I Want to Be a Writer...I Think

Monday, November 22, 2010
A friend passed along a contact who needed some editing. As I've been putting the word out that I am taking on more editing projects, I was excited to get started with a new client.
The initial conversations, as you would expect with a new client, were a tad long. I was happy to explain some of the ins and outs of publishing. The author of the piece wasn't quite sure what she needed, but she was sure it was a book that every publisher would want. All she knew was that someone had told her that she needed to get it published. She'd never thought much about wanting to be a writer. She had just sat down to write one day. To tell a story, she said to me.
Ah, I wish it were so easy. Write it and they will come. But it is not so fast or convenient for most writers.
The story was about a controversial subject, pushing an agenda. Once I saw the piece, it was clear that the writer needed to expand her story into a novel (or novella) or shorten it to make it marketable as a short story.
She wasn't willing to make those changes. She wasn't convinced.
All she wanted was her work published. Although I didn't feel I was being discouraging; I like to think I'm more of a realist. I happily would have worked to expand the story or help to shorten it into a short story and determine the market she could approach to place the short story. Or to help develop more substance outside of the controversial subject matter. But she wasn't willing to take those paths. After discussing some of the costs associated with the different packages I offer, we amicably parted ways.
My almost-client had wanted to see her words in print, that is all she knew. She wanted a book, even if (according to the publishing world definitions) she only had the beginnings of a book.
The same week, I heard Patti Smith's acceptance of her National Book Award. I wished my almost-client had been with me. I could have used the awards as a starting point to discuss the amount of work involved in getting a book published. The hard work spent toiling in the draft stages. The tireless hours many writers spend at the keyboard putting in, taking out, nipping and tucking. The constant eye on finding an agent or publishing markets.
During one of our conversations, she seemed amazed at what she would need to do to get her piece published by a traditional publisher.
She had written the story that was the end of that. She had wanted me to check her spelling and punctuation. Then she was positive someone would publish her work.
After all, to her, it was a great story.
In the end, she planned to print it from her computer, bring it to a copy center for copies and then distribute it, hopefully making some money to offset the cost of the copies.
Then she would have her book. And I wish her the best.

Elizabeth King Humphrey is a writer and editor, who lives in Wilmington, North Carolina.


Betty Craker Henderson said...

Poor deluded dreamer. I wonder how many years it will take before she accepts hard reality?

Julie Anne Lindsey said...

Wow. Just...wow. Thanks for sharing this.

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