Sunday, 21 March 2010
Dear writer, follow these guidelines before I get a gun
*Just found this article on a facebook note. Loved it so much decided to share here. (references included as usual :)* Enjoy
begin with confessions: when I am not drooling at my desk, I am actively looking for the dustbin (to trash another useless manuscript) or busy shooting rubber bands to wake up other sleeping editors (I confess I need deeper drawers to burry these remaining and piling manuscripts). When editors don’t get enough sleep at home, they just come to the office in dark glasses. To ensure instant snoring, the trick is to grab the nearest manuscript which acts as the best lullaby of all time – until I start shooting rubber bands on editors’ faces, which I must add is the only thing (apart from an electric slap which is sadly not allowed in our office) that can wake up even the deepest office slumber. On this note, our great collision government should pass a law requiring all writers to have their manuscripts typed in CAPITAL letters to keep us from falling asleep. I once read a joke of a certain town that had more Baptists than people and I swear we have more writers in Kenya than people! Everyone is writing about everything – and doing it very badly. The government should intervene for the sake of its sane citizens.
I personally advocate the use of tactical nuclear weapons against writers who can’t write well. In fact, I’d rather chew a whole roll of foil paper than read some obscure badly written manuscript. There is nothing as taxing as reading such a manuscript and, honestly, editors feel like concrete on the wrong end of a jackhammer.
This is not to say that we editors do not work hard. However, I tend to agree with the person who said, “Hard work never hurt anyone – but why take any chances?” We are not taking any chances. And we have a good excuse to nap in the office because as I mentioned writers bring us boring manuscripts. I do not want to continue defending ourselves or else I’ll ruin this perfectly good excuse with an apology.
Our work would be great were it not for writers. They compose prose– and we do our best to wreck it. I do not like all writers – be they novelists, poets, columnists (which means I hate myself) and all others in their various shades and degrees of pretense. And I do not think this is strange. As someone wrote, “it is a proven fact that the more you work with people, the more you hate them. Look at clerks…they work with people all day long, and their basic approach to human interaction is to make you wait in the queue as long as possible and then tell you you’re in the wrong queue, in hopes that you’ll have a very painful and ultimately fatal seizure, and they’ll get to watch”. We spend all our waking hours with writers – hurt writers, rejected writers, soon-to-be rejected writers, old writers who have been ‘upcoming’ writers for decades, aging scribes, pitiful writers, proud writers, writers in school in primary school and even writers with PhDs – so there is no question whether editors like writers. They don’t.
Writers have one annoying habit: one writes a manuscript and they have this dreamy feeling that what they’ve written is the best thing to ever happen to the human race since the invention of sliced bread. For every writer, theirs is the most interesting manuscript. Yes, I agree, it is the most interesting manuscript to YOU. To the rest of us, it’s not that interesting or else we won’t be drooling over it as we labour to complete reading a page.
Writers accuse editors of being sadists – that our work is to dampen their spirits and dash their hopes of owning the sky. No. Our work is to bring the writers to the real world and iron out weaknesses from their work. Take an editor’s job to be like of “a statesman who shakes the fruit trees of his neighbours — to dislodge the worms”. This is what writers never get. The English have a saying that “Denial is not just a river in Egypt”. I vouch in the writer’s world, denial is no longer a river but an ocean. And all writers have been drowning in it since the days of the first scroll.
Having been in publishing for long enough to be able to prove it with my fading eyesight in my early thirties, I offer my advice below. Follow it at your own risk or get your own self-help guide.
Write your manuscript in capital letters – I have already said the reason is to prevent us from falling asleep or drooling over your boring manuscript.
Remember, your manuscript is NOT great. Who told you it’s great? That’s your opinion (or is it an illusion?) Okay, they say in democratic countries that opinions are like noses everyone has their own – some long and others short. Yes, everyone is entitled to their own opinion – only in this case yours is wrong and, to be honest, it doesn’t matter.
Write well using obsolete words. Obsolete words are refreshing – and they will keep the editor awake as they try to remember what they mean. If you are still wondering what obsolete means – according to the devil’s dictionary, it means “No longer used by the timid. Said chiefly of words. A word which some lexicographer has marked obsolete is ever thereafter an object of dread and loathing to the fool writer, but if it is a good word and has no exact modern equivalent equally good, it is good enough for the good writer. Indeed, a writer's attitude toward ‘obsolete’ words is as true a measure of his literary ability as anything except the character of his work. A dictionary of obsolete and obsolescent words would not only be singularly rich in strong and sweet parts of speech; it would add large possessions to the vocabulary of every competent writer who might not happen to be a competent reader”.
Never hand in anything that is handwritten. Some handwriting is so horrible that cave men scribbling on walls were more legible. Bad handwriting leaves the editor depressed, bewildered and prone to emotional excess – which will result (but not limited) to giving an instant rejection slip – with the words “Never, ever!” Or if the writer is lucky, they could get a slap on the face to accompany the rejection slip.
Do not threaten an editor with a pen knife or any blunt object – when he gives you a rejection slip. Swallow your pride, cry in your bedroom, read it objectively and make the suggested corrections or burry the manuscript as the case may be.
If you do not want rejection slips, climb the gallows. In case you are wondering what gallows are in this context, they are, as defined by a deranged man elsewhere “a stage for the performance of miracle plays, in which the leading actor is translated to heaven. In this country the gallows is chiefly remarkable for the number of persons who escape it”.
Dear writer, follow these guidelines before I get a gun.
( http://www.facebook.com/notes/john-mwazemba/musings-of-a-publisher-im-thinking-of-getting-a-gun/373636229698 )