Got back on Tuesday from the UK where I attended a Showbiz Wedding (no, I really did. A friend I have known since we were 13 is a big comedy star in the UK). You may be aware that since I had no editing to do last week, I asked for submissions for free editing.
Several people responded, and by the time I had filled my stated quota of words, I had before me the work of four very different writers.
They will be relieved to hear that I will not be revealing anything of their work or my thoughts on their work here. That is between me and each of them.
However, I will say that I greatly enjoyed the experience. One of the main pleasures of working with new writers, and especially with indies, is the variety, not just in genre or technique, but broadness of imagination.
At the wedding in question I had the good fortune to bump into former Merton Professor of English (University of Oxford) John Carey (father of another old friend), who enthused about working with new writers and was curious about the new kind of publishing and to some extent new kind of literature that we are all creating.
These freebies have given me the opportunity to see work that I perhaps would not otherwise have seen, and statistically speaking, probably would not have read, and this has all further excited me about the development and the creative possibilities of this new, anarchic literature.
I italicized anarchic because for a great many people, anarchy has negative connotations. But taken in its purest form, anarchy is the imposition of order by each individual upon himself. It is where no order or government is imposed from outside. True, those of you who are writing in order to make your living from writing are, to some extent at least, guided by the desires of the reading public, but even you are making open choices as to which readers to please.
And I, who believe I have some knowledge about what a story ought to be, am trying to help authors to deal with problems and make improvements, rather than tell them what their novel ought to be. I am trying to ensure that my authors' work reaches and is understood by as many people as possible, rather than telling them that they must follow certain rules and styles in order not to be inherently wrong.
In an anarchy, each person chooses his own rules in order to ensure that he, and those he wishes to help, can get what they need. As writers and editors, we can apply the rules of style and grammar because we know that is the best way to reach the most readers, NOT because we have been told that anything else is wrong. The results may be the same, but I suspect that they are not. The difference when applying rules as an informed choice is that the rules themselves become part of the creation and part of the art, a skeleton rather than a straitjacket.
I may be rambling a little. Experiences like this one contribute to my evolving philosophy of writing. They also lead me to conclude that I should do freebies more often. I shall, therefore, set aside a week in January. Submissions of up to 80k words will be accepted on a first come-first served basis (though priority will be given to first-timers).