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'10 Authors Insider Tips

Cooking Up A Storey
by Donna George Storey
Have More Good Sex
I Can Do Better ...
Trying to Get the Feeling
Plotting and Planning
Character Profiles
Discovery Draft
Be Bad to Be Good
E-Book Revolution
Naked for Halloween
Sex With Pilgrims

by Louisa Burton
The Music of Words
The Balancing Act
Your Fictional World
Backstory & Foreshadowing

The Fine Art of Submission
by Shanna Germain
Nailing the Query Letter
Banish the Boring Bio
Becoming a Market Master
Become a Market Master, 2
Backstory & Foreshadowing
Enticing An Editor, Part 1
Enticing An Editor, Part 2
Contracts, Money & More

Serious about Smut
by Vincent Diamond
No More Horsing Around
Short Stuff
Selling Short Stories
Editors' Pet Peeves
Settings: Beyond Time & Place
Beating Up Your Scenes
Selling Your Books in Person
Staying in the Saddle

The Write Stuff
by Ashley Lister
Broken Rainbows
Talk the Talk
10 Commandments for Writing
Plotting to Avoid
Cover Story

'10 Smutters Lounge

Ashley Lister Submits
by Ashley Lister
St Valentine's Day
Renaming Body Parts
Sex, Cigarettes & Erotic Fiction

Between the Lines
with Ashley Lister
C. Sanchez-Garcia
Kathleen Bradean
Lucy Felthouse
Neve Black
PS Haven
Tracey Shellito
Tresart L. Sioux

Cracking Foxy
with Robert Buckley
Plenty of Miles Left
Don't Worry, Be Happy
Fly the Unfriendly Skies
Coffee Time
Castrated Words
Virtual vs. Actual Romance
The View from Gallows Hill

Get All Worked Up
with J.T. Benjamin
The Fashion Industry
The Same Old Same Old
Writing Porn
About the Closet
... About Spirituality
Making Sense of Religion
Worked Up About Monogamy
What's Next
All Worked Up About Nature
Still All Worked Up...

Sex Is All Metaphors
by Jean Roberta
Holiday Ghosts
Love and Romance
An "Interracial" Epic
Trying to Make It Go Away
Sexual Etiquette
Sex and Children
People Against Bad Things
Virtual Acceptance
His Cold Eyes, His Granite Jaw
A Flash of Northern Light

Serious about Smut

by Vincent Diamond

Editors' Pet Peeves: Menagerie of Faux-Pas for Writers


Serious About SmutAsk an editor about their pet peeves about working with authors and wow. Stand back! From the cluttered litter box/Inbox to the pain of scooping poop in a story's metaphorical lawn, editors have definite opinions on author behavior, and what they consider professionalism for writers.

One challenge to the author-editor relationship is this: at this stage, your "baby" has moved from the realms of art to the realms of commerce. And commerce means money and schedules and deadlines. Yes, your editor wants your story to be its best, but your editor also wants to make his/her boss happy and meet the required deadlines. There's often a push-pull between the two areas.

If you aspire to be a professional writer then you need to act like one, so take a look at some of the species on display here at the Pet Peeve Menagerie:

The (un)Reality Rat- characterized by its blatant disregard of facts, fictional or otherwise, this pet makes editors want to scream. C.B. Potts,  the editor of The Journal of Nursing Jocularity and she's  edited fiction anthologies as well. She says, "Pay at least passing homage to reality. I don't care if it's physics, politics, biology—huge, glaring, basic factual errors throw me so far out of a story there's no getting back. This isn't "Oh, in 1435, they didn't wear BLUE billabongs upon their head, they wore only green!"; it's "Oh, in 1435, I drove my Porsche to India from Nebraska to Colonize the Wild Frontier." And before you say, "No one is that stupid," let me assure you that yes, yes they are. Ask some of my esteemed colleagues one day where Kentucky is. If you are writing about a location you do not live in and know as intimately as you know your undergarments, look at a map before you arbitrarily place things right, left, north, south, etc."

In addition to the issue of reality, another frequent resident of the Pet Peeves Menagerie is Ernestine, the Email Egret. Characterized by nearly invisible plumage and resultant empty Inbox, Ernestine isn't able to respond promptly (and professionally) to editor requests for edits, forms, information, or to even acknowledge receipt of same. KIL Kenny, Senior Editor at Torquere Press, has this say about the Email Egret. "Please acknowledge my e-mails promptly. Especially when I have attached an edit or a form to be dealt with. E-mail is not failsafe. I can't assume you've gotten it."

Of course, we understand if you truly had an emergency to deal with. A Day Job issue, a sick family member, an unexpected trip, of course, these will take precedence over a story. But, it takes thirty seconds to compose a brief email explaining the situation to your editor and offering your own deadline on when you can respond to the editor's request. In one notable example I experienced myself, an author ignored my email with an edited file attached then blithely wrote back two weeks later that she'd be unable to meet the deadline due to her class schedule. This was for a contracted piece with a scheduled publication date! By that time, the proofer's job was affected, and when you get the whole domino effect happening with schedules and dates, you've created a real problem for your publisher. Let me just say: her credibility with that press plummeted, and if and when she gets the project done, she may or may not have a spot in the release schedule. This is the Email Egret species at its worst.

Another species that makes an appearance in this menagerie is Harold the House Style Hamster. Harold doesn’t think that house style guides should apply to him because he's brilliant. Or he's Australian. Or, um, well, just because. Most publishers have a standard guide that helps them have a consistent editorial tone, formatting, and overall "feel." Some presses are comfortable using British or Australian spelling (favor versus favour, for example), and some presses are stringent about applying American English rules to their books. When it comes to a house style guide issue, Harold the Hamster spins his wheel, asking endlessly about this already-decided issue. Harold needs to learn to let it go and not get bogged down with small things like spelling. Focus your discussions, if any, about truly important story issues.

One of my least favorite species in the menagerie is Sally, the Slacker Snake. Sally shows up in authors who write consistently for a publisher, and the issue with Sally is this: she doesn't even try to improve. Say for example, Book One of a series has dialogue tag issues, POV slip-ups, and issues with scene setting. Despite having these problems pointed out repeatedly in a manuscript, Sally doesn't make the effort to deal with these issues for later stories. Book Two of the series has exactly the same problems, the same revisions are needed, the same slacker writing is on the page. This is an immensely frustrating animal to deal with, and ultimately, discouraging.

An editor who tells an author over and over to learn proper dialogue tagging (and who even shows you in a story), and then gets another story with exactly the same problem is going to feel ignored and useless. Remember, publishers pay editor to make stories better, but not for ghostwriting. Learning the basics of fiction and applying those tenets in a more sophisticated manner with each submission will show editors that you're trying to improve. Don't try to improve and don't be surprised if your contracts dry up.

KIL Kenny tells of another species she dreads dealing with—Fanny the Fussy Finch. These authors, she says, "…treat the editing process as the opportunity to start their second draft. And the proofing process as the opportunity to start their third draft. I had an author not too long ago who sent me revisions after I had told her the manuscript had been submitted for production.

"IMHO, an author should not sub a story until the author is satisfied that the story is in its best, final form. Editing should be a process of polish, not reshaping the substance. I've heard the argument, "But I've learned so much since I subbed that story, and my thinking has changed!" Then write a new damn story to show off your new thinking.

"Of course, there are occasions when a submission is disastrous and the editor is going to ask for very substantial rewrites. That situation should be the exception, and should be driven by the editor's requests, not the author's second thoughts."

Most editors want to work as a team with an author; it's not in our interest to have huge conflicts and issues in working with writers. An author who responds promptly to questions, handles edits and revisions in a professional manner, who submits with the house style guide in mind, and who makes the effort to improve from one story to another is a beast who will be gladly welcomed into the editor's personal zoo. This is a writer we don't mind feeding, watering, and tending to!

Vincent Diamond
May-June 2010

If you have comments or questions about this column, please send them to Vincent Diamond

Find more of Vincent's Serious about Smut in ERWA 2010 Archive.

"Serious about Smut" © 2010 Vincent Diamond. All rights reserved.

About the Author:  The alleged Vincent Diamond once drove from Tampa to Anchorage, Alaska in the days before the Alcan Highway was paved. (Hey, Vincent was young and there was this hunky Army lieutenant—nothing more need to be said.) Diamond gleefully buys smutty periodicals for “research materials” and lists them on a Schedule C every year. The IRS has yet to question this deduction.

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