Group Projects

Remember in school when the teacher would say those dreaded five words? “This is a group project.” Your mind races into overdrive as you scan the class room, searching for the few students who will hit trifecta of smart enough, pulls their own weight, and doesn’t have BO. Select outside of those parameters are a host of problems – too smart, too lazy, too socially active, too socially impaired ­ and the group will flounder and fail. A group project is always a dual assignment: how well can you do the work and how well can you work together? And we all think, “I cannot wait to get out of school, so I never have to do another group project.”

Except, of course, that the joke is on us. Every job, with the possible exception of Ranger Gord of the Canadian forest service, requires that you have contact with someone to get the job done. Ranger Gord, in case you haven’t watched the Canadian comedy show Red Green, is a Forest Service Ranger who has been staring at the trees so long that he now believes they talk to him and that some are possibly out to get him. You would think that a writer and Ranger Gord would have about the same amount of human contact, but the more I write the more I realize that writing truly is a group project. Admittedly, I do the majority of the work and then I pass it out to several people just so they can point out problems with my beautiful manuscript. But those beta readers, agents, and editors do not have an easy task. For one thing they have to deal with someone who thinks those beech trees look suspicious and that her villain is attempting a coup to take over the book, but beyond that they have to think critically about questions that a casual reader can simply take for granted. For the end reader, the questions have been answered, the decisions made, but the beta reader has to ask all the difficult questions about when characters know something, does the timeline actually work out, do the actions taken make sense, and the all important question: “Why do you keep using that word? I do not think it means, what you think it means.”

And so, as I round out the final edits on my next book (High-CaliberConcealer out in November 2015), I must thank all my readers, editors, and my oh, so persnickety copyeditor who corrects my egregious use of their, there, and they’re. Thank you all!


That Editing… So Hot Right now

It’s that time again. The editing time.  The time when I get back all the stupidy stupidy line edits and have to go through and approve them. That’s the worst part.  I have to approve them.  OK, I don’t absolutely HAVE to, but the truth is about 8 out of every 10 line edits are the correct decision. Of the other two, one is probably a matter of preference and the other is absolutely right the way it was the first time. Why don’t you understand my genius you piddling moron who is merely paid to sift through the words and divine my sheer awesomeness?

It’s possible that the last sentence there was a bit of an overstatement.

But my secret internal Mugatu doesn’t think it was.

Mugatu, for those who haven’t watched the hilariously improbable Zoolander, is the fashion designerKungFuNuns / evil genius, played by Will Ferrell, who is attempting kill the prime minister of Malaysia by brainwashing male model Derek Zoolander. Many writers, myself included, seem to yo-yo between the states of modesty (I write pretty well), ego (I’m a genius!!), and self-hatred (why would anyone read the crap I produce?). I picture modesty as the quiet saintly type – a Buddhist nun (who secretly knows Peter Lorre2kung fu) and self-hatred as the goggly-eyed guy from the Maltese Falcon who says the worst things in the sweetest voice.

And nowhere are those states of being more quickly cycled through than the editing rounds. Each tweak of the text from the editor is like some sort of judgement from on high that can send me off into a Mugatu-esque rage or goggly-eyed shame spiral.  It’s up the the Kung Fu nun to bring balance and harmony. Although, admittedly sometimes the nun needs a little help from a glass of wine and a jog around the block.