Sunday, April 23, 2006

Editing by Committee, Redux

A short while back, I wrote about the hazards of editing by committee. I thought I'd seen the end of that manuscript, but just a couple of days ago, when the book is about to go into galleys, I get a few last questions. The book is a nonfiction children's book on -- let's tread as anonymously as possible here -- a type of transportation. Within the book was an exciting story about a fire aboard one of these forms of transportation, and a quick-thinking young man who first used a fire extinguisher to no effect, then a bucket of water that was handy, and put out the fire.

On the first round of editing, the editors asked me not to mention the fire extinguisher. They said librarians would get upset. Okay, I don't understand that remark either, but out came the reference, and in went a vaguer phrase about firefighting equipment. Ever since then, the editors have been obsessing one at a time about that bucket of water. Was it really there? (Yes.) Why was it there? (I don't know.) Is it standard equipment? (I couldn't tell you. I only know it was there.) On this last set of comments, just before the book goes to press, someone still wants to know about it, and asks, "Didn't they have any other firefighting equipment?"

Yes, dears, they did, but you asked me to edit it out.

Please, oh, please let this be the last bit of editing. Please, let me see this book with covers on really soon. This tight, polite, civil, professional smile is starting to hurt.

Now I must get on with the last book in a series of human body topics. This one is on -- gulp -- reproduction. Joyous. Now, I say to myself, stop blogging and get back to your writing. (Um... but the cat box needs cleaning... yeah, that's it...)

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