Tag Archives: be better than this

Says the Editor: More Verbal Abuse

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It was fourteen months ago that I first brought up the subject of verbal abuse and warfare.

I’ve been studying it ever since then, learning it, recognizing it, calling it out when I see it — usually privately.

But this last time? Well, not so much.

Like last time, it started with a phrase. This time, it was, “It goes without saying.”

Now, taken by itself, that’s not such a bad thing. If you’re having a dialogue and both people have the same body of knowledge, it’s a very safe phrase to use. It shows harmony between characters (or people, but do think of this in the context of fiction and fictional conflict ’cause it’s way more fun that way), a shared history, and even a similiar mindset. Oh, not every time; I’m generalizing here. The point is that there is a way that this phrase can be used to show parity between characters.

And then there’s the verbal abuse and warfare. The times the phrase is used to get one up on another, when it’s used to show that the speaker is lording their knowledge over someone who may not have the same breadth of experience and knowledge about a subject. And that’s how it was being used the other day.

As an editor, I deal with writers all day long. I am also a writer. Put those two things together, and I understand the writer mentality pretty well. We are, by dint of the massive amount of rejection we face, a pretty insecure lot. Add in the fact that we’re working in a field that relies 100% on subjective judgments by others, usually complete strangers, and I’d say we’re allowed to be.

So long as we support each other and help each other, that’s not a bad thing. In fact, it feels pretty good to help out a fellow writer and watch them grow and gain success.

But that’s not what was happening here. One writer was using “It goes without saying” as a way of lording it over others in the group that the topic of discussion was basic knowledge.

Remember: I work with writers daily. Writers who aren’t myself. The subject at hand didn’t go without saying; it was stuff I say to my clients and my friends and even casual acquaintances I’ve run across at various meetings and workshops. The scenario usually goes like this:

“I used X publisher and I wasn’t happy with how they handled…” they’ll say.

“Is it in the contract?” I’ll ask as gently as I can.

“Well, no. But they said…”

“Specifically? Did you ask? Did you ask if they could put it in writing? Did you talk to other authors who’ve used that publisher?”

“Well… no…”

I’ve had variations of this conversation more times than I can count. And each time it kills me. They didn’t know to ask. They didn’t know they could ask. They didn’t know they should.

“Lesson learned for next time,” I tell them and encourage them to contact me if they need to be walked through any steps along the way. I’ll hold their hand, I’ll give them suggestions based on my experience, I’ll let them bounce ideas off me. Many do. Many get referred to lawyers or others who I think can help them make informed decisions, too, because Lord knows I don’t have all the answers. Just hopefully experience and contacts to people who do have more answers.

And that’s the scenario I keep flashing back to as I consider what was going on between me and the other writer. She had experience she could have been sharing with the group, supporting them and helping them make really smart business decisions. Instead, she chose to lord it over them, needing to raise herself up over them. The discussion did need to be had, the questions did need to be specifically stated. Making a statement like “That goes without saying” to an observer who didn’t realize this set of questions should have been second nature makes their IWI kick up something fierce. That writerly insecurity… it’s a vicious little bastard. There’s no need to feed it, and a phrase like, “It goes without saying” turns into verbal abuse the second someone feels bad about themselves because they did need the information to be discussed.

I knew we’d crossed the line between simple lack of audience awareness (which is not a good thing for an author to do! Know who your audience is often gets cited as a top rule for a writer to consider) and into verbal warfare with a potential for abuse when she explained to me that “It goes without saying” was a phrase.

Wow. Ya THINK?

Of course, this wasn’t the first interaction with her, either. She’s been making a point of one-upping me for a couple months now. Until this, I ignored her. But this time, I called her on it. And what do you think happened?

Refer to the end of the last post about verbal warfare and abuse. Because it was the same damn thing: a clumsy attempt at a classic redirect, gaslight, and abuse.

So. As you work on your fiction, unless your character needs verbal warfare, unless he or she is a gaslighter, unless you’re willing to deal with abuse, be mindful of the phrases you use. Both “I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again” and “It goes without saying” are common phrases in our lexicon. Think about the message you’re sending when you use them. Are you speaking to someone on the same level? Or are you engaging in verbal abuse and warfare?

And if it’s the latter, why?

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#SaysTheEditor My Typos are Better Than Your Typos

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It’s finally happened. And so, it’s time to change the mindset of many many authors, readers, and publishing professionals.

For years and years — and remember, I put the first Demo Tapes anthology for sale in 2008, and this attitude pre-dates even that — the general wisdom was simple: self-published books didn’t have nearly the quality of books from the major publishers. Now, some of that referred directly to production quality, and that’s been fixed many years on now.

What’s lingered has been the stigma about the writing and editing.

No more, I say.

I’ve ranted here before about finding significant numbers of typos in books published by the big houses. I’ve ranted about bad writing.

It’s not only in self-published books anymore, boys and girls.

So no more. No more putting down the indie writers as a whole. A number of them won’t stand for excessive typos and lazy writing any more than you or I would. Many of them are my clients, but even more aren’t (simply because I can’t work for everyone. I’m only one person, after all!).

And a very very large number of them would be mortified if I nodded my head in agreement showed up in a book with their name on the cover.

That’s because I have yet to find another body part that you nod. Oh, a body can nod off to sleep, but that’s entirely different. And a character or a person can certainly nod to show they are paying attention, or nod to show interest, but it’s pretty widely assumed that a nod means assent of some sort — even assent that attention is being paid or that the subject at hand remains interesting. So there’s no need for that in agreement phrase that’s thrown in. The reader will assume it’s there unless they are specifically told why the nod isn’t one of agreement.

This falls into the “Shit!” he swore school of bad writing.

Come to think of it, I found that in a book from one of the big publishing houses, too. Recently.

So. Enough. Enough denigrating an entire publishing model — one that works for a number of authors and readers — based on a lack of polish that the other, more highly regarded (although more and more, I do not know why this is so) model increasingly unleashes on the public.

Stick to the books that are well written and well edited. Period. It no longer matters which publishing model you follow or who published the book in your hands.

A lot are good. A lot are bad.

Publisher simply doesn’t matter anymore.

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