus the manuscript.

I've had the same experience, refining a manuscript through working with test reader feedback, until more test reader feedback isn't really what I need. Raising the level of the manuscript is rather like pulling myself up by my bootstraps. What I really need at that point is someone who knows how to edit stories.

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redux
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I haven't read History's stories, but from an outside perspective it appears to me that criticizing his stories for being "too Jewish sounding" has absolutely nothing to do with whether extrinsic should pursue a freelancing career in developmental editing.
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Foste
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quote:
Originally posted by redux:
I haven't read History's stories, but from an outside perspective it appears to me that criticizing his stories for being "too Jewish sounding" has absolutely nothing to do with whether extrinsic should pursue a freelancing career in developmental editing.

Plus, I find it weird how people think they got the current zeitgeist figured out. It may be a trite statement, but maybe the doc's novel will be the next big thing in Jewish fiction. I mean, look at the Yiddish Policemen's Union.

Dr. Bob has to figure out how to make the themes work - because he writes about something personal.

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MattLeo
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quote:
Originally posted by redux:
I haven't read History's stories, but from an outside perspective it appears to me that criticizing his stories for being "too Jewish sounding" has absolutely nothing to do with whether extrinsic should pursue a freelancing career in developmental editing.

Well, I made no such criticism (where you referring to me?), but certainly the difficulties a reader might have in understanding the context and significance of a story is within an editor's purview.

Somewhere between hammering a story into conformity with mainstream culture and leaving readers in a fog of cultural incomprehension, there's a happy medium.

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redux
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My response was a reaction to singling out Dr. Bob's stories since I fail to see how doing so will help extrinsic develop a business plan.
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MattLeo
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quote:
Originally posted by redux:
My response was a reaction to singling out Dr. Bob's stories since I fail to see how doing so will help extrinsic develop a business plan.

Ah, well, I gave my advice on business planning early on, in a nutshell: develop a lower-commitment, less labor-intensive entry level service, and use that to prospect customers who will become success stories that drive business growth. I should have added: as your business takes off, slow that growth by raising your prices until you're not growing any longer but making a reasonable living. That's basic consultancy strategy.

My second post was more along the lines of, "You won't get much business if you jump to conclusions about a writer's potential appeal."

Helping a writer make his work accessible to a broader audience would likely be a valuable service; it would certainly help justify the costs paid up front to an editor. I felt certain Dr. Bob wouldn't mind my picking on him, since he knows my high opinion of his work.

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Foste
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quote:
Originally posted by MattLeo:
[QUOTE]Originally posted by redux:
I felt certain Dr. Bob wouldn't mind my picking on him, since he knows my high opinion of his work.

It's still thread derailment.
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MattLeo
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Foste -- I strongly disagree. Are you suggesting that business strategy should only be discussed in abstract?
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redux
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quote:
My second post was more along the lines of, "You won't get much business if you jump to conclusions about a writer's potential appeal."
That is certainly true, since developmental editors, especially those not in-house, shouldn't concern themselves with potential story appeal. That is usually the domain of agents and marketing teams.
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MattLeo
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quote:
Originally posted by redux:
That is certainly true, since developmental editors, especially those not in-house, shouldn't concern themselves with potential story appeal. That is usually the domain of agents and marketing teams.

Well, I suspect a successful consultancy would not have that luxury. In any case, the key word is "potential". *Potential* appeal may not be within a developmental editor's purview, but *actual* appeal certainly is.

UPDATE: in fact, I think a successful consultancy would pretty much have to focus on developing a stable of clients with broad appeal, for reasons stated above. If your job is to grow the business, you can't leave it to chance.

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Foste
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quote:
Originally posted by MattLeo:
Foste -- I strongly disagree. Are you suggesting that business strategy should only be discussed in abstract?

It's going to be abstract no matter what without any hands-on experience. The kind of critiquing we do here and freelancing are different.

You know. When money is involved.

I am not saying that extrinsic wouldn't do his best when he is critiquing our work here on the forum, but there's bound to be more pressure when he is trying to build a name for himself from scratch.

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MattLeo
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Foste -- I still don't get why you consider my post out of line.
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redux
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quote:
*Potential* appeal may not be within a developmental editor's purview, but *actual* appeal certainly is.
I strongly disagree. Any form of editing is in the service of communication which requires clarity, coherency, consistency, and correctness. An editor should never make subjective judgements regarding appeal.
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Foste
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quote:
Originally posted by MattLeo:
Foste -- I still don't get why you consider my post out of line.

It's not out of the line, it rather doesn't add anything to the discussion.

Feel free to disagree.

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MattLeo
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quote:
Originally posted by redux:
quote:
*Potential* appeal may not be within a developmental editor's purview, but *actual* appeal certainly is.
I strongly disagree. Any form of editing is in the service of communication which requires clarity, coherency, consistency, and correctness. An editor should never make subjective judgements regarding appeal.
An interesting point. But developmental editors *do* make judgments on subjective issues that are critical for a story to appeal to the widest number of readers. They might note that the pacing in the middle section of the story is too slow. That's a subjective issue, there's no "right" pacing to have, there's only pacing that will cause a certain number people to put the book down in disgust.

Ultimately I suppose a consulting editor makes no actual judgments of any kind, only offers advice. Again, a consultant would be in a different position. "The customer is always right" is a well known maxim, but the less known corollary is "you'd better have the right customers."

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History
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Oy gevalt.
..ah, I mean (in a Texan drawl), "Holy sh*t." [Wink]

Sorry. In no way, did I wish to cause such a digression regarding my perceived strengths and foibles as a writer (though I am pleased you like my Rabbi Cane Kabbalist tales, Matt).

As Matt notes, I am not a one-trick pony. However, I will share, if any have interest, that among my (too many) personal rejections, it is my stories with "Jewish" elements and themes that editors and publishers have found most appealing and felt inspired to offer comment and encouragement--go figure. My stories without any Jewish elements have comparatively gathered mostly form rejections. Now if only I had the gifts of Michael Chabon... (sigh)

Anyway, my prior post was another example of pleonasm (great word, Matt Leo), which Ms Woodbury more succinctly stated: "...when you look for help with your writing, be sure you know exactly what kind of help you are looking for, and then be sure the people you ask for that help are people who have the right skill set to actually help you."

I believe, extrinsic, you will similarly need to clarify what you can specifically offer to writers, list any successes of your clients, and consistently demonstrate an objective professionalism.

The sfwa, again, provides good guidance for writers seeking editors: http://www.sfwa.org/for-authors/writer-beware/editors/

Thank you all for the unsolicited feedback. I found it interesting.

Respectfully,
Dr. Bob

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redux
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I caution the editor with no in-house publishing experience, particularly one with no editorial credit on a widely successful publication, to venture giving advice on what will appeal to the greatest number of readers.
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MattLeo
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quote:
Originally posted by Foste:
quote:
Originally posted by MattLeo:
Foste -- I still don't get why you consider my post out of line.

It's not out of the line, it rather doesn't add anything to the discussion.

Feel free to disagree.

Well, one thing I'm certain of is taking this discussion meta adds nothing to it. Instead, I'll reiterate my point in different terms.

I have actual experience starting, running, then selling off a successful consultancy. Strategy is important, you don't want a simple-minded one. But that does not good if you're simple-minded about pursuing business strategy.

The simple-minded strategy is "grab all the business you can." Granted, a consultancy tends to start that way a little, but if you are in a labor-intensive business as soon as possible you want to be selective about who your customers are. You want customers who are easy and profitable to service, and bring you more customers like themselves.

In this case the advice I gave was to aim in the long term to build up a clientele with broad market appeal. That's not with your developmental editor's hat on, but with your guy-who-has-a-business-to-build hat. But making hasty judgments of a writer's market appeal is not a good way to implement that strategy. You've got to do more work in qualifying him than that.

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Foste
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Thank you. That's a post based on actual experience.

Could have worked too without that first line of condescension, but hey, can't win them all.

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extrinsic
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After mechanical style, after craft, after voice, audience appeal is any editor's baliwick. Writers learn to write in that sequence: style, craft, voice, appeal. Experienced writers draft write in that sequence too. But what's the point of advising adjusting mechanical style if appeal, voice, and craft hold little luster? That's where I believe a developmental editor begins, with appeal so that neither writer nor editor's time is trifled with.

If a work has limited appeal for me, why, I ask. Will another audience find the work appealing? Who? Why? What? And so on. Can I drill into the work and determine who the ideal audience is? Most times, a struggling writer doesn't know the ideal audience nor the most appealing creative vision contained within, and appeal is fractured by detours and inconsistent circumstances, like a character is a surrogate for the writer's need for self-idealization and self-efficacy. What harsh critics label Mary Sue-ism. Fine for young adult literature if the balance of self-actualization and setbacks engages empathy and curiosity and doesn't upset willing suspension of disbelief.

The very point of publication is sharing a work with an audience of whatever dimension. Appeal is paramount for publication.

If a work has limited or no audience appeal though strong voice, craft, and style, the work is less likely to garner revenue or approving commentary than one that does strongly appeal but has appreciable voice, craft, and style shortcomings. I won't mention examples thereof, but every reader has a bête noir, I'm sure, that is another reader's golden masterpiece. Too many toes might get stepped on regardless.

A classic example: Upton Sinclair's The Jungle aimed for people's minds and hit them viscerally in the stomachs. The increasingly lengthy political lecturing and preaching near the end left a sour taste in most readers' minds or they just skipped over those parts altogether. But anyone who's read the novel remembers the line about using every part of a pig but its squeal.

The double bind every writer struggles with is packaging a meaningful message in a method that persuades an intended response through a dynamically entertaining experience. Would Sinclair's novel have reached into every corner of global life if it was purely political, though his intent was other than he projected? No. But the novel changed the world because it artfully portrayed the meat packing industry in a disgusting and horrifying yet faithful and appealing fictional depiction of an immigrant's struggle for the "American Dream". None of Sinclair's ninety other novels performed as well, revenue-wise or commentary-wise.

[ February 26, 2013, 10:35 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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extrinsic
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quote:
Originally posted by redux:
I caution the editor with no in-house publishing experience, particularly one with no editorial credit on a widely successful publication, to venture giving advice on what will appeal to the greatest number of readers.

I've worked on a few publications in-house over the years (understatement), books, magazines, digests, journals, and newspapers and formally studied publication culture, and have publishing credits on my editor's curriculum vitae.

Several of my publishing mentors have had broad experience with successful publications as editors and writers, as have I, though not as much success, since I've been preoccupied with finishing my formal education. I have a waiting list of potential clients that will consume a large fraction of my time over the next several years. They are all promising writers.
----
What perhaps handicaps me is a tendency toward a strongly held opinion that ruffles feathers. I believe every part, parcel, and whole of a narrative must persuade and connect to each other meaningfully and be of such an artful mannerism that the method enhances the message and vice versa.

The very function of writing critique is to guide a writer toward an understanding of how an audience will respond to the writer's work, even if that audience is only one developmental editor. Fascinatingly, the workshop paradigm works due to a human failing of great consequence; that is, an ability to see the failings and shortcomings of others before we can appreciate them in ourselves.

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MattLeo
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quote:
Originally posted by redux:
I caution the editor with no in-house publishing experience, particularly one with no editorial credit on a widely successful publication, to venture giving advice on what will appeal to the greatest number of readers.

That's a good point. Having some idea of the limits of your competency is critical in a consultancy. But I'm not referring to making pronouncements like "vampires are out, change the protagonist to a werewolf instead... No, make that a zombie." At some point you'd like to be in a position to qualify customers that way, but even professional acquisitions aren't infallible on such questions.

I'm talking more about craft issues that obscure the appeal of a story, like "too much of this dialog doesn't move the story forward." Of course even such basic advice is prone to misfire; TWILIGHT had precisely that problem, but was a huge commercial success. Taking a chance on that manuscript took an uncommon feat of market intuition.

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extrinsic
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quote:
Originally posted by MattLeo:

I'm talking more about craft issues that obscure the appeal of a story, like "too much of this dialog doesn't move the story forward." Of course even such basic advice is prone to misfire; TWILIGHT had precisely that problem, but was a huge commercial success. Taking a chance on that manuscript took an uncommon feat of market intuition.

Twilight appeals because it speaks to a select audience. The novel and saga's market performance was boosted in no small measure by critics commenting on the novel's shortcomings. They generated word of mouth buzz within the target audience's culture that exposed otherwise indifferent consumers to the novel's popular appeal. The one I've heard most is the novel's mixed social messages are confusing for the target audience. Speaking of speaking for the audience from presupposed notions of propriety.

The novel's ample thought and conversation discourse appeal to a select audience's sensibilities.

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redux
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quote:
Fascinatingly, the workshop paradigm works due to a human failing of great consequence; that is, an ability to see the failings and shortcomings of others before we can appreciate them in ourselves.
Workshops also provide the opportunity to examine how one's critiques and editorial advice are received. I certainly do not advocate a critique that is nothing but platitudes. But if editorial suggestions are invariably met with ruffled feathers, perhaps it is worth examining if those opinions, no matter how expert, are being offered in an intransigent manner. Certainly, the editorial process would be better served by adjusting how those opinions are conveyed. In other words, good bedside manner is always appreciated.
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MattLeo
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quote:
Originally posted by extrinsic:

What perhaps handicaps me is a tendency toward a strongly held opinion that ruffles feathers. I believe every part, parcel, and whole of a narrative must persuade and connect to each other meaningfully and be of such an artful mannerism that the method enhances the message and vice versa.

I think the artistic values you espouse here are wholesome and should be entirely non-controversial. That said, given writers' ego investment in their works they're about as easy to set off as nitrogen triiodide.

This might be a place where you could apply the maxim, "physician, heal thyself." You have the job to communicate feedback of a very precise nature, based on principles you have strong confidence in, yet without carrying any spurious messages you do not intend. For example, you don't want your confidence in your artistic principles to bleed over into suggestions which are necessarily of a more tentative nature. Perhaps you could develop ways to reduce the sting of certain kinds of feedback, such wrapping them in pro forma disclaimers of your personal fallibility.

And in business, it never hurts to stroke the customer. Not that I'd recommend dishonesty, but I find it's rare to encounter a manuscript with absolutely no redeeming qualities. Since you're bound to bruise egos even with kind and substantive feedback, it's probably a good policy to provide your customers with regular doses of a healthy anodyne, unless their writing is utterly hopeless.

I'm delighted to hear you have a backlog of customers awaiting your services, and given that I'm sure that if you apply yourself to the problem of getting a constructive response from your clients you'll be a great success.

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extrinsic
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quote:
Originally posted by redux:

But if editorial suggestions are invariably met with ruffled feathers, perhaps it is worth examining if those opinions, no matter how expert, are being offered in an intransigent manner. Certainly, the editorial process would be better served by adjusting how those opinions are conveyed.

You take a liberty assuming my words are open for reordering to make your point. My editorial suggestions in workshops are not offered "in an intransigent manner" nor "invariably met with ruffled feathers." The contrary is more often the intent, given for consideration but by no means uncompromising, and eventual outcome. There may be an unsettled reaction to my response to a work. There often is resistance. Once I've put it out there though, it is no matter to me whether the writer considers the advice or adopts it. I'm often delighted when the advice is taken into consideration and, rather than being adopted in the main, is adapted to the writer's sensibilities. Exquisite.

I have hours and years of veteran and meaningful workshop experience.

Where feathers ruffle is when I espouse my writing philosophies and they run counter to an equally strongly held dissenting opinion.

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redux
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I said "if." I never suggested that was the actual case.

Others in the thread, however, have indicated that your style is pedantic. Perhaps you should revisit that.

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extrinsic
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MattLeo, NI3, fun stuff, especially with reagent-grade ingredients.

I posted the below here once a while ago.

A Hippocratic Oath for Practitioners of the Prosaic Arts;
By way of guidance in decorum for writing activities.
------
Paraphrased from a modern-day physicians' Hippocratic Oath, original by Dr. Louis Lasagna, Academic Dean of the School of Medicine at Tufts University, 1964, retrieved from http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/doctors/oath_modern.html checked 08/05/09
------
I swear to fulfill, to the best of my ability and judgment, this covenant:

I will respect the hard-won knowledge of those who came before and in whose steps I walk, and gladly share such knowledge as is mine with those who are to follow, as well as with fellow creators.

I will apply, for the benefit of the individual and the whole of society, all measures that are required, avoiding those twin traps of overtreatment and indifference.

I will remember that there is science and passion in expressing creation as well as art and divine inspiration, and that warmth, sympathy, and understanding may outweigh a critical remark or a deflecting platitude.

I will not be ashamed to say I know not, nor will I fail to call on other resources when the skills of another are needed for insight or adjustment.

I will respect the sanctity of others' emerging creations I am exposed to, for those creations are not disclosed to me so that I may impose my own volition, nor so that the public may prematurely know those creations from my capricious impulse. Most especially must I tread with care in matters of acknowledgement, recognition, commerce, liability, and propriety. If it is given me to experience a creation, all thanks. But it may also be within my power to impact a life; this awesome responsibility must be faced with great humbleness and awareness of my own frailty. Above all, I must not play at irreproachable authority nor cause harm.

I will remember that I do not address an unfeeling object, but a creation born of insuperable struggles whose progression may affect its creator's well-being. My obligation includes concern for those related attachments, if I am to respectfully approach a creation.

I will practice the highest standards of courtesy for courtesy's sake, to set a worthy example for others to emulate in good conscience, and also will discourage malfeasance and brutality to the fullest of my capacity whenever and wherever they may occur. And I will remember that giving insult or injury tarnish reputation most, harm an offender as well as an offended individual and society as a whole.

I will take no pleasure from the misfortunes of others, nor beg sympathy for my own, nor sing my own praises aloud. It is my duty to endure brilliant successes without haughtiness and conceit, and to accept sorrowful defeats without losing courage. *

I will remember that I remain a member of society, with special obligations to all my fellow human beings, those of small or large accomplishment as well as emerging creators.

If I do not violate this oath, may I enjoy life and art, respected while I live and remembered with affection thereafter. May I always act so as to preserve the finest traditions of my calling and may I long experience the joy of contributing to creation in enlightenment and entertainment's glory.

* Sentence recast from Gustav Freytag original, Technique of the Drama.

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extrinsic
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quote:
Originally posted by redux:
I said "if." I never suggested that was the actual case.

Others in the thread, however, have indicated that your style is pedantic. Perhaps you should revisit that.

The term pedantic is fraught with meanings, many negative connotations, one perhaps neutral denotation. I prefer the terms pedagogy and androgogy, child learning and adult learning, respectively, which contain an underlying wisdom regarding composition instruction. Learning, not teaching.
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MattLeo
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quote:
Originally posted by extrinsic:
Where feathers ruffle is when I espouse my writing philosophies and they run counter to an equally strongly held dissenting opinion.

Well, I would expect the situation to be somewhat different in a consulting relationship. In such a relationship the customer is in the driver's seat, but in my experience that can actually make him more open to suggestions than if he sees you as a peer. A customer's free to throw your advice in the trash, but at the same time he's paid for that advice. He's going to think a bit harder about your recommendations before he disregards them, and that's often amounts to the proverbial camel's nose in the tent.

I've had success as both an internal change agent and as a consultant, but as a consultant it takes less work to get people to listen to you -- provided you have something worthwhile to say. Working as a peer, there's a lot more spadework needed to change people's minds because there's a whole complicated social dynamic going on that has little to do with getting things done.

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Grumpy old guy
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I've never thought of extrinsic as a pedant. I think my first reaction to him was annoyance at his overuse of 'jargon'. By jargon, I mean the use of words that have special meaning within a select group; in this case, writers. Such jargon is used by most members of that special group to *exclude* rather than include.

Voice, milieu and half a hundred other words that I have to look up on the internet to understand in the writing context, do not 'explain' anything to me usefully. Yes, I am learning what some of these concepts are--a long, slow process--but if I gave an Ms to extrinsic for 'developmental editing', would I understand the report I got back?

Or, am I a writer that extrinsic would 'weed out' as being not advanced enough in skill and learning to be worth the effort?

Just wondering?

Phil.

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extrinsic
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I expect extrinsic would advise you, Grumpy old guy, on word choices: diction in the vernacular. Jargon too is a term fraught with negative connotations.

In-groups do to degrees engage in esoteric and exoteric discourse. Exclusion is an esoteric folk practice common to all folk groups, sometimes alienating, sometimes instructing for the sake of inItiating, joining, and belonging, always expressing a shared identity of a discourse community. Writing term usage expresses writer in-group status and standing. Writers are as much a shared cultural identity group, folk group, as any other, besides perhaps family and about as contentious as any other. Where there's a will, there's a contention.

A term of art is but a placeholder for perhaps an intricate, complex topic. Take show and tell, a writer's bane, for sure. Volumes have been written about the intricacies of show and tell. Yet some writers manage it without too much struggle and for a few a not too involved learning process. But for writers who are lost in the dark, perhaps an explanation and examples will see them past the hurdle. If they want to in the first place.

I'm sure a first report from extrinsic will cause you, Grumpy old guy, a degree of confusion. Compared to how to make spaghetti and meatballs, how to write is rocket science. But compared to rocket science, writing is slightly less complex and far safer to learn. Writing complexity arises from daring to go beyond the mediocre plane.

extrinsic thinks you could come to understand a report. Many of extrinsic's previous clients have taken quite well to their reports.

You have demonstrated to extrinsic that you have skills and learning. What you haven't quite demonstrated for extrinsic's concerns is whether you're prepared enough to justify the emotional risks.

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Foste
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Methinks redux made some salient points, extrinsic.

Since I see that you're going to dismiss dissenting viewpoints no matter what (since you're more interested in quoting dictionary definitions than engaging in any kind of discourse), I am going give you one last piece before I bow out of this discussion.

If you criticize other people's wording you have no right to act indignant if the other party does the same to you.

If redux and Owasm called your style pedantic you might want to think about that particular problem of yours. I mean you came into this thread asking for advice. If you're defensive about it what's the point? Fishing for compliments? Shilling your services? Since you appear so eager to point out that you already have a sizable list of clients why come here and ask for advice in the first place? Don't shoot the messenger.

There will come a time when you will have to butt heads with a client and your input will be critical to their career. Asserting your quasi-intellectual superiority isn't going helping anyone - look at your response to Grumpy old guy. Your phrasing indicates that he somehow needs to qualify to hire you - not the other way around. I learned many things in Cat Rambo's editing class and I can tell you one thing:

You see if you can work or come to an agreement with a client once you start discussing their work.

quote:
Originally posted by redux:
One of the maxims of The Temple of Apollo at Delphi is "know thyself." The other two - "nothing in excess" and "make a pledge and mischief is nigh."

That quote summarizes pretty much my opinion on the matter.

I wish you the best of luck in your career. I hope you lead many clients to a successful writing career.

May the odds be ever in your favor.

Singing out.

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MattLeo
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Hmm. In my professional career, I've had titles like "Software Architect" and "Chief Technologist", but *most* of my job, the real value in it, was getting people who were talking past each other to start listening to each other.

The world is full of dichotomies that put people at loggerheads. There's "splitter vs. lumper". Splitters if left to their own devices will categorize things with as much precision as possible. Lumpers will take every single thing and toss it in a giant bin labeled "things". Splitters are focused on building the capacity to reconstruct and analyze past events. Lumpers are focused on getting the job at hand done quickly and efficiently. Who's right? They're both right. More to the point they both need each other. When splitters rule with impunity, work grinds to the halt as people struggle with arcane distinctions (and usually get them wrong). When lumpers rule with impunity, they make the same mistakes over and over and have no means to discover why.

I think what we are looking at here is another facet of the splitter/lumper dichotomy: the theoretician/pragmatist dichotomy.

When faced with a problem, the first question a pragmatist asks is, "What is my gut response?" A person of the theoretical bent asks, "How does this fit into my analytic framework?" Obviously a gut response gets you further initially, and an analytic response gets you further eventually. But what we *don't* do in a web forum like this is analyze a writer's work in any detail. That makes the forum much more friendly to purely pragmatic contributions. Somebody posts something, a bunch of people respond with their gut reactions, and then a topic peters out because folks have no more to say. There's only so much you can improve using that kind of feedback. Asking "how does this fit into my analytic framework" is the start of a much longer and deeper conversation -- of the type that doesn't take place here.

There is nothing wrong with a pedantic response -- what harm could it possibly do? I think the reactions it provokes come from the perception that it is off-topic. But that's just the reaction lumpers *always* have to splitters' contributions.

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