Who Needs a Keeper?

Me, as it turns out.

I refused to accept that for years. I am an adult, a professional freelancer. I juggle deadlines and projects on a daily basis. I don’t need my hand held, my butt kicked, or my chain yanked. Right?

Last summer I was head-down in a research project, and I totally forgot to eat. Not the first time this has happened, but the most severe, and since I am hypoglycemic, this had swift and serious consequences. After I’d recovered, I came to the conclusion that yes, despite my being a capable, competent, organized individual, I did indeed need a keeper, in that instance at least.

And once I accepted that, I was able to add a second instance to the list.

I need a keeper to make sure that the copyedit gets done. And by done I mean “finished and out the door without a) the book being entirely rewritten and b) me throwing myself out the window in despair.”

You see, I’m one of those writers who loves the act of writing. When I’m working on the first draft I have an intense – nay, passionate affair with it. I love it, I hate it, I can’t live without working on it, I never want to see it again. But mostly I love it – I love the act of writing it, of creating, of crafting.

And then when I’ve finished the drafting process, I have to turn down the passion and look at it from a distance. Is it good? Does the structure hold? Are the joins well-formed and the floors solid? That’s when I fix and fiddle, rewrite and recast. It’s not as much pure fun, but it is satisfying. Ditto the editorial revisions, where I’m working to a very specific set of professional reader comments. More tightly focused, but still creative and craft-y.

The copyedit? Bah. By now I am so Over the book, I’ve moved on to a new passion, a new story. I sit there and I stare at the copyedit, and procrastinate in ways that would put the world’s greatest procrastinator to shame (damn Facebook and their Tetris games, anyway).

But this is my last best chance to fix anything – the next time I see the book it will be in proofs, and significant changes will be messy, and make my editor (and the production editor) Very Unhappy.

So the buddy system comes into play. I have someone who will read the copyedit along with me. Her job is to worry about the Great Big Screaming Problems [“I do not think that word means what you think it means” and “didn’t he die last book?”] that might have slipped by the copyeditor. Because she is persnickety, she will (hopefully!) also catch the embarrassing grammatical errors that my brain refuses to acknowledge. And knowing that she is taking care of that, I have no choice but to do my share, which is to make sure everything’s happening the way I want it to, in the manner and with the words I wanted it to, and to respond to all the questions the copyeditor (being a persnickety and cautious sort) has asked me (:”I do not think this word means what you think it does. Me: yes, yes it does. Neener neener).

It’s taken me a while to come to this revelation, and I’m still grumbling over the fact that I’m not 100% self-reliant, like I’ve betrayed some Freelancer’s Code. But the only real code is Thou Shalt Do Whatever The Job Needs.

So stop, and take a hard look at yourself, you who also juggle too many projects. Is there a place where having a third hand would smooth the way, ease the agita, or just simply get the damn job done better, faster, and with less stress?

Reach out and take it.


About Laura Anne Gilman

Laura Anne is a recovering editor-turned-novelist, with an Endeavor Award, a Nebula nomination, another Endeavor award nomination and a Washington State Book Award nomination under her belt. Her most recent series is the award-winning "Devil's West" trilogy, starting with SILVER ON THE ROAD, and her same-universe story collection, WEST WINDS' FOOL, AND OTHER STORIES OF THE DEVIL'S WEST. The novella GABRIEL'S ROAD was published by Book View Cafe on April 30th, 2019. Her Patreon, featuring original fiction, writing advice, and original Rants, is at https://www.patreon.com/LAGilman Learn more at www.lauraannegilman.net, where you can sign up for her quarterly newsletter.


Who Needs a Keeper? — 3 Comments

  1. Actually, what I need is a secretary. A bullying secretary, the kind who doesn’t let you put off the crap that you don’t want to do.

    But I like Laura Anne’s solution: find a buddy to help with the obvious issues. It works with exercise, too.

  2. Laura Anne, I still need a keeper. Alas.

    Buddies can work. Sometimes reminders can, as for example a note to yourself left someplace like the coffee (in your case, tea) pot or the bathroom mirror, but it’s amazing how blind we can become when we’re in avoidance-mode. (I’m sure I’m not telling you anything new!)

    The advantage of the buddy-system is that they’re usually immune to the current emotional flux of your relationship to the project. I recently volunteered my services as a buddy for this, and I’m hoping to soon ask for a return of favors.