“The End” you type with satisfaction. You sit back in your chair at Starbucks, glowing with the pride of completion. You’ve just finished a literary marathon, and for that, you are a god. SACRAMENTAL SCREAM (working title) is destined to be a classic. You order a second latte and a scone. Why not? You’ve earned it, baby.
The next day, you roll out of bed eager to read your masterpiece. As the laptop boots up, you brew a pot of coffee and dream about your book, SACRAMENTAL SCARE (working title), sitting face-out on a Barnes & Noble shelf. In a month, two at the outside, you’ll have a book deal. No, no. You’re not expecting a six figure advance. You’ll be happy with 50k. That’s very, very reasonable you think as you pour yourself a cup of brew.
Seated at the kitchen table, you scroll through the first few chapters and… Wait, you don’t remember writing some of this. “She took him by the hand. She leads him to the church on the mountaintop. They arrived after several days of climbing, and their tired. Very tired. Very, very tired.” You scratch your head. Ah! Some of these passages were written at 2 a.m., and you were half asleep. You shrug it off and continue reading. Brilliant, especially the part about the flesh-eating nuns who feast their way through the orphanage.
Hard work begins mid-week. You must edit SACRAMENTAL SAVEUR (working title). Everyone tells you that you must edit. You don’t really see why since you meant EVERY WORD. Still, you suspect that there are a few things that need polishing. Even Hemingway needed an editor, you tell yourself. You run your manuscript through spell and grammar check and find 5,329 mistakes. You accept all. Done. Time for a cappuccino.
A few days later, you print several copies of SACRAMENTAL SACRAMENT (working title)–one for your wife, one for Grandma Jenske in the nursing home, and one for the barista at Starbucks (whom with you’re now quite familiar). You’ve been talking so much about your new book that they’ve all agreed to be your first readers. Eager readers, you hope as you hand them out.
You finally break down and ask your wife what she thinks of SACRAMENTAL SAVAGES (working title). You haven’t seen the manuscript lately, and you’re certain she took it to work to read during her lunch hour.
“Oh, your manuscript,” she says with hesitation. “I kind of ran out of paper. And since you only used one side, you left a perfectly good side for me to print out my monthly report. But if it’s any consolation, Accounting loved chapter thirty-two.”
“Chapter thirty-two?” You rub your chin and picture yourself in a smoking jacket. “Ah, the chapter where the main character suspects the church of wrongdoing. Good writing. Good stuff. You want me to print you another copy?”
“No! I-I mean…no. I loved it, dear. Really.”
This conversation has distracted you from your true fan, Grandma Jenske. You pick up the phone and dial. “Clara Jenske, please,” you say to the desk clerk at the nursing home.
“Sir, she passed away last week. I’m very sorry.”
You give a heartfelt sigh. “How did she die?”
“It’s strange, but the doctors suspect boredom. I didn’t know you could die from that, but there you go.”
“Any last words?” you ask, praying she said something about your story.
“All she said was, ‘The Sacrament’!” The desk clerk sniffed. “She kicked off before we could call the priest.”
“Thank you! Good bye!” You hang up, elated at Grandma Jenske’s new title, THE SACRAMENT. It’s so clean and spare. What a saint. Even from her deathbed, the woman supported you.
The Starbucks barista, however, avoids you when you visit the coffee shop the next afternoon. Every time you approach the counter, she goes on a smoke break. You give up after five hours and four Peppermint Mocha Frappucinnos. Tis the season. Fa la la la la…ah, hell.
Who needs them? Not you. You’ve got a smokin’ title, a red-hot manuscript, and an email account. And a list of 232 agents, none of whom write you back the next few weeks.
It’s been nearly a month and still no book deal. What could be wrong? Nothing, you assure yourself. NOTHING. You print out new copies of THE SACRAMENT and mail them to editors this time. New year, new approach. Confident in the outcome, you drive to Starbucks (the new one, down the street from the old one), order a Grande Gingerbread Latte, and pull out your phone. Humming Christmas carols, you mark your calendar. By February 1, your ship will come in, delivering your dreams.
You sit forward, spilling your coffee. Sweat beads on your forehead. Did you send the manuscript out too soon? Should you have changed the nuns to priests, as you first thought? Did your wife read ANY of your stupid story? She reads romance novels, for pity’s sake. How could she not make it through your book? And that barista… Smoke break, schmoke break. Your throat tightens at the thought of Grandma Jenske. THE SACRAMENT has already claimed one life, will it claim another? Yes, if you don’t get another freaking cup of coffee RIGHT NOW.
You are a hack, a hopeless butcher of grammar, and a loser. Why did you think, even for a second, you could do this? Stephen King makes it look sooooo easy, with his witty Downeaster banter and his shimmering prose and his rambling, immersive plots. “Why? For the love of God, why?” you scream as you sink to the floor.
When the ambulance arrives, your last words are “SACRAMENT” as they wheel you away to the funny farm. You hope someone relays the info to your wife so she can drop “THE” on subsequent manuscripts. With this new title, you’re certain to get a book deal.
And a movie deal.
Reality Check: Does any of this sound familiar? I hope not, dear readers! But if you found yourself sympathizing a little too much with our intrepid main character, consider an editor. They come in many stripes, each designed to fill a particular need for your NaNo:
- Developmental Editor – fixes your overall plot and character arcs at a high level. For the manuscript that doesn’t know it’s a manuscript ( or for those making sure their manuscript is tight)
- Content Editor – finds flaws in your story at the paragraph level. Helps smooth out choppy chapters and indecisive writing.
- Line Editor – Goes through your manuscript line by line (as the title suggests) and sands down rough sentences.
- Proofreader – Your last step in the process after people who are willing to TELL YOU THE TRUTH give your manuscript their seal of approval.
I specialize in developmental editing, of course and charge $2 a page. I’d be happy to help you sort through your NaNo project in January. Or, if you just want to talk shop and ask questions about editing, fire away!