Thursday, July 1, 2010

When your father is an editor and you're writing a book

For over three years now, I have been writing my story about Ellanor. For over 15 years, my father has been an editor in his 'spare' time - he is actually a doctor of civil engineering by trade, acts as adjunct associate professor to one of the largest universities in the country and somewhere in there, he also manages to volunteer as an advocate for aged/special needs members of the community (which involves various mediation duties between families and courts/councils and so forth).

Would it surprise you to learn he has not read one word of my book?

Despite offering his very capable assistance, I've not taken him up on it. I think I'm scared, for a number of reasons. First, I know it would represent a heck of a lot of work (for me and for him) - he is a fine-tooth comber - and second, I'm obviously too worried it won't impress him.

As if a child who had a very well educated, studious, highly expectant father wasn't going to be concerned enough about making him proud already, now I find myself in this ideal position to call on the services of an extraordinary editor. But I cannot do it!

I have given Dad my synopsis to play with - it's the single page book 'summary' that you send as, basically, an introductory cover letter (the pitch, if you will) along with your chosen chapters as a submission to publishers and/or agents.

Getting the synopsis just right is probably THE most important thing to me at the moment. I sent it around to a few friends, only a couple of whom have had the time to provide feedback. They were as thoroughly impressed by it as I had hoped they would be. But Dad.... Dad has given me something to think about in every second sentence. This sort of advice is amazing to have at my disposal, I am a lucky girl.

But something in me is holding back from giving him a teaser chapter from the actual manuscript. It may be that I don't want him to read something that has not yet been edited (by an editor) - even my own editor, when I mentioned my father does it for a partial living, groaned and said, "Oh my GOD, the pressure!" and although I thought she meant the pressure on her, she was referring to the pressure that I must be feeling.... uh, hell YEAH!, tell me about it! It may also be partly that, as I mentioned before, when or if Dad were to get his hands on this to edit it, he would find so many technical no-no's that it would make enormous work for me, which would be detrimental to me finishing the book at this point.

Mostly, though, I really wish for my father that he can read this from beginning to end, forgive me any slip-ups (and believe me, he would find PLENTY, even if it had been edited professionally) and just feel the story. Hear me. And understand the journey we have been on.

My Dad remains one of my greatest supporters, though his role is quite peripheral, especially now he is in his latter years. I only hope I can be clear enough with him what it is I need him to do when he reads it. I was so sure that the first time I wanted him to read it was when it was in book-bound form (yes, I am heavily entertaining that fantasy now!). But now, I am not so certain. I regard his input and his intelligence so highly. I also realise that part of his intention with my work would be to ensure I, as his offspring, am producing something so close to perfect that it may as well be.

My manuscript is FAAAAAAAR from that point of perfection. I have only just become 'okay' with that, after being told for the countless time, "SHUDDUP! YOU WRITE VERY WELL! OKAY?!? ENOUGH!!!" by several who know great writing when they read it (ie. I have only been able to accept their validation of my writing because they are in the business or run a writing course or are published themselves, etc.)

The question is, though, can my own voice stand up to such heavy-handed, albeit enthusiastic and loving, editing in my story by my father? I have to be sure, in my own head, first, before I welcome him in any further to what my writing world has been these past three years.

I think the synopsis is far enough for now. I am already awestruck how he has opened it up and reflected back to me, pretty much, what I was thinking, even going so far as picking up on one of the questions I pose (to myself), stating it seemed less like the original "core" moral question I had really asked myself and more like a simple question I had thrown in for good measure. He was bang on the money! And I had not even mentioned the deeper question, assuming what I was questioning, rhetorically, was the "core". He had gleaned, from my words, the internal doubts I had been mulling over about that very question - I'm shocked to realise that what I was doubting, and how I felt internally as I wrote it when I was slightly unsure of the question's relevance, is so apparent to the astute reader.

So he knows what he's on about. He obviously has my best interests at heart. Why, then, am I so afraid to let him "addit"? (Don't worry about replying with an answer to this, also a rhetorical... oh, unless you know why! Then, do spill! With many thanks...)

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