The Joy of Publishing

In the last couple of years, I’ve begun realising a dream. I’ve become involved in the publishing industry. And it is glorious.

It all started with a chance meeting on a browser gaming site: my dear friend, as she is now, and I chatted for hours. We exchanged addresses and posted things to each other. We emailed. It turned out that she is an author, and she introduced me to two publishers, for whom I now read slush.

Reading a slush pile can be fun, but it is also painful. Some days you squint at the overly bright sky whilst sipping your coffee, and wonder how one person can condense so much drivel into a story only a thousand words long. You wonder who they are, why they write, what their dreams might be. Some days you can’t help smiling, because you’ve found something wonderful. Some days there isn’t any slush at all, and you don’t know whether to be tense or relieved. Because you know one thing will always be true: the slush will come again.

After about a year of slush, I got involved with a quarterly science fiction magazine, Future Science Fiction Digest. I proofread galleys, and some written pieces, and built up to copy editing the interviews, stories, and other articles that it features.

I discovered a love for copyediting. It’s sort of an art; you have to polish someone’s prose as gently as possible, putting as little of yourself into it as you can, while bringing out the best of their intentions. If you do your job properly, no one will notice that you have passed by. Do it poorly, however, and it will be blatantly obvious. But I digress.

The sheer joy of it is to be found in the smoothing of style. You take halting sentences and form them into clauses that join into a long one; you add and remove commas; you keep a lookout for malapropisms and odd word choices. Of course, your author might decide he or she wants that odd word, in spite of your better judgement. And apart from putting their picture on a dartboard, you have to let them. It’s all part of the fun.

The only problem, of course, is not being able to turn it off. I have found Desert Menus (roast camel, anyone?) and “hoards” of barbarians. People take the reigns instead of the reins, because who rides horses, these days?

In general, though, the good outweighs the bad. And you better believe I go over my own writing with the proverbial fine-toothed comb. That stuff is embarrassing.

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