Recently I decided to stop freelance copyediting and start centering my free-time efforts on writing instead. It was a tough decision, because freelancing brings in a few extra bucks, and it keeps me apprised of what’s going on in the literary marketplace.
The last book I copyedited, for instance, was a Writer’s Digest book written by a literary agent for writers who pen stories for middle-grade and young-adult readers. Though I don’t write for MG or YA audiences, it’s interesting to apply an agent’s insights about those niches to other niches. To read about the big books in one market, Google the big books’ authors (part of the fact-checking aspect of copyediting), and identify the agents and editors and publishers the big authors work with . . . with the object, of course, of figuring out whether those agents and editors and publishers happen to be, by any chance, looking for literary ghost stories, lacerating social satire, or charming children’s picture books.
The latter is always a possibility, as people actually publish kids’ books. There’s a bevvy of quality children’s books out there, and a slew of agents and editors and publishers eager to sell more. My problem is that the particular children’s book I want to publish is missing something. The story is an adventure–rife with action, culminating in victory–but it lacks emotional dimension. You know, that resonant tone of introspection that takes place in Max’s room before the wild things emerge. That emotional atmosphere that makes the forest grow and helps Max deal with the repercussions of his wild side–going to bed without dinner. That introspection that leads him back to the comfort of his ordinary room–and the hot supper that awaits him. My kids’ story is missing that element of character growth. I have to build that in before I can start reaching out to agents and editors and publishers. But I need time to build that in. So no more editing other people’s words. Time to concentrate on strengthening my own.
I said above that the last book I copyedited was such and such. The past-tense part makes that a lie. The truth is that the last book I’m copyediting is such and such. I’m still working on it. I’m two days behind on the deadline (and typing this blog post) and procrastinating on editing someone else’s words. Clear evidence that as much as I love editing–especially good books like the book whose manuscript is minimized at the bottom of my screen–good books written by wise, insightful, and passionate writers–my deeper love is writing my own shit, so I’ve made the right decision. I got no new tales to edit, but ten new tales to tell.