Look! My friend Ashley Bartlett stopped by to blog. How cool is that? And look, she has a new Twitter account. You should go follow her because this is a big step for her. You can do that HERE.
Trust me. I’m an Editor.
By Ashley Bartlett
A few years ago, the gorgeous and illustrious Shelley Thrasher asked me to beta read her novel. I said yes because I’m not a complete idiot. One thing led to another and now I’m an editor for Bold Strokes Books.
You might think that I’m a better and more responsible writer because of this change. You would be wrong. I’m just better able to articulate the reasons why I’m a fuck up.
There are two important sides to writing: content and mechanics. It doesn’t matter if we are talking tenth grade essay or a poem or your fourteenth novel. Without decent content, you’re lost. Without mechanics, no one will read. I can only suffer so many abuses of punctuation before I write you off.
My approach to content has always been similar. I’m a pantster. I kind of have a plot and some characters and some cool shit happens. I like hot chicks and explosions and witty queers who are not very nice (in a fun, entertaining way). I like to lovingly craft characters and throw them into fucked up situations to see what they will do. I could invoke that college degree and talk about realism (with explosions?). Hell, I could paraphrase Wilde and say “the twenty-first century dislike of realism is the rage of Caliban seeing his own face in a glass” and that it is imperative to examine our faults if we want to rectify them.
But I won’t because that’s douchey. Or maybe that ship is halfway to Tokyo.
Frequently, my anti-heroes share similarities with me. As you may know, I like to write rigidly moral characters in strictly heteronormative society. ‘Cause that’s me. Rigidly moral. Heteronormative. So obviously, I decided to write a series about a drug dealer. Meet Cash Braddock.
I envisioned Cash as someone who despised the idea of respectability. She is a sort of post-modern, anti-establishment, twenty-first century hippie. She wants to look at art and read poetry and drink coffee. So that’s what she does. Of course, she’s a drug dealer (not street drugs. Prescriptions without the script. Because that’s classier?), which means The Man isn’t entirely cool with the way she pays her mortgage.
The novel is the first in a series so I wanted to take time to craft the characters, meditate on the plot, spend days debating the meaning of craft beer or store bought for a single sentence. As an editor, I was fully behind that plan. I encourage my authors to consider the small details. I want them to ruminate on the intricacies of language. I want them to have purpose and clear intentions. Isn’t that a lovely sentiment?
As I approached my deadline with a quarter of a novel written, I waited for it to write itself. Inexplicably, that didn’t happen. So instead of deliberate choices and craft, I went with my usual. Writing thousands of words in one sitting, drinking twenty cups of coffee a day, consuming my weight in pizza and nachos, smoking cigarettes until my throat was shredded, burning through a case of beer, and sobbing on my keyboard while analyzing the newfound aspects of my self-loathing. Like a beast.
In retrospect, I have no regrets. But I haven’t heard back from my editor yet. I’ll wait to reexamine the self-loathing until I have fresh fuel to do so.
I’m particularly looking forward to her reminding me for the one millionth time that commas are necessary in dialogue tags and could I please learn to put in a page break at the end of a chapter. These are things I know. These are things that I lecture my authors on. It’s not that hard to put in a page break. Hell, it’s in my checklist (lovingly titled “Don’t make Cindy kick your ass”). And somehow, I forgot the damn page breaks. This makes five novels submitted without page breaks. I’m attempting a dangerous record here.
This is where a normal person might think the whole editing experience thing might come in handy. I, however, have always excelled at defying the norm. Like in elementary school when I hated recess because I didn’t like to go outside. Or middle school when I made the awesome decision to wear pigtails and corduroy overalls. Or high school when I decided that attendance was overrated. I was rewarded for my decisions with things like not having friends and serious discussions about whether or not I would be able to graduate.
It just makes sense then (character continuity!) that I would defy all of the rules I know as an editor when writing my own novels. Proper use of em dash? Overrated. Using commas at all? I’m a rebel. Spelling words correctly? Anyone can run spell check. It takes a special kind of person to blatantly ignore mechanics and conventions of the English language while simultaneously berating others for making similar mistakes.
Have I changed as an author? Well, I’ve gotten older. I suppose that’s a change. I can tell you one thing, though. Between the day job and the editing and the writing, my taxes have gotten a hell of a lot more complicated.
Ashley Bartlett was born and raised in California. Her life consists of reading and writing. Most of the time, Ashley engages in these pursuits while sitting in front of a coffee shop with her wife and smoking cigarettes.
It’s a glamorous life.
She is an obnoxious, sarcastic, punk-ass, but her friends don’t hold that against her. She currently lives in Sacramento, but you can find her at ashbartlett.com.