When a publisher took me on to publish my first novel (in this case, a novella), they told me I would be working with an editor first. I knew very little about book publishing, and up until that point had thought an editor was basically to make sure that all the grammar and punctuation was correct. I had re-written the manuscript so many times that I thought even that level of editing was not necessary. I thought I’d already caught every typo, mis-spelling, and grammar mistake, so that I had little need for an editor. But of course the publisher insisted, and I complied.
The editor I worked with, almost entirely by email, was truly expert at what she did, and worked with me as I understand editors used to do (before the big publishing house editors became little more than barometers of public taste). She guided me on everything from structural changes to comma uses, including very importantly making me aware of various current writing conventions followed by the publishing industry, of which I was blissfully unaware, and aware how seriously the publishing industry takes these conventions, especially for unpublished writers. I had previously known that a published book had to be super polished, bearing no resemblance to a draft, and naively thought I had accomplished that. I was extremely wrong. The editor drilled down in my work at a level one can never get in a workshop, or indeed in any group setting, and evaluated thousands of creative/craft-related decisions I had made in the course of writing the book, and guided me through making many of them better.
I learned much more from my editor than I had ever learned from any writing teacher or work-shop leader. As pretty much a self-taught writer, I had long wanted detailed specific help in learning the craft, but had been unable to find. It’s so easy to find people who will give you vague, big picture feedback of the type that isn’t a lot of work to give (they read the work and say generally what they think, like any member of the writing public does, only they do it with more expertise), and even people who do that well are hard to find. To find someone who will really buckle down, and identify in detail what you aren’t doing right, and guide you through fixing it, is beyond hard.
I would estimate that my editor improved my book by a genuine 20%. By contrast, I would estimate that the benefit I’ve gotten from any one class or workshop is usually around 2%, and tops out at about 5%, which is an extraordinarily successful result from a workshop.
So, I’m sitting here typing to tell you that real writing gurus are not the professors, seminar leaders, publishing house editors, literary agents, or workshop leaders. They are the freelance editors out there who have really learned their craft and willing to work hard at it.
How far would you go to add excitement to a life you felt was boring and meaningless?
For seventy-three-year-old Jaime, the answer takes him by surprise. Accustomed to a lonely life high up in the mountains on the western coast of Mallorca, his dull routine is suddenly shattered when a man parachutes from a plane and lands nearby. The plane crashes; the man lives.
It’s a drug smuggling operation gone bad. But Stefan, the man from the sky, has escaped with eight kilos of cocaine in a gym bag. Jaime brings Stefan home and is soon entangled in Stefan’s attempts to sell the cocaine and start a new life.
As they dodge Parisian drug dealers and corrupt Mallorcan police, Jaime’s search for excitement and Stefan’s resolve to find stability lead them both down dangerous paths.
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Genre – Literary Fiction, Adventure
Rating – PG-13
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