Thursday, May 31, 2012

GUEST POST: Living With Your Editor by Ray Gorham

As I came to the conclusion of the second draft of my book, I decided I had probably better have someone with better English skills than myself do a little bit of editing.  In school I had always been a good reader and decent speller, and strong in math and science, but for some reason the rules of English, beyond the basics, never made sense to me.  Fortunately, I have a very talented wife.

Feeling pretty good about my book, I approached her with a 2” stack of paper (I had managed to talk her into editing).   “Prepare to be amazed,” I said (or something equally witty, I’m sure).  She stuck her hand out for the manuscript.  “I’m pretty busy, but I’ll get to it as soon as I can,” she replied.  From the expression on her face, I could tell she wasn’t expecting to be amazed.

Being in need of affirmation after such a long project, I was very anxious to get her feedback.  It was probably only a week, but it seemed like a month before she announced she had the first chapter done.  I eagerly snatched the papers from her hand, expecting to see smiley faces on each page, an occasional missing comma fixed, and a mushy love note at the end of the chapter telling me how wonderful my writing was and how glad she was she married me.

She turned to go make dinner and missed seeing my legs buckle as I glanced down at the first page.  Red ink everywhere!  I stumbled to the bedroom and fell into my writing chair.  With shaking hands I fanned through the 20 or so pages in my hand, more red than black.  My head spun.  I had thought my wife was pretty smart, now I wasn’t so sure.

Commas, apostrophes, possessives, verbiage, wording—you name it, she nailed me on it.  I opened the document on my computer and started making corrections.  Okay, maybe I need a comma there.  I guess that word fits better.  I’ll trust you on this one.  By the end of the night the first chapter was done, and it was looking and sounding quite a bit better than it had hours earlier.

We did make it through the book, and the final product is much, much better than my original version.  We liked the process so much that we went through it two more times for the book (just kidding about the like part).  In my defense, I can proudly report that there were some pages towards the end of the book that didn’t need any editing, but they were few and far between.

I learned a few things from the process.  A second set of eyes on your work is essential, because no matter how thorough you think you’ve been, you’ll miss a ton.  Editing isn’t personal.  Rules are rules, and no matter how good I think something is, it needs to be said the right way.  Also, English can be learned—she’s been through part of my second book and has commented that I’ve improved greatly on the technical side of writing (hooray for me!).

Finally, I’ve realized why we never hear about people falling in love with their editor.  Agent?  Yes.  Bodyguard?  Yes.  Backup dancer?  Yes.  Director?  Yes.  Fans?  Yes.  Editor?  Not on your life.  I don’t think it is humanly possible to fall madly in love with someone who points out everything you do wrong.  Fortunately for me, I had fallen in love with her years before, so we didn’t have that hurdle to cross.  So my life, and my writing, is much better for it.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Ray Gorham was born in Calgary, Canada in 1966.  Prior to graduating college and settling in the United States in 1991, Ray had the good fortune to live in a variety of locations around the world.  Years in Australia, England, Lebanon, Japan, Canada, and the United States all helped to shape his background, worldview, and appreciation for other people and cultures.

Graduating with a degree in Accounting, he decided he couldn’t spend a future studying tax law and sitting in front of a computer all day, so he took a management position with Wal-Mart and spent the next 10 years in retail management where he had the opportunity to interact with hundreds of employees and thousands of customers on a weekly basis.  Growing tired of large corporations, Ray next tried opening and running a restaurant, but decided after a year that wasn’t for him either.  From there, he found a small log home business for sale in Montana in 2006 and settled in for what he hoped would be a long-term career.

When the construction industry slowed down in 2008, Ray knew he was going to have a lot of time on his hands, so he determined to cross off one of the items on his bucket list—writing a novel.  After thousands of hours of writing and editing he had the final draft of his first novel, a 108,000 word effort telling the story of a husband struggling to return to his family after a major terrorist attack.  While agents and publishers have passed on his efforts to this point, he has found significant success so far in digital format, selling over 10,000 copies of his work.

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ABOUT THE BOOK:
77 Days in September by Ray Gorham
On a Friday afternoon before Labor Day, Americans are getting ready for the holiday weekend, completely unaware of a long-planned terrorist plot about to be launched against the country. Kyle Tait is settling in for his flight home to Montana when a single nuclear bomb is detonated 300 miles above the heart of America. The blast, an Electro-Magnetic Pulse (EMP), destroys every electrical device in the country, and results in the crippling of the power grid, the shutting down of modern communications, and bringing to a halt most forms of transportation.

Kyle narrowly escapes when his airplane crashes on takeoff, only to find himself stranded 2,000 miles from home in a country that has been forced, from a technological standpoint, back to the 19th Century. Confused, hurt, scared, and alone, Kyle must make his way across a hostile continent to a family he’s not even sure has survived the effects of the attack. As Kyle forges his way home, his frightened family faces their own struggles for survival in a community trying to halt its slow spiral into chaos and anarchy.

77 Days in September follows Kyle and his wife, Jennifer, as they are stretched past their breaking point, but find in their devotion to each other the strength to persevere.

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Be sure to stop back later this morning when I post my review of 77 Days in September. In the meantime, don't forget to check out the details of where Ray will be next.

1 comment:

  1. That was a pretty cool post, Mr. Gorham. I'm still single, so I'll have to put down "editor" on the list of potential mates right next to "doctor" and "masseuse."

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