– This contract is asking for a definition of ‘Editor’, can you supply something?
– How about ‘irritable, tea drinking pedant’?
– I’ll put that in the boilerplate.
I can’t better that, but it made me think of some of the other things that I have done as an editor aside from make tea and swear at Word.
- Briefed an illustrator to draw an invisible dragon.
- Negotiated swear words. (‘You can have all the twats and both pricks but we have to lose the shit.’)
- Written the hitherto untyped sentence, ‘We’re going to need a lot more accordions in this.’
- Fielded calls from men pitching erotic novels who want to explain the ins and outs of the plot. Tip: the purpose of their call may not be to pitch a novel.
- Measured the slush pile with a ruler. (9 feet 4 inches.)
- Let a particularly loquacious author keep talking on the phone just to see how long she would go on unchecked. Cracked at 1 hour 20.
- Edited a book translated from the Chinese, where the author had used English quotes for the chapter epigraphs, translated them into Chinese, and now couldn’t supply the originals. Spent a day in the library attempting to source original quotes based on text that had gone into Chinese and out again. Speed read Tom Jones in the process. Didn’t find the quote.
- Worked out what had gone wrong when the MS included several big chunks of text like this but extending to entire paragraphs:
Ks,rd ;sihjrf jrstyo;u/ |Upi do;;u ;oyy;r yjomg.| jr rcv;so,rf/
and retyped it into English.
- Used the word ‘tweak’ to describe both the alteration of a semi-colon to a colon, and a complete rewrite of the ending.
- Had an email argument with an author over a single comma that lasted two full days and eventually covered three sides of A4 with closely argued reasoning, examples and citations.
- Discussed the finer points of editing erotica including dubious consent with a colleague while out one evening. Silenced the entire pub.
So if you’re wondering why the editor still hasn’t got back to you on your MS…this is what she’s doing.
Or making tea. One of them, anyway.