Thanks to Karla for her inspiring post yesterday.
Monday afternoon, I got the first edits for the second of my short stories for the upcoming anthology. Publication has been delayed well over a year, so I wanted to try to get them finished before I left for a visit to my parents in LA on Thursday morning, and hoped the edits wouldn't be extensive. The story is only about 9,000 words, so it's nothing like having to turn around edits for a novel.
I found that the editor didn't ask for any revisions, so all I had to deal with was either agreeing or disagreeing with her changes. For the most part, they were technical or style things. Dashes, commas, and some differences in dialogue tagging. Nothing major and nothing I didn't agree with.
But (there's always a but, right?) She did change a few words, and I really didn't agree with them. Really, really didn't agree. And, if you follow my Facebook page, you might have seen some of the discussion yesterday.
The story is a police procedural, told in first person by a seasoned homicide detective. Those of you who have been reading my blog for a while know that I researched all my cop stuff for all my books, and I talked to a variety of law enforcement officers. One of my first crit partners had been married to a cop for 20 years. I even had a cop read my story, and after making a few suggestions as to procedure, he proclaimed it "right."
So, this is my opening paragraph:
"Call me when you've got a dead body." I hung up the phone. I'd finally managed a few hours of shuteye, and wasn't going to function until I had a few more. On the bright side, the asshole who'd murdered two people was now behind bars. Cursing the idiot in Dispatch who'd punched my phone number instead of someone on the Missing Persons Squad, I went back to sleep.
Imagine my surprise when the editor replaced "asshole" with "jerk." I can't imagine a cop using the term "jerk" – and you've probably noticed that the paragraph is almost all internal monologue, so we're in the cop's head. As one FB commenter said, "a jerk cuts in line, a double murderer is an asshole." (And after asking a lot of cops the specific question, "What do you really call 'bad guys' when you're talking to each other?" I felt that asshole was a very mild expletive.)
Later in the manuscript, there was this paragraph:
Charlie parked her car a couple doors down from the Masons' address. Proper procedure, but these residences were spacious enough that it meant a walk in the Florida heat. I recalled the first time I'd been with Charlie on a case. That was during the coldest spell Florida had seen in donkey's years, and I'd nearly frozen my ass off as we'd made the same kind of a walk.
Here, she substituted "rear" for ass. Apparently ass is a hot button for her, because in the manuscript she didn't mind my use of crap, damn, or bullshit meter.
Another editor with another publisher's hot button was the word crap. However, after she told me she didn't like the word, she had no problem when I said it was a word the character would use. One has to separate personal preference from what works in a story. I shouldn't be on the page, and neither should the editor. It's all about 'what would this particular character say in this situation?'
As I type this, I haven't turned in my edits with my comments. I'm hoping that she'll accept my explanation and let my word choices stand. Or at least "negotiate" some other possibilities. I'm afraid if my cop spoke the way she wanted, he'd have to turn in his badge – and his man card.
If you want to see a little more of this story, and its companion, they're on my website under "Coming Soon."
As I mentioned, I'm hitting the road (and air) tomorrow and will be back late Monday night. My blogs are scheduled, so I hope you'll all keep coming back, and telling friends to drop by. Click the like button in the sidebar. Click the tweet button below this post. Comment. Share. Let me know people still visit even if I'm not around to keep reminding them!