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November 11, 2013
Posted at 12:33 pm
 

New story I'm editing

Back in the 1700s, the Royal Navy could not yet afford Xerox copiers. The shore-based establishments could use printing presses when appropriate, for sending every ship three copies of their regulations or their secret code book as an example, but the ships themselves did not carry printing presses, either. This meant that, when some admiral decided that he needed 15 identical copies of some order to be sent out to his 15 captains, some poor Midshipman, respectfully referred to as a "snottie", had to manually write each copy.
Now, we are talking about youngsters who "had their letters" but didn't necessarily understand the deeper meaning of what they were writing out, and that meant that any time this was done, some unfortunate lieutenant with better things to do had to supervise/babysit/proofread their work. I don't remember if it was CS Forester's "Hornblower" series or Douglas Reeman's 'Alexander Kent' books or some other author, but one of them had a long episode that included exactly this evolution, with the lieutenant exclaiming at one point "Good God, sir! Would anyone outside of Bedlam say that?" to one of the kids.
I volunteer as an editor here on SoL as well as some other places, and I think of that scene just about every time I get asked to read a new manuscript.

On a related subject, a few weeks ago I had to kill some time at an airport but didn't want to deal with laptop, cables, connectivity, _secure_ connectivity, etc, etc, etc. I bought a pair of magazines and the latest Clive Cussler adventure. That's what the cover says, "The Tombs, a Fargo Adventure". Well, I don't know this Fargo guy, but I used to like Cussler's early work, so what the hell.
Frankly, I feel cheated out of whatever price I paid. With no respect intended to Mr. Cussler's unquestioned abilities as a writer, I don't believe that he wrote that book. The publisher obviously has expert proofreaders, as all sentences were complete, all words spelled right, etc, but it was in no way as engaging or believable as his early work. Something important has been lost, here. One wonders if he turned his early works over to a nephew and said "Here, you write the next ten. I'm going on vacation."

To tie these together, a couple of days ago I got asked (via the SoL editor's availability service) to proofread and edit a new author's first work. Now, I didn't expect much, but I'll try to be polite. When people first start out doing something new they aren't very sure of their skills, so you have to baby them some so they don't get discouraged. You learn to say "Perhaps this might be improved a little" instead of "What is this shit?".
This guy, however, already has a fun read. Yes, it's rough, he definitely needs a proofreader and then an editor and it's gonna be awhile before it gets published, but it's _already_ a better yarn than "The Tombs", and I told him that bluntly. I'd rather pay for his next book than for Mr. Cussler's next book.
Someday, there's going to be a Zombie/Survivor story come out from a new author, hopefully here on SoL, and I will suggest that anyone who likes that sort of thing try it on for size.

On the Swarm front, I am about a quarter of the way through the last chapter of Independent Command. However, I've learned my lesson. I'll have to re-release the current posted chapters as I had to make some changes dictated by the rest of the Swarm authors to make sure it fits with the rest of the Swarm stories, but I'm not sure I want to do that until the story is completely completed, if that makes sense.

-ZM