Thursday, October 05, 2017

COLUMN: Editor Shane

So I couldn't help but notice the alarming fact that I'm not yet a multi-millionaire. This is kind of a bummer.

I've done everything right. I've played the lottery at least a dozen times. I've provided you all with moderate levels of entertainment every Monday. I've brought beats to as many local dancefloors as my weekend DJ gig allows. But for all this work, I've yet to win a single jackpot. No publisher has handed me a global syndication deal. And even though I'm quite adept at mixing TLC's "No Scrubs" into N*Sync's "Bye Bye Bye," Lollapalooza has yet to invite me to headline their main stage. What gives, people?

I'm a realist. I'm not asking for Bill Gates levels of wealth. I'd be perfectly happy with just a mansion or two and perhaps a modest handful of personal assistants. That's not asking too much, is it?

At this rate, I may be forced to turn to Plan B. I don't really have the time, but I may just have to write the next Great American Novel.

Wait, scratch that. Great American novels might be beloved, but they're not exactly money-makers. People never camped out for days in front of a Barnes & Noble waiting for "Moby Dick." Universal Studios never opened a Grapes-of-Wrath-land theme park. I don't need to write great literature, I just need to write POPULAR literature. I want Dan Brown money. Stephanie Meyer money.

All I need to do is come up with a... what's that thing called? Oh, yes. A plot.

Truth be told, this isn't the first time I've sat down and declared myself a novelist. Each time, it's been nothing less than unmitigated disaster. One time, I thought I could cash in on the Twilight craze by writing a page-turner about a teenager who falls in love with... a leprechaun. Laugh all you want, I still say it could be a romance for the ages. Nobody better steal my idea. It could still happen.

The problem is, I'm just not that good of a writer. I'm horrible at coming up with original ideas, and the few times I've tried, I end up writing dialogue where every character acts, reacts, walks, and talks just like me. If there's a more hellish nightmare than the prospect of a town filled with Shanes, I can't imagine it. And therein seems to lie my biggest problem: I can't imagine.

So there I was last year, banging my head against an empty screen in frustration, when an e-mail from an old friend showed up. Back in junior high, I rolled with a close-knit posse of proud nerds, and they didn't come much nerdier than my good friend George. Some of my fondest memories involve slumber parties at his house, slamming Jolt Cola while watching wonderfully awful horror movies until the wee hours. George has since become Dr. George, working in the field of artificial intelligence and data science while making the rest of us feel very, very stupid.

Why was my old friend e-mailing? Because in his spare time, George decided to try his hand at writing fiction. As opposed to my empty screen of frustration, George wrote a novel -- and it's GOOD. Hundreds of hundreds of jealousy-inducing pages. I won't give anything away, but its a tale of gods and goddesses and a mortal hero who has to descend into the bowels of Hell to rescue his beloved. It's legimitately a great read.

And for some reason, he wanted MY feedback on it. Folks, I may have found my new calling. I'm lousy at writing fiction, but as it turns out, I'm kinda decent at telling people how to write theirs. For the past year, George has been e-mailing me drafts of his book and I've been serving as an amateur editor. It's become a fun hobby. He writes phrases like, "Visions give way to faceless night, crawling infantile in the smothering blind-dark: weary, fog-benumbed traveler on the unlighted Path of the Dead." I write phrases like, "He was asleep." Somewhere in the middle, I think we balance.

As opposed to my motivation of vast riches, George wrote his book pretty much just for fun. So rather than struggle with landing a book deal, he's planning on self-publishing, hopefully later this year. His once epic tome is now shaping up to be a multi-book saga, and I'm happy to lend a hand whenever he needs it. This week, he asked me to edit the book summary for the e-jacket. Here's what I came up with:

"Paul Masterson is a lonely professor of religion and mythology.  As a child, recurring dreams of a suffering woman of divine origin sent him to a psychiatrist. Those dreams are now gone, long since dismissed as a childhood fantasy.  But the arrival of a mysterious letter awakens more than just old memories. Could his dream-goddess be real?  And if so, can anyone ease her suffering? To find out, Paul must come to terms with his past and visit a city he's long avoided. Can a shy loner at life become a true hero of myth?"

What do you guys think? If you saw that description on Amazon, would you read that? If all goes well, you might be able to later this year. If I get thanked somewhere in tiny print, that's reward enough for me. Unless, of course, it becomes the next Harry Potter. THEN I'm politely asking George for a mansion -- you know, so I can edit his next book in comfort.

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