Monday, February 04, 2008

Help Wanted (Pay Sucks)

Hmm, where have I heard that before? But this time I really mean it! The pay really does suck! And I really do need help!

How's that for tempting?

I need an editor. Occasionally I work on articles for submission to magazines. I need someone to run through them with a fine-toothed comb and an eagle's eye. Preferrably, of course, someone with writing experience, a strong command of writing fundamentals and grammar, and because I usually write about unschooling, someone with experience there as well.

I sometimes have a real-life in-the-flesh friend do it. But sometimes I don't want one of my close friends, whom I have to see every Thursday for example, beat me over the head with my dangling participles. I mean, I like my friends. I want to continue liking my friends. Sometimes when my editor-turned-friend tells me I'm too wordy or my essay doesn't make the point I'm hoping it makes, I want to call her a "poophead" and that's just not good for anyone.

I once wrote an essay for a Women's Stories publication. (Now see? I didn't know where to go with that sentence, so I just put a period and will start on the next. That's where YOU can come in! Help me, please!) The submissions guidelines said the essays had to be 300 words or less. 300 words. Three. Hundred. Words. Do you know how little can be said in 300 words?

Lemme give you a hint - so far, in this blog post, I've used 255. And I think you'll agree... I've said very, very little.

(I need help in not going off on tangents, too.)

Anyhoo... I submitted two essays, and one was a spoof (a satire? a farce? a cheap gimmick? Can you be a thesaurus too? You're a doll.) on the 300 word limit. They liked it so much it was selected to be performed at their public event. Woohoo! (I know, woohoo should never, ever be put into something for publication. Should it?)

In it, I referenced Marianne Moore, modernist American poet and writer, who advised to "kill your little darlings."

Well here... rather than re-paraphrasing-ing (ahem) the whole thing, read it for yourself:

“Chopping Block Angst”

When I first read the submissions guidelines for Women’s Stories, I about choked on the 300-word maximum. 300 words? Only 300? (Oops, see, I just wasted four!) This would be challenging!

My essays are typically 800-900 words long. (Does “800-900” count as one word or two? Oh dear.) Selecting five- to six-hundred words to cut sounds agonizing. (Writing out “five- to six-hundred” definitely removes the question, doesn’t it.) But as an aspiring writer, I will do this. I will take vital, relevant, flowing words and delete them. As if they mean nothing at all. It won’t be any trouble. Really.

Marianne Moore, a modernist American poet and writer, advised to “Kill your little darlings.” You know, those phrases or lilting alliterations that, in the end, you know don’t work, but you want oh-so-badly (is “oh-so-badly” one word or three?) to keep in anyway because you are so in love with them. And as we know, love is blind. Like when your friends know your new boyfriend is a rotten cad but it takes you thirteen months and week-long crying jags to realize it. Blind like that.

It’s happened to me. I’ve reread old columns, and in hindsight clearly seen “little darlings” that did nothing at all to enhance my essays. I had kept them in, blind with self-serving love. Appalling. (One-word sentence - short yet effective.)

But didn’t writing instructors teach us to embellish? Yes, I distinctly recall “she inched, slowly, across the darkened room” getting better marks than “she walked through the room.” It figures… I spent all those years adding “more”, and now am told to write less.

But alas, the limit is near. To feed my nagging hunger, I’m off to write a lengthy essay for something else; filled, no doubt, with little darlings. Come to Mama!

And all that (pant pant pant) is just to say - I need help. A writer has a hard time killing her little darlings. We get all oooey-gooey, thinking some little phrase has just the right clip to it, when it may not add one d*mn thing to the essay.

So, whaddya say? I have nothing to pay you, other than some glowing recognition and air-kisses when I stroll the red carpet of writer's fame. Wait, if I get to stroll a red carpet of writer's fame (is there a red carpet of writer's fame?), that means I'll be making a gobload of money. And if I'm making a gobload of money, and you helped me get there, well, it's only fair that you be compensated.

I'm getting ahead of myself.

The straight poo - are you interested in editing my work? If so, flip an email to I promise the work will be infrequent (feel the ambition!) and ineloquent (which is why I need you). Oh, and I mostly write essay-length articles, and occasionally work on book chapters - one on unschooling, one on grief. If you're game, I'd love a little help with those too.

Anyone game? Grab yer hatchet, do a few tricep stretches, and shoot me an email - I've got some little darlings cowering in corners over here!


My name is Stacie. said...

So you are a writer too. I did not know that, I only knew I felt some sort of connection to you. At first it was the fact that you are freaking funny. And then I find out you're a Pisces. And then the winter blues thing. And now I discover you are a writer. That is so cool. Well, another similarity. I SUCK at grammar too. So I can't help you there. I have read friends work before, and it can be a touchy thing. I'm no expert, but I'd be willing to read your essays, and respond as a reader, if you want. I'm just by no means an editor.

KMDuff said...

If you ever want me to help you with some math, I can do that. Grammar, nope. Loved the essay, it was funny. :)

Galavanter said...

Laura - thank you for your blog post - I'm addicted to your blog, and it was a very long, dry weekend!

Would love to read your stuff before you send it off somewhere. I'm no editor, but if you need an extra set of eyes...

Lynn said...

Laura,I too love your blog and could think of nothing better than reading even more of your work but alas I too lack the required expertise!!!
Hope you find a suitable candidate to help you on your way to literary success and a gobload of money....
Thank you so much for visiting Emily's Blog she was sooooo excited to have a comment from someone in another country.Bless you XXXX

zamozo said...

Sorry can't help you. I'm a lousy writer and certainly no editor. Lucky for me (if I ever decide to try to write anything) I have a professional editor for a mom. Except it's no fun having your mom tell you all those things editors tell you, especially at my age!

Good luck on your free editor quest!

Sandy Feet said...

Laura, I love the way you write, and when I'm reading your posts I'm thinking that I wish I could express myself that well. (See? Awkward sentence there).

Thanks for all your great comments. I loved them. I am struggling with Part II because it doesn't flow yet.

piscesgrrl said...

Thanks to everyone for chiming in! I appreciate the compliments (more than you know - don't we all tend to be extremely self-critical?), and may take some of you up on your offers soon. Especially since I've got a new 'gig' in the works. Will unveil soon...

I had two folks with editing experience email and offer to take a look at my work. How incredible is that? Ask and you shall receive... wow. Speaking of, there's a fantastic essay on asking for exactly what you want at 37 Days... link in my sidebar. Serendipity! Patti is an incredible writer and her words never fail to leave me pondering all day long. Go visit!

ggang said...

Laura -

I'd be happy to look at your stuff. Don't know if I qualify or what kind of comments you are looking for, but I should probably be using that Journalism degree for something! The only danger is that I might get too inspired and find myself questioning my life even more than I already am, but I guess that's probably already going to happen anyway now that I am addicted to your blog. So send away. If you would like a reference, I edit Dan's stuff all the time, and he hasn't kicked me out of the house yet (well, maybe once). The only caveat is that I do make suggestions, but if you just want proof reading for typos, etc., I am much better at catching them in other people's writing than in my own.;) Plus, maybe it would help me not get so rusty with my own writing. So yeah, now I'm psyched! When do I start (drool, drool.)

Beverly said...

All these kind people offering help, saying, "I'm not an editor."
I'm afraid that some day, you'll find out that I AM an editor, and you'll wonder, "Why didn't she say anything?"
Because if I offered to help, I'd totally flake out on you. I can't do one more thing.
But I flatter myself to assume that you'd want my help. I will say, though, that most of my posts start out at least two times longer than what you see. I enjoy "killing my darlings." I think that must mean I'm not really a writer.

Beverly said...

One more thing: "oh-so-badly" is one word. I'd take that one to the mat.

K. said...

I am tragically late to this party, and I want you to know that I read your post a while ago and just wanted to think about my answer. Because on the one hand, I've done this for friends before, and I really enjoy your writing and would be stoked to work with you. On the other hand, (said with heavy emphasis and preferably a chord of doom striking in the background) I've done this for friends before...

But it sounds like you might have gotten what you need already, so I'll just go on record as saying that my door is absolutely open. If you have a piece that you want some extra eyes on, or anything that you think might be my bag in particular, I would be happy (honored, even) to look at anything for you. You have my email.