This week you will find me frantically editing for Faye Ling. Working with Faye is always a test of how assertive you are—she has already sent me two scathing emails demanding I, “Stop [mess]ing around on that stupid blog thing that no one reads and get on with editing my writer’s guide.” (Excerpt here).
Pressed for time and too distracted to be inspired for anything creative of my own, I thought the best option was to put together a news flash—something I haven’t done for a while.
After My Mirror Self and I was released mid-March, I spent a while doing some promo and gathering my thoughts. The rest of April was spent writing my current WiP ‘Derek’ (working title), a YA farce. Eleven thousand words in, and he’s about to go abroad. I’ve yet to work out how much of the story to set there before he returns home. I also need to come up with an entirely new cast of characters, get to grips with the ‘feel’ of the place, as well as work out enough of the other character’s motives to carry the story. It’s a long way off finished, and may even stall before completion. As an irredeemable pantser, the only way to find out is to write it.
While I was mulling over all this Faye approached me and requested (i.e. insisted) I help edit her upcoming eBook. As far as I can tell, it contains many of her opinions and ‘insights’ into writing and publishing, and ‘guidance’ for writers who are struggling with their craft and career. Editing it is an interesting experience, and I wonder how many people will find it helpful. Editing the guide has presented me with several practical challenges and an interesting ethical problem (those that know me may be surprised to find I do think about things like ethics sometimes, and not just armpits, snot, and wind).
Most editors wouldn’t have touched Faye’s notes (angular spidery handwriting on screwed up sheets of paper and take-away wrappings, photographs of scribblings in the margins of books, and randomly cut-and-pasted sections of assorted emails and Word docs). I wouldn’t have touched the project either, except that Faye—well let’s just say she has a few things she can use as leverage. I tried suggesting she organise these notes into a document for me, but as far as she is concerned: “That’s an editor’s job, so what are you moaning about? It’s all written, it’s all there. I want you to edit it, so sort it out.” So I’m trying my best to do just that.
Because of Faye’s organic way of working and the resulting time I’ve had to spend organising, I’m more personally involved in, and less detached from, this project than I imagine most editors are from the projects they work on. By working on this it feels as though I’m giving my tacit approval to the contents. The problem is the contents are written by Faye, not by me. An editor’s role has many aspects, one of the most important being facilitator—helping the writer best achieve his or her vision. So my dilemma as shanghaied editor is, do I let Faye speak with her own voice and let her readers be offended, or do I negotiate a watering down of who she is on the page and disregard her right to freedom of speech?
For good or ill, I have chosen to allow Faye to express herself in her own way. She will offend (probably a lot), but she should at least get a reaction—even if it’s negative—and any reaction is better than none, right? Wish me luck.
Have you ever been able to influence what someone said, and you were … concerned about the potential of a lynch mob if you didn’t hold them back? Did you let the axe fall where it will, or attempt to soften the blow? I’d be interested to know your thoughts… (Faye’s far too busy writing me nagging emails to comment).
**ADDITION – 05/06/12 **
To be honest, I thought that everyone was going to catch on to Faye being fictional after she was introduced for her first blog post – the comments after that gave me no indication to think otherwise. I expected people’s responses to this ‘editing’ post to be along the lines of,
“Yeah, yeah TJ – we’ve got you sussed,”
and then go on to comment about their experiences of editing and critiquing. I only put this post up because as I was re-reading and editing the piece I’d written as Faye, I found her voice in my head responding to the changes I was making. Mostly they consisted of her adamant refusal to change anything, and an her usual unrepentant and arrogant attitude toward her readers. That got me thinking about how I would handle someone with such a difficult personality in real life, and so I put up the post.
I honestly thought that the references to Faye’s fictional insistent emails and the non-existent paper-maze would just keep the theme going from her first post, and hopefully raise a reader’s knowing smile. In reality I’d never touch anything like that, or divulge email contents on my blog . I was surprised when I got advice on how to handle Faye, and it took me a while to realise that one or two were serious, and weren’t simply continuing the joke in their own way.
To anyone reading this: it was not my intention to dupe or mislead you – I assumed my ‘humour’ was obvious enough to be spotted coming from a mile away – but if you were in anyway offended by the attempt, then you have my apologies.
The full sordid story can be found here: http://thewordonthe.net/category/faye-ling-2/