Tag Archives: editing

Billy at the Bat

Posted: November 30, 2017 at 9:48 pm

The outlook wasn’t brilliant in the publishing world this year,

Authors watched their dreams of glory slowly disappear;

And with every shuttered bookstore, and breaks they could not catch,

A pall-like silence fell upon every ink-stained wretch.


A straggling few got day jobs, in deep despair. The rest,

Clung to the hope which springs eternal in the human breast;

They thought, “If Rowling created magic with her café-writ debut,

We’ll bet our homes and marriages, that we can do it too.”


But Young Adult rules writing, unless it’s Shades of Grey,

And the former is too childish, while the latter’s quite risqué;

So upon that stricken multitude grim melancholy set,

For there seemed but little chance of winning: Publisher Roulette.


But Billy penned a memoir, to the wonderment of all,

Except his editor Colin, who was not the least enthralled;

And when the dust had lifted, and Bill wrote his seventh draft,

He realized three years wasn’t long for one to hone his craft.


From all three family members, there rose a lusty yell,

It rumbled through Lynn Valley, it rattled in the dell;

It pounded on Grouse Mountain, recoiled on West Van hovels,

For Billy, clever Billy, was ready to sell his novel.


There was ease in Billy’s manner as he wrote his book proposal,

There was calm in Billy’s bearing as it reached the waste disposal;

And when, responding to his agent, he wrote it thrice again,

No publisher could resist the pitch of Bill’s deftly wielded pen.


His Facebook friends applauded as Bill attempted the implausible,

Ten thousand blogs reminded him his dream was near impossible;

Then, when Reason said he’s doomed to fail, get off this ego trip,

Defiance flashed in Billy’s eye, a sneer curled Billy’s lip.


And now a major publisher called, a house without compare,

And Billy sat a-listening, in haughty grandeur there;

But the conversation dragged a bit….our author’s hopes were fallin’—

“Whaddya think?” asked Billy. “Not for me!” said Harper Collins.


From Bill’s kitchen, filled with loved-ones, there went up a muffled roar,

Like the beating of the storm-waves on a stern and distant shore;

“Kill him! Kill that publisher!” shouted Bill’s long-suffering wife,

And it’s likely she’d have killed him had not Billy saved his life.


With a smile of Christian charity our Billy’s visage shone,

He calmed his loving partner; he bade the game go on;

He signalled to his agent, and once more a query flew,

But M&S rejected it. His agent said, “Strike two!”


“Fraud!” cried Bill’s coffee shop pals, and echo answered “Fraud!”,

But one scornful look from Billy and the baristas were awed;

They saw his face grow stern and cold, they saw his temples quiver,

And they knew that Billy would make some publishing house deliver.


The sneer is gone from Billy’s lip, his teeth are clenched so tight,

He mails his last proposal to a house which should be right;

And now the author’s waiting, he trembles with his spouse,

And now the air is crackling with a call from Random House.


Oh, somewhere in this favoured land the sun is shining bright,

The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light;

And somewhere men are laughing, and children play en masse,

But there is no joy in North Van—Random took a pass.


(With Apologies to Ernest Lawrence Thayer)

Feeling A Little Query

Posted: May 13, 2016 at 11:18 am


People have been saying to me, “It’s been THREE years! When are you going to finish your book?” When they say “book” they do the air-quote thing with their fingers to emphasize it’s not a REAL book because they’re not holding a copy in their hands. Or they have no faith that I’m capable of writing a real book.

To these people I say, “My book is done, so please quit bugging me.” What I actually think is much ruder than that, but you get the idea.  I finished Draft #9 about a month ago, gave it a title page, put in the chapter numbers, ended it with “La Fin” and printed all 278 pages. I’m tempted to write one more draft, but I’d also like to stay married, so that’s it for now.

With a  completed manuscript burning a hole in my laptop, my options are:

(1) Upload my book to Amazon and make it available for 99 cents on-line tomorrow. This has the advantage of instant gratification (people can immediately give me money and enjoy my book). The disadvantage is that these people immediately giving me money and enjoying my book are mostly related to me or have learned how to snowboard from me (owing me a favour). It is very difficult to stand out from the MILLIONS of on-line books offered each year. There are exceptions….The Martian and Fifty Shades of Grey both started as on-line books. Unfortunately, I wasn’t smart enough to write the first one and I’m too good a writer to write the second.

(2) Send my book to publishers and tell them it’s the next Eat, Pray, Love.   Every writer thinks they’ve written the next Eat, Pray, Love, will sell 10 million copies and will be played in the movie by Julia Roberts (or in my case, Brad Pitt, obviously). Those writers are wrong, because there hasn’t been a phenomenon like Eat, Pray, Love since, well, Eat, Pray, Love. Complicating this dream, unsolicited manuscripts are relegated to a publisher’s slush pile where they languish until all the vowels slide off the pages, rendering the book only slightly less comprehensible.

(3) Hire a printer to print and bind 1000 copies of my book so I can sell them in parking lots out of the trunk of my car. Not exactly the dream I had when I gave up a successful legal career to become a writer.

(4) Crawl into a cave and never show my book to anyone. Not a serious option, because then I would fail in my goal of making enough money on my book to pay for all the coffee I consumed in Delany’s Coffee Shop while writing the book. I know, that’s ironic, or a circular argument, or something that makes the last three years look pitiful.

(5) Query my brains out. To have any chance of attracting a traditional publisher and having my book on the shelves of a bookstore not in my hometown, I’ll need a literary agent. And to get a literary agent I have to “query” 500 of them. A query is a one-page letter, possibly with a book excerpt attached, that is so enticing and mind-blowing that the agent begs me to immediately send the completed manuscript. Remember, literary agents receive thousands of query letters every year, and take on two or three new clients. Consequently, my query letter has to be the best 300 words I’ve ever written, as good as anything in my book. If the agent decides I can write a book as well as I can write a query letter, he or she will offer to represent me…which is no guarantee of success with any publisher with more than two employees.

As you may have guessed, I’m opting for Number 5. I’ll let you know how it goes. I may end up buying a car with a bigger trunk.

Nine Reasons My Book Is Not Finished Yet

Posted: January 7, 2016 at 11:30 am



I called my editor a sadist only for shock value. Actually, he’s an engaging, gentle fellow who likes dogs. But he’s also a demanding, meticulous taskmaster, much smarter than me. After a month reviewing my manuscript, he produced 60 PAGES of notes, single spaced, outlining my deficiencies as a writer and a human being. He didn’t say, “put a comma here, and choose a different word there.” It was more like, “the entire structure of your manuscript sucks, and here are the 5000 things you must do in the re-write.” I highly recommend him.


It takes a lot of time to answer the same question, several times per day. I wish my mum would stop calling.


My book is a memoir, and the book industry has decided memoirs by non-famous people (me, so far) must be 80,000 to 90,000 words to sell. No one in the industry talks about the number of pages…my book would fit on one page if the type was really, really tiny. A 90,000 word book will be about 275 to 300 pages, depending.

My first draft was 140,000 words. I cut it to 120,000 words before I gave it to my editor, knowing it would be cut further. My editor told me to cut about 40,000 more words because they were either crap or the stories didn’t fit my narrative arc (I didn’t know I had a narrative arc). That got me down to 80,000, but my editor also said I had to fill in all the missing parts to make the story flow. That got me back up to 130,000. I’ve been cutting for the last three months, almost there with 102,000 words.

See why it’s taken so long? I’ve already written two books’ worth of words.


Everything I read on publishing tells me it’s impossible to get published, that most writers starve. Except the Chicken Soup For the Soul series has sold 500 MILLION copies. That’s not even literature, just a set of worn stories and platitudes collected by the “author.” Understand the depression now?


Time spent on Twitter, Facebook and designing and feeding my website is time spent not writing. However, every agent and publisher will enquire about my social platform, my “personal brand.” As my wife says, “Billy, I think social media is cheesier than you want to be.”


I share my given name with the greatest writer in the history of the English language. That’s a lot of pressure.



Writing guides have established that adverbs are for lazy writers (so I must be lazy). I shouldn’t use, “walk slowly,” but rather “saunter.” I should substitute “sprint” for “run quickly.” I spend a great deal of time searching for more descriptive verbs. I’ve cut thousands of sneaky adverbs since reading the writers’ bible, “On Writing” by Stephen King.

And the main reason my book isn’t finished yet:


Ten Steps to Becoming a Published Author

Posted: July 9, 2015 at 9:38 pm


1.  You hate your job so much you spend your day pulling out precious tufts of your already-thinning hair (if you could just rip out the grey ones, that would be okay, but it doesn’t work that way).
2.  People say you should write a book but their ideas for the subject of said book are terrible.
3.  You read 50 Shades of Grey, puke, pull out what hair you have left, and despair for the fate of literature and the English language. Secretly, you are insanely jealous.
4.  You spend months researching the publishing industry and discover that writing literature has little to do with book sales; it’s all Facebook and Twitter and LinkedIn and Instagram and Snapchat and blogging and writing conferences and author websites and establishing your social media platform and your “personal brand.” You delay starting your book so you can do all that stuff.
5.  You quit your job and spend two years writing in a coffee shop, spending more on coffee than you could possibly earn if your book becomes a best seller.
6.  You hire an editor whose notes of things wrong with the manuscript are longer than the manuscript. You do nothing for a month, wallowing in depression. Then you re-write your entire book.
7.  You hire another editor to review the second draft. The second editor provides less guidance than the first editor, but charges more. You spend several months writing draft three.
8.  For six months you send query letters to potential agents. You learn that memoirs were hot three years ago, but now if a book isn’t pornographic or have “Chicken Soup for the……..” in its title, it won’t sell.
9.  Random House won’t take your calls. You find a small publisher in a Surrey strip mall, squeezed between a pawnshop and Payday Loans.
10.  Your publisher’s advance is $500, for three years’ work. You’re one of the lucky ones.

Author’s Note:
Don’t despair, dear reader. It doesn’t have to turn out like this. I’m still writing draft number two, so who knows what will happen next? As I said in a previous post, I don’t doubt for one minute my choice to become a writer. I rejoice in my decision to discard my old, ill-suited profession and embrace this artsy world of creativity and uncertainty. Knowing what I know now, I’d do it all over again.