Monday, June 17, 2019


Saw this cringe-inducing comment to a YouTube video the other day; it's from a self-styled "editor" who goes by "Malice Burgoyne." Corrections are in [brackets]:

As an editor, how polished a manuscript [is when it] arrives doesn’t mean much. The story itself is everything[,] and what a writer’s relationship is with [her] material becomes apparent within two pages (a thousand words). You see, writing and storytelling are two different things. Storytelling was around long before writing was. Storytelling is a conceptual ability. Writing is a technical skill. In between both develops one’s style from culture and experience.

The last book we published was a work by a gal for whom [English] was a second language. The structure was a mess[,] but she wrote with the number 1 thing any editor looks for even if [he doesn't] know [that is]: authority. It’s a leitmotif—dominant recurring theme—of any good storyteller.

As an author[,] you are god.

Concerning query letters[:] throw out anything you’ve heard. Start by telling me why you wrote the story. Or start with a quote directly from the manuscript.


“William had three sons. One loved women. One loved money. The other loved America.”

There’re more great books in circulation than any human can read in [her] lifetime. Why dafuq should I read yours?

Lastly, self-publishing is synonymous with slush-piling. No editor wants to hear a damn thing about your self-publishing or other [weed-gardening] accomplishments. Therefore, it’s a huge plus to know a potential client’s been published in literary magazines. This means [she] survived the slush pile, [was] assessed at sentence level by an excellent team of editors[,] and [was] finally published. Too many literary magazines exist to list[;] a novice must start there. Your MFA degree, workshops[,] and [NaNoWriMo] slush mean nothing to me. I want to know you can tell a story. Stop the impatience, the hubris[,] and [the] leapfrogging. Start with essays, letters[,] or shorts and get your ass published.
How embarrassing to announce you're an editor, then to trip over your dick with a dangling modifier (in red above) in your very first sentence. Then, of course, we've got all the punctuation errors, the diction errors, the comma splices, the faulty parallelism, and an irrational hatred of the Oxford comma. Writing is, as the "editor" correctly avers, "a technical skill." Perhaps he should work on that skill a bit more before waving around the claim that he's an editor. (I do enjoy his use of "dafuq," though, since I do the same thing.)

I could say more. I could talk about how I don't like the final sentence of the first paragraph because it's unclear what the writer means. I can sort-of guess, but the writer could have helped me out by providing a bit more clarity. Also: how is writerly "authority" a leitmotif? The writer's definition of leitmotif is "dominant recurring theme," but I'm still unsure how authority can be a dominant recurring theme. I can see authority being a crucial or essential trait of good writing: "She writes with authority." I also think the "editor" should use a term like trope instead of leitmotif; the latter is more closely associated with music. But even then, I'd hesitate to call authority a trope. A trope is like Homer's repeated description of the dawn, in The Odyssey, as "rosy-fingered" (ροδοδάκτυλος/rododaktulos—rhododactyl: rose-finger[ed]). If one writes with authority, that authority doesn't come and go the way tropes and leitmotifs do; it's a constant, underlying presence felt in and through the prose. Authority in writing, as a quality or a virtue, is never merely occasional.

Whatever. Sloppiness all around. As the kids say in these days of nominalizing adjectives, the guy's comment was very cringe.


John Mac said...

As painful as reading my blog?

Charles said...

Cringe indeed.

I would probably cast a wider net with "trope," beyond its original rhetorical definition. These days, I see the term being used in much the same way as "dominant recurring theme." I like to think of tropes as cliches-in-training.