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Saturday, 5 July 2014

EDITING MELISSA C. WATER'S LADY INJURY: A REPORT FROM A FUGITIVE.

How goes the editing in METRO-LAND? And is there honey still for tea?

*

Files fall apart; the centre cannot hold.
   I really have to quit these poetic references. Betjeman strolled through METRO-LAND. Rupert Brooke asked after honey.
   Yeats is yer maaan, on questions of falconry. Though I've quoted loosely from his poem, and dropped my own word in for reasons of the plot.
   Cynically, I think of honey as fossilised bee-spit.
   On with what's left of the show...

*

Dealing with non-fiction is a bit like going through customs with a gold brick in your suitcase. You have to shift over to the other mode of thinking.
   Nothing to declare?
   Something to declare?
   Oh, shit, that's right. I have something to declare. This is fact-based stuff, and must be handled as such. No Zombie Apocalypse in this scene. Or in any of the scenes.

*

Talk of poets sprang up as I attempted this blog post, but that was no coincidental hijacking of thought's train.
   No derailment here.
   I built a system for dealing with editing non-fiction. Melissa C. Water's memoir, Lady Injury, is free and clear of the old contract. Time to edit what will become the second edition.
   What am I editing? Melissa's journal entries covering her time in hospital. Self-harm. Eating troubles. Strapped to a hospital bed for her own safety. Sexual abuse, the root-cause of so many problems in her life.
   Not pleasant reading.

*

How do we tackle that? With a sense of humour. The work is edited across far-flung time-zones, using the inconvenience of the internet.
   Files transfer with great ease. Occasionally, files fall apart. We resort to scribbling notes on toilet-paper. Wax crayons aren't great for a high-maintenance level of operational detail, but, hey, use what's handy.
   Melissa disappears off-grid with grim regularity. Spasms, convulsions, falling down, neurology visits and overnight hospital stays, all carry her away from our work.
   Even a transatlantic business-call, via Skype, to clear up some publishing matters, carries risk.
   Her panic alarm may be inaccessible. I discuss this with her. If we go over editing in a Skype call and she falls silent after a thump, I am meant to wait for the sound of rescuers stomping through the Canadian undergrowth.
   She doesn't live in the wilderness. If there's no rescue, I send in a team of superheroes. Something like that.

*

How did I start editing her tale? By formatting the work. Taking the text away from a vanity publisher, I was aware that the typesetting had to go. Legal issue. The company offered Melissa the use of the formatting for a fee, once she was free of their clutches.
   I seem to be having difficulty with the word contract.
   After formatting the text to new specifications, I looked over the whole book and arranged a skeleton file full of hyperlinks - this would evolve into the Kindle book.
   I created a Table of Contents for months of the year. Each month linked through to a sub-table listing all the daily entries. Two months had loads of diary segments, so I split those in two. One month had no entries at all.
   This I draw to your attention as the vanity publisher included one hyperlink in Melissa's first edition - can you guess where that link led?
   To the company, of course.

*

I took longer on this than was strictly required. Melissa wanted to add a poem, so I sorted that out for her. She was concerned. What was happening over there in Darkest Scotlandia?
   One e-mail later and she thanked me for the formatting on the poem. It was just formatting. Nothing great. But to her, obviously, it meant that the book was starting to come to life.

*

We proceeded with caution. Melissa's story involves self-harm. Lots of it, or thoughts of it. She chose to share details with me that would not go into the book.
   Why not? I had questions. Background information was important. We couldn't have unresolved matters hovering over the book. For that reason, she very generously shared...
   And because she did, I saw ways to edit around certain legal issues. We went back in and added one or two pieces of detail whenever I didn't understand the meaning behind a comment.
   It's important to kill off the cryptic, in non-fiction. This is no murder mystery.

*

Technology deserted us. Files wouldn't transfer. She resorted to sending a photo of herself dressed as a pirate, to see if I could receive files.
   Internet piracy? I suppose.
   Melissa asked many questions. Often my answers fell into the technical category, as I had the pleasure of explaining why Amazon doesn't do things this way, or that, way, or any old way.
   Those of you who self-publish will know the rule by heart. Everything is three times more difficult than need be.

*

Scraping indelible code from transferred data, I wondered why everything in self-publishing had to be three times more difficult than need be.
   Obviously, if that weren't the case, why, all would be four times more difficult. Glad I could clear that up for you.


*

Things are going well. Not rapidly. Melissa's fans, looking for a cheaper more accessible book, will have to wait. The diary entry is dropped in place...
   I work on it, checking for typos, formatting glitches, continuity errors, legal issues, and lint. Always check writing for lint. Don't let lint catch you unawares. Or aware, come to that.
   Don't let lint catch you. Catch lint first.
   This is not a tale of the Zombie Apocalypse. You can excuse fiction in ways that non-fiction can't abide. And I am not editing fiction. I am crawling across a minefield.
   For there is a duty of care here that extends beyond assisting Melissa. Her audience consists of self-harmers past and present, and the point of her book is to help readers.
   You don't really set out to do that for anyone interested in a Zombie Apocalypse. Fiction? Nothing to declare. Fact? I have the documents right here, officer.

Images of Melissa used by kind persimmons, copyright 2014. That is, if I can prevent the keyboard from typing 1994. Luckily, I edited that.
   

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