Uncle Dale / copyediting nibble / the garden in The Amalgamated Aggromulator

  • July 2, 2018, 7:41 a.m.
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  • Public

Yes, that’s soft rain outside my window. Perhaps now it’s gone. Yes, it is. It only lasted a little over a minute. I only knew from the faint sound of it. I love the sensitivity of having the window open. Summertime.

My uncle died Saturday morning. He was being walked to the bathroom, he smiled and nodded at a new staff member, and then in the bathroom he lost consciousness and could not be revived. It was not a bad death - he missed it. Like dropping a piece of paper.

He was in a good place - he had paid extra for years for an insurance arrangement that ended up getting him really good elder care; I’ve only heard of this secondhand, I don’t entirely understand it, but it came out well - but he wasn’t happy because of his dementia, which took the form of effective dreams that he had trouble telling from reality. Mom phoned him every week, and when she asked him how he was he would talk worriedly about the terrible computer problems he was having, that no one could help him with. (He did not have a computer anymore.) Or his Ice Age Floods records were terribly disorganized. (He gave them to a university years ago.) He would talk lucidly on the phone, but much of the time Mom had to spend the first part of the call telling him that these were dreams.

On the other hand, he followed the dismal news about Donald Trump quite closely.

Ah, Dale. We had good talks whenever he came to visit. I was sort of happy to have the respect, or the recognition of good conversation and of a good intellect, from a bookish sort like him, and then that seemed to be fading, and then for a while I hoped to persuade him that human space exploration was in fact worth some interest and worth funding - he had seen through the Apollo program as a circus to daunt the Communists, and when someone has seen through something it is very difficult to get them to look at it again in any other light - but then it gradually became clear that the opportunity for anything like that had passed.

He was a few years older than my mother. And my mother has realized that she no longer has anyone else who remembers her for her whole life.

And she and her other brother Jack and her younger sister Betty now have the first solid sonar sounding on the lifespan expectation of their generation of Middletons. My mother is 80 years old. What fun. It’s amazing what we go on walking with. There’s nothing to do but keep on going on as if this progression of days - which has lasted incomprehensible sunstruck eons so far - is going to continue going on forever. That’s what Mom does. That’s what I do.



I had the first copyediting inquiry in a while! A long while. It jolted me out of a kind of sleep. I emailed with the guy a couple of times, and he sent me a sample of a few pages from his novel. Yesterday I did a sample edit on those, and sent back the results for him to look at, and from the time it had taken I extrapolated the first rough estimate of the sort of time his novel may take . . . and of the cost it might add up to. He emailed back somewhat stiffly that he’ll look at the edit tomorrow (now today) and then decide how to go forward.

This is the problem. His writing needs the work - which is why it took me 73 minutes to go through and make recommendations for a thousand-word stretch. He’ll be able to see the reasons spelled out in my comments. He may therefore see the need. But the rough figure to do his novel is therefore steep, and the reality will be at least as steep (additional not-just-line-by-line issues tend to come into view) . . . and, never mind that you knew with part of your mind that you need an editor at this stage, you believed your pride and joy was pretty much ready and in good shape. I’m in a business that effectively leads off with me giving an unexpected negative review. Between that and how much money the extrapolated seventy or more hours of my time would cost, the percentage of people who walk away is quite high.

But I was doing what I do!

So, energized by the sample edit and feeling my freelance copyeditor hat firmly on my head, I impulsively went back into my email and found a writer who emailed me with an inquiry about two years ago. I particularly remembered his manuscript because the writing was really sound - it lived - and I could easily find ways to fix hook-up problems between his sentences to make it really work well. A sweet spot! The only reason why the cost for the job would have been high is that his novel was very long. As it turned out he loved my edit (another good sign!) - he had requested sample edits from several freelance copyeditors, and he said that mine was by far the best - but I was also the most expensive because of the level and amount of work I had been doing, and in the end he just couldn’t get the expense past his wife . . . because, poor fellow, he had unwisely (but then I’m biased) already spent thousands of dollars on cover art for the book!

But, yes, the sweet spot. I don’t want to be doing sample edits for people who need lots of work. The results usually mean they can’t afford me. And when they do hire me they get a great education (some of them say this), but then I do not get repeat business from them; who wants to pay a lot again to probably find out that they didn’t learn enough. Especially in fiction there are simply too many dimensions of malfunction, and authors have pride. What’s much better is authors whose writing is already pretty good. I go through it and the little problems disappear and it sings even better, so I still add a probably memorable amount of value, but my rate of progress is good so I’m not really expensive, so I’m more likely to get hired in the first place…

So I shot this guy an email saying I didn’t know if he remembered me but I remembered his sample fondly and I wondered if he was doing any more writing. (He’ll probably think I’m marketing and I say that to everyone, but never mind.)

In the meantime I found his book on Amazon. I hope the editor he went with did a decent job, but I’ll bet his book came out at least pretty well. The fine bone structure was all there. It was a smile when it crossed my desk, it really was.



Train whistle.

All the watering systems for the back yard are finished except for the one where a hose is supposed to go out to the bamboo; I need to put a new end on a hose for that, and we haven’t been out to the store to get one. All the timers are set, with the sprinkler for the tables and the soaker hoses and the drip irrigation systems all going off in polite sequence through much of the night. The fact of the running system, once going, is very satisfying. I did that. A technically minuscule achievement. Any engineer or handyman or, heck, any normal person might find my self-pleasure in it pathetic. But I did that.

I should have pictures; I should look for a picture hosting solution that will let me link. Darn you, Photobucket, why did you have to turn vampire? Never mind that I don’t know how you stayed up and running before.

The tomatoes and cucumbers are starting to climb the netting. The two Durban Poison seedlings that finally emerged have two sets of leaves on them and are out in two giant pots, nestled in a loose covering of straw to gentle them against full exposure to the sun for the first couple of days. The garlic leaves are a high fence of jagged green above the raised bed, with the first signs of the yellowing that will tell us it’s harvest time.

You know, I really wish we could grow another Atlantic Giant pumpkin again. Spectacular. But the spectacularity was not the gigantic fruit, it was the pumpkin vine suddenly eating three-quarters of the wide back yard in a matter of days (everyone should experience this at least once, it’s like the footage of the Japanese tsunamis) . . . and the back yard is full now. We can’t.

The neighbors are gone on a five-week trip. Every day I go over and water their tomatoes and artichokes and squashes and strawberries and marionberries. Their cross-eyed cat eyes me grumpily; at least, I theorize that he’s eyeing me; he’s always looking off at a forty-five-degree angle. Last time they left, on a shorter trip, I also fed the cat, but another neighbor is doing that this time; he was terrified of taking on the watering, though, which strikes me as funny. You don’t have to guarantee the survival of the plants! You just water regularly. They may pay me by surprise when they get back, they did last time (grossly overpaying me), but in the meantime they’ve said I can eat any berries that ripen while they’re gone. Other things too - I had my eye on a zucchini that was swelling under the huge leaves, but yesterday when I went to pick it for Mom it was gone. I get the feeling the cat-feeder got the same deal I did.


Last updated July 02, 2018


woman in the moon July 02, 2018

I liked reading about book editing. SO much work goes into books. Almost bought a huge William Manchester bio of Douglas MacArthur yesterday. Wonder what it's like to edit something like that.
Fiction editors seem like translators to me. I never know where the there is.
Just read about Kirkus reviews - $500 bucks and now I'm getting Kirkus ads.
Don't worry. I will never write a book.
Love the garden news. How fast things grow once they get started

Flugendorf woman in the moon ⋅ July 02, 2018

I'd actually much prefer to work on nonfiction; I've yet to break into it. In fiction the there is really complicated. There's so much scene-setting, immersion-building witchcraft that, if done wrong, can be self-sabotage and very obvious bad writing that kills the reader's immersion... which leads to the time-and-expense conundrum I described. Nonfiction can use some of the same tricks in pursuit of clear explanation, but there's much less of it. To a great extent I'd just have to edit for mechanics and clarity. I'd do fast turnarounds, get paid, and go to the movies.

Deleted user July 03, 2018

I have been reading a novel on Amazon that a friend wrote and I was groaning because while it has promise ; he should have gotten it copyedited even by an amateur ( like me ) before self publishing . Sigh... I saw so many errors immediately and his missed opportunities to push the plot, lack of description “ don’t tell me, show me”, lack of foreshadowing and poorly developed conflict and character development:-( . This guy could have afforded to get that help and he might have had a good book ( not great, but good ). I will finish it and write notes for him because I promised I would. I already donated 3.99 to download it and that is more than its worth :-) as it is. I am no writer but I am an obsessive reader so I recognize a good book when I read one. I hope he does not get too insulted when I suggest a drastic revision .
I had my first two ripe tomatoes today . Lots of chilis on my plants so far except the “ Ghost” pepper . I am going to repot that guy !

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