Glenn A. Bruce's Blog: RITR (sic)

January 5, 2022

New Interview!

New interview by Katrina Turner re: my Lawrence Taylor Western Series for Dusty Saddle. Check it out!
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Published on January 05, 2022 15:38 Tags: adventurestories, cowboys, novels, westerns, westernstories

December 3, 2021

Great interview

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Published on December 03, 2021 08:13

August 7, 2021

Working with Editors - Part 3

Working with an Editor Part 3

Over the years, my outlook on working with editors has changed. I was not always so loving of them! With cause. Early in my career, I had several bad experiences with editors.
In one case, the editor came highly recommended by a literary agent who wanted to work with me on my partial novel Jocko’s Journal, saying that it could be “the next Catcher in the Rye.” I doubt that (and doubted it then), but I took the compliment and sought to move forward.
She had one caveat. She wanted me to work with a “terrific” editor she knew to help me “find the story” in the nascent novel. About that, she was correct. I had about ninety double-spaced pages written—a good premise with solid characters and edgy humor. (So, I could see how she made the overly kind if inflated connection.) But I had not worked out where it was all going to go. I had no idea. I liked the sarcastic tone of the lead character. His “recollections” were raw and funny. But I could not crack where I wanted to take it.
She pointed that out, fairly, and said she wanted me to work with this particular editor. She said the woman would help me find the story so that I could complete the novel and she, the agent, could try to find a home for it.
I should point out here that this agent came through the high recommendation of a close friend who had hired me to write several treatments for feature films and tv movies. So, I trusted her, the agent, because of him, my good (smart, talented, and accomplished) friend.
I said, “Sure.”
Then, she told me it would cost money—$250 to be precise. In 1990. That seemed like a lot at the time, but I said yes. Why not? I wasn’t getting anywhere. If she could make some magic happen and help me complete what I thought was a great start to a good novel, I might as well try.
The editor read it—not too quickly, I should point out—and called me. She said, “It’s fun. Good characters. Funny. Edgy tone. But it needs a story.”
I said, “Yeah. That’s why (agent) had me send it to you—so that you could help me with that.”
“Oh no,” the editor said. “Not for $250. If you want me to do that, it’s going be a thousand dollars.”
You can imagine my reaction. She hadn’t edited a single word. All she did was read what I wrote and tell me what I already knew—what the agent already knew. Zero sum gain.
I called the agent who danced around it, sort of apologized, and said she’d get with her friend the editor. Then, I called my friend and told him what had happened.
He was so furious. He fired her, the agent who was his agent, after reading her the riot act. He told me later that she had apologized and… whatever. He didn’t care, and I didn’t care, and that was that. Sadly, that was not the only “bad editor” experience I had. And don’t even get me started on meddling producers!
It took me about fifteen years to get over it all. But, while earning my MFA in 2014, I gained a lot of editing experience, myself, having been associate editor of the university’s (short story) journal. I had also worked with other writers, all of whom were gracious and gentle as we helped each other with our projects and assignments.
Next came working with a string of excellent editors once I started submitting my short stories and getting them published. On several occasions, I had editors ask (ask!) for changes, usually with some sort of “if you would like to make them” comment. I almost always did—or came up with something as an alternative. Never had a single problem.
Next came working with book publishers’ editors on novels. More of the same, but of course much more detailed and longer processes. All of it terrific. (A shout out to them all!)
I learned to relax and trust these trained professional editors, and working with them has proved to be a pleasure—most of the time. (More on that in a minute.) I came to trust their judgement, especially in line edits, to the point that I barely bother checking them, now. Almost never. Maybe just a quick scan to see their editing style—what they’re finding and changing. I have yet to have a problem with line editing.
When it comes to larger edits like rephrasing, I am more focused. I read every one to make sure my intent has not changed and that, for instance, my own style has not been altered so that a sentence sticks out as reading like it came from another writer’s novel. This does happen on occasion. But the editors all listen to my side of it and usually take my changes to their changes without further back and forth.
So, I was giving this some thought today, and I came to an understanding of what is going on there. I had to go back in time to when I had a nice, paid gig as a technical editor for a Department of Defense contractor—roughly a two-year period.
I got the job solely because I had (sort of) majored in English for my BA. So, truth be told, I was not a very good technical editor. For one thing, I had no idea what I was reading—the level of engineer-speak was nearly incomprehensible at times—and when I made changes, they (the engineers) often sent angry notes back to leave it alone, that I had changed the meaning. It never bothered me because what did I know? They were probably right. (Not all the time, as I found out; but most of the time.)
I worked there with an older African American woman by the name of Mary Brooks, one of the nicest people I have ever known in my life—and a born editor. I often tell this story of how she would wander over to my desk to chat and, while carrying on a conversation, reach down to edit what I had just edited—finding all kinds of things I missed—never missing a conversational beat. She was amazing and became a dear friend.
But she was not a writer. She had dabbled, as anyone with a degree or even an interest in English is wont to do; but she had never published anything, had never finished a novel, and had realized she never would and didn’t really care to. She was happy being the best editor she could be. She could have gone anywhere in town—and this was Los Angeles—and been hired to do what would have been a perfect job. That’s my opinion, but I believe I’m correct.
I also work with an editor on occasion who is simply remarkable. I recently submitted a 2,200-word essay—then realized her published had a limit of 1,000 words. A few more, if approved ahead of time. I asked her to “help!” In an hour or two, she had cut it down to 1,200 words so deftly that I could not tell what she had edited out! It was so good I didn’t even go back to my original. I just thanked her with a cherry on top and returned to my novel knowing there was no way I could have done what she did, especially in so little time. She is also an essayist with lots of credits, which probably explains a lot. She knows her way around a page.
That brings me to those occasionally pesky editorial notes or larger changes where an editor moves too many words around, or simply rewrites a sentence that comports with their own style—what they hear in their heads, or how they imagine the sentence should read.
Sometimes, they’re right. But sometimes, I cringe. Moving an adverb back into the text is one thing, rewriting a sentence in a stilted “grammatically correct” but listless or lusterless “style” does not help the passage. Those, I always mention and, luckily, all my recent editors have agreed. We may do a back and forth, but the process is quick and painless, and the result matches the rest of the writing.
But why does this happen to begin with?
Well, going back to Mary, she would never deign to change the engineers’ wording unless it was entirely unreadable because she was an excellent editor. Not an engineer and not a writer. By choice.
Now, before anyone jumps on me for denigrating the writing skills of editors, I am not. I have been edited by working writers many times. The interesting thing is that they tend not to change too much. They understand and respect the writing process. But occasionally, a solid editor who doesn’t write too much or hasn’t written much will take a stab at “fixing” a sentence or a paragraph and the results are, well, unartistic. Again, not their fault, and not even a bad thing. As long as they realize what has happened and understand my comment, my wish to alter it or even change it back, then all is well. And that has been, I am happy to say, my experience.
So, the lesson here is to trust that the editor has your best interests at heart and allow them to do their job. Read it, think about it before responding, then give a thoughtful comment. Explain why you would prefer another way without rankle, and they will likely respond in kind. You will work together and the product—your writing—will be better for it.
As I mentioned earlier, there is one exception. That is the inexperienced editor—or possibly worse, the frustrated wannabe writer. As to the latter I can only say: Good luck! If they are bitter or jealous, well, you’re probably in trouble. I haven’t had that happen to me in a long time, so I don’t have a recommendation other than to request a different editor if you can (without giving specifics!). I do think that if you are stuck with one of those, showing deference and respect, speaking and responding carefully, you might find common ground. I have.
As to the other problem—not so easy. I had one editor assigned to me who was still in college—and not for an advanced degree. She had not graduated—did not have a degree (other than perhaps an AA). That one was hard to stomach. Her inexperience was obvious in our conversations. She was smart and probably would be a good editor or writer someday once she had some years of it under her belt. But in the meantime… eee. Problematic.
There is no replacement for experience.
That said, if you want your piece published and that’s who the publisher gave you, well, suck it up and try to stay calm. Talking down to anyone is not a good idea, ever. But talking down to someone who thinks they already know everything there is to be known is a losing proposition. You cannot win that one. It will only get worse and worse.
So, make your points as you would with a more seasoned person and hope they will hear what you’re saying—maybe even make a few first baby steps at being a professional. To be fair, this is unlikely to happen too often. I was surprised that it happened at all in that particular situation; but it did, and we got through it just fine—with some teeth gnashing! (At least she didn’t charge me money for nothing. The publisher was paying her.)
So, as I mentioned, my opinion of editors has changed over the decades, partly because I’ve done a lot of editing for others, myself. I also learned through teaching writing and helping others with their books that most writers are happy to have the help. And editors are there to help. Remember that. If there’s a problem, it probably has more to do with personality clashes than the work. In those cases, my advice is as I said to just bite the bullet and get through it. There will be other projects and other editors. You will live to write again!
In the meantime, love your editors. Would you want to spend eight hours a day six days a week going over every paragraph and sentence, every comma, every apostrophe, every letter in 90,000 words, one after the other for years and years?
I didn’t think so.
But if you are that person, that fabulously talented editor who writes or doesn’t write but who has every best interest in making our (sometimes shabby) work better, thank you!
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Published on August 07, 2021 13:44 Tags: editors, publishing, writing, writingadvice

July 22, 2021

Next Four Books!

Got added to the Evolved Publishing site today - first thing up when I Googled myself!
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Published on July 22, 2021 14:01

June 23, 2021

New essay up

My essay "I Don't Need No Stinkin' Clubs" is up today in The Good Men Project. Observation, humor, and Groucho - the perfect mix!
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Published on June 23, 2021 11:11

June 18, 2021

Short Story published

The basis for my novel He Rode from @PublishingDs, a short story titled "He Rode From Natchez" has been published by Frontier Tales Magazine. Thanks, Duke Pennell!

#Western #Adventure #WildWest #fridaymorning #shortstories #DustySaddle
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Published on June 18, 2021 11:11

April 20, 2021

Crunch Time

That grueling rewrite. Yep. They happen.

If you love writing, you most likely enjoy, well, the writing part. As I have written here before, many writers are not crazy about the editing part, doing revisions. But I have encouraged everyone to learn to love the process, if you don't already. Why? Because editing/revising is where the real satisfaction comes. Getting it right. Sure, wending our way through a first draft is fun, even exciting, as we discover ways the story is going that we did not expect even when working from an outline. Finishing that first draft feels terrific! No doubt.

Then the terror sets in. I suspect for some, this is simply because they know editing is hard work and they are, frankly, lazy. So, they dread revising the work. That's a personal issue, one that does not befit a serious writer. So, I will not address it other than to say that if you dread rewrites because you don't really want to do the work, you might be in the wrong business. As I have said many times, editing is maybe not where the magic happens, but it is where the magic all comes together.

All of that said, even the most serious writers confront the occasional "Oh, this one's going to be a bitch." And so that dread is real--at least based on something tangible: You know you have a lot of hard work ahead. But again, serious writers are not lazy, just weary at times like those. There are a few ways to deal with that hesitation and procrastination that appear on rewrites we know will require a lot of fixing to get them right. Unlike the novel that "writes itself"--and those happen and are lovely--the difficult rewrite is a different beast.

On rare occasion, the best course of action might be--as painful as it is--to just abandon the project. Admit that it is never going to work, never going to be all that you wanted it to be or what you foresaw, and just let it go. But I say never abandon it completely. Wait a while, years if necessary, then go back and try to see what you saw in it in the first place, what you thought it would be, what you tried to make it, then how, where, and why you did not achieve that vision. If you can answer those questions, you can probably save the manuscript, though at that point, you may not want to. You may prefer to work on another first draft that needs a good going-through or start something entirely new. Either is fine.

We have to be honest with ourselves. Some ideas are/were just not all that great. Some sucked. Some we just could not get right. Some had a kernel of something cool or good, but the execution failed for any number of reasons. We all have those. It does not mean WE suck. It just means we had good intentions but came up short, either in execution or in overvaluing the concept, or in chasing what we thought was a good concept only to find 60,000 words later that it was not. Sure it seems like time wasted, but we can learn from that, too. Why did we overvalue the idea? Why did we keep writing when we knew we were not getting there, not improving it, not getting it right. Why could we not see?

Again, setting aside the wild goose chase and other reasons to avoid revising new work (or old work that we revisit and decide has merit and therefore want to try again), what about the work that we feel mostly good about but know has some serious problems? If we think the problems are solvable through what will be some soul-grinding days of fixing and re-fixing, we can't be lazy or fearful. We just need to dive in, knowing we will get to that chapter that is a sonofabitch and will not be beaten by it. We will find the solution. We will make it work. And we WILL make it right.

I had one of those demonic chapters this week. I knew it was going to be difficult to fix, that it would need a lot of work. I would have to change characters around, even their names. I would have to re-order the events. I would have to cast out those elements that no longer fit because the chapter had originally been the opening but is now one quarter of the way from the end. Those are huge changes, and I knew they would be difficult to fix. BUT! Because I have been doing this forever, I dreaded it for only a day (after the occasional dreading moment over a few weeks), then chose my time and dug in. It took two long days of changing and toying and moving and rethinking to get those three pages to work. I did not get it right the first or second pass. But by pass three, I mostly had it. One last polish and it worked beautifully in the new location, giving power to that chapter and that section of the book that it never could have given as the opening. Everything is better now because of not fearing it but facing it, determined to make it work because 1) I knew I had to or throw the MS away, which I am loathe to do, 2) I felt strongly that it was not a lost cause, and that 3) I have done this so many times, I had confidence I could get through it. And I did.

To be clear: IT WAS NOT EASY. It was a pain in the ass. But the rewards are that it worked out. It now feels right. It fits in with the style and flow, actually helps the pacing amazingly well, and provides a launching point for the "action packed exciting" conclusion. :)

So, if you have not fought your way through one of these tough revision days or weeks, know that they are survivable. I promise! They require more thinking and self-conspiring, but they are worth the effort. If, at the end of the process, you have succeeded in saving work you thought you might have to abandon, and it even makes the overall work better, there is no better feeling than that. You made magic happen. Better than that first rush of the first draft. As I constantly harp on, revisions are the key to success and ultimately offer the greatest rewards for the serious writer. Dig in, don't give up, figure it out, and make it work. You will be happy you did.
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Published on April 20, 2021 16:16 Tags: fiction, revisions, rewriting, savingabaddraft, surviving, writingfiction, writingtips

April 1, 2021

Great review!

Got a terrific review and interview from Azam Gill at International Thriller Writers' Big Thrill Magazine. So humbled and proud at the same time! Check it out.

Last Blast
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Published on April 01, 2021 10:04

March 19, 2021

Sequel cover art

Here is the rough art for coming novel Three Rode, a sequel to He Rode, which came out in December,
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Published on March 19, 2021 10:36

February 15, 2021

Nice article!

Super nice article by Harley Nefe.
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Published on February 15, 2021 16:51

RITR (sic)

Glenn A. Bruce
An attempt to enter the blogosphere vis a vis the writing life.
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