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How To Drive Yourself Crazy, Part Two: EDITING

Welcome back, to the second installment in this irregular series.  ‘Irregular’ because I don’t know when the next will one will be, and ‘series’ because I’m always learning new ways to drive myself crazy.  This time, it’s a real “how to” style!

i made this collage myself

A typical editor's work-space

First, decide to work on an anthology.  Work on at least five – but no more than ten – pieces at a time.  After all, if you were working with just one author, it would be far too simple.  No, in order to crank up the insanity, you have to do a lot of stories – at the same time.

Next, make sure that the people doing the copy-editing aren’t looking over each others shoulders.  That way, as editor (or co-editor), you have to catch any differing opinions and weirdness that might crop up.  It’s much better to work in a vacuum, if your goal is mind-numbing anxiety in the final hour.

Combine the various documents into a ‘master document’, without setting any filters first.  Don’t worry about italics and strange formatting yet.  After all, there will be plenty of time in the last week of work to redo everything.

It’s important at this stage to neglect your basic needs.  Forgetting to eat proper meals will instill a hunger for success.  Not getting enough sleep insures that you’ll be in an emotionally sensitive space; perfect for making snap decisions.  And don’t forget how maddening it will be to clean up the mess of your so-called social life.

If you can, make sure to delete a few key email messages from your authors.  Clear, easy lines of communication often get in the way of stark, raving lunacy.  A few missed pieces of information will guarantee special, surprise errors in the final version.

Now, before you get the finalized version kicked out the door, you’ll have to make review copies.  Distribute these to whoever is supposed to have them, but whatever you do, don’t harass them for critical feedback.  In order for the full force of slavering madness to take effect, key pieces of final review will have to be avoided.  Not by you, of course – you’ll still need to stay up late, every night, worrying over the formatting and obvious typos.

Bloody flags?

Almost done!  A critical piece of your own, personal crazy-pants-puzzle that is often overlooked is very technical, but easy to take care of.  Simply update your software, right in the middle of your final work cycle.  You don’t have to go all-out and change operating systems (save that for later in your career, when you really need to go bat-shit-insane), but it’s never that difficult to upgrade whatever program you’re using to put the book together.  Just imagine the giant leaps backwards in your progress!  All of your checklists and milestones will have to be completely redone.  It’ll be like working on a brand new project.

If you’ve put the wrong foot forward and made careful missteps the whole way, you’ll be in the best position possible to screw up the last few, tiny details.  Your immune system will be working overtime, as you fight sleep-deprivation and hunger to get the completed book across the finish line.  You will have alienated your friends, co-workers and support network (and probably your children) with your erratic behavior, to the point where they don’t care if you work yourself to death anymore.  Eye strain and a nervous tic will transform you into a hideous caricature of your former, vigorous self.  And those last few, itty bitty, teensy-weensy errors will just *POP* into place – just like magic.

They will manifest as an author name being spelled wrong, or a uploading the wrong version to the distributor’s website.  You might cut & paste the wrong section of the book description, or substitute your personal email address for the company one.  My favorite was the time I tried to upload a book using my personal Amazon log-in, rather than the one for publisher.  Sure, these aren’t big, terrible, life-changing problems, but in terms of making yourself crazy, they pack a lot of firepower.

Remember, everybody makes mistakes, but they don’t let it drive them insane.  If you want your mistakes to keep you awake at night – or just wipe the smile off your face – you’re going to have to work twice as hard.  Being an editor is a difficult job, all by itself, but there’s no reason why you can’t make it even worse.  By following these easy instructions, you’ll be well on your way to screaming incoherently at strangers in the parking lot in no time.


Patrick Jennings-Mapp is a co-founder of and an editor for Escape Collective Publishing.  When he’s not lying awake at night, wondering if he changed those straight-quotes back into smart-quotes, you can find him wandering the aisles of the grocery store, looking for bear-bacon and elbow grease.

How Do You Write?

My Underwood is too pretty to type on

I found this neat article on “alternatives” to using a laptop.  It’s over HERE if you want to check it out.  Personally, I find the idea of using electric typewriters pretty gross.  They have none of the useful function of a laptop, but none of the benefits of a truly analog device.  But that could just be me.  When I do use my old manual typewriter, I take great comfort in the fact that I can’t check my email, or get distracted by the online world.

But the article prompted some interesting thoughts.  The actual mechanism with which I write is not as important as what I write, of course, but how much is one influenced by the other?  For example, the best thing about using a typewriter is that I have to go fast.  It turns off my internal editor for a while and I can concentrate on getting the words on the page.  I know that I’ll have to type it into the computer later and I can take care of on-the-spot edits at that point.  It’s liberating, but doesn’t always fit my writing ‘mood’.  On the other hand (literally!), if I’m using a pen and paper I always write for efficiency.  That is to say, I only have so much time and power in me, before my hand cramps up and makes my life hell.  Seriously, I have wussy hands.  If I write longhand for an hour I feel like my fingers are made of wood.  To counter this, I stretch my fingers and la da dee da – but the important work has to get sorted before that pen touches the paper.  It changes the way I assemble the words before they leave my brain.  Is it better?  Is any which way particularly worse?  Well, it depends on what I’m writing, I guess.

A few years ago I amazed myself with a solid day of writing.  I lost track of the time, to be honest and I don’t know how long it was.  Ten hours?  Maybe it was twelve.  There was a lot of coffee, many bathroom breaks and a whole lot of cigarettes.  When it was over and I crawled into bed, I felt as though I had prevailed over some terrible ordeal.  I was a better, stronger person in some way.  But there’s no way I’d want to make a habit out of it!  There wasn’t any particular disadvantage that arose from such strenuous activity.  The next day, I got up and went back to work.  It’s an interesting contrast, but I wonder if I’m a better writer because of it.

As anyone who is “out” as a writer can attest, there are always a lot of questions from family and friends.  The most dreaded for me is, “How’s that story/novel/project going?”  Oh geez, how do I even approach an answer?  I usually ask which story/novel/project – because it’s probably not what I’m working on at the moment, thanks.  But the other day a friend asked me an odd, out of the blue question:  “How do you start writing a story?”  On the surface, it was simple, but he really meant the nitty-gritty, down in the dirt kind of details.  I was at a loss for a bit, but I answered as honestly as I could:  “I put the pen to the paper and the words come out.  Everything after that is editing.”  I told him about how I brainstorm, how I use story prompts and how I visualize scenes and characters, but I kept coming back to that point in my thoughts.  You just have to start writing.

All that being said, I guess it doesn’t matter what kind of instrument I use to write with.  Sure, they produce different methods and some allow me a lot more flexibility (thank you Google!).  If I had to write books like Stephen Hawking does – one ponderous letter at a time – would that stop me?  Would it stop you?  Might slow some of us down, I suppose.  It may be that that’s a good thing.  I’m going to give it a try, break out of my routine a wee bit.  I’ll let you know how it goes.


Patrick Jennings-Mapp is a co-founder of and an editor for Escape Collective Publishing.  He is still working on that one novel – no, the other one.  Yes, the one with the screaming and the blood. (sigh) No, the other one with the screaming and the blood.  Yeah, he really should seek help about that.

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