Letter from the Editor
By Flaing
Published: December 4, 2007

Letter from the Editor

Dear William,

May I introduce myself? I have had the pleasure of being assigned to copy edit and design the layout for your impressive novel, ‘Every Good Boy’.

First, let me say that after the first read through, I sat back astonished. What ideas! What language! What a plot! What style! ‘Breathtaking’ is the only word that I can apply without undue flattery.

Obviously, as an editor, I have to apply myself to my mundane task, to turn from the majestic grandeur of your vision and, like a supplicant, scrape around in the foothills of your grammar, punctuation and spelling. Small things, I own, but maybe important to the more pedantic among your readers – and who could deny them this favour, given that their enjoyment of your book will ultimately transcend such petty nit-picks?

So, descending from the Olympian heights of your work to the peasant-ridden plain of my profession, I seek guidance on these points:

1. May I point out that, in a printed book, white space is far more apparent than on a computer screen. (Forgive me, but I guess that you have prepared this novel using internet screen layout). Moderate and subtle effects work well in print, believe me.
So – it could be that your insistence on four blank line spaces between each paragraph may be a little excessive? And may I counsel against the two lines of asterisks? Not only is this against our style guide, but I really feel they may intrude slightly. Once you’ve looked at these features on a printed-out page, I hope you will see my point.

2. I am very sympathetic to your use of italics. I can see how they dramatise and separate text to highlight your intentions. My only doubt is that, as I have said before, subtlety is preferable to overemphasis. Whether the average reader will take kindly to alternate lines of the text being italicised, with no speech marks or other punctuation present, I find debatable. Experimentation is all well and good, but ‘experimental’ novels that have succeeded have been few and far between.

3. Believe me, as an editor, I really have no brief to dictate to you, or insist on any changes, except where there are clear errors in the typography. However, in preparing your ms for printing, I have to abide by the instructions of your publisher. You, of course, may wish to discuss this with him, but I really cannot include your insistence on seven separate versions of the font, three different page set-ups, and four page size changes. If this were an ‘experimental’ novel, then the slate would be blank. However, as your novel is a traditional detective novel, may I suggest the readers will be far more comfortable with a clearly-presented example of your work?

4. While I admire your poetic use of the language, I have to introduce a note of caution. It is not for me to intrude on your flair and impetus in the writing of this book. But really, I find it difficult to accept phrases such as ‘queer as a minker’s squab’, which might well be a colourful and engaging bon-mot, but which, for a third-party POV narrator, sits ill on the shoulders of the mostly serious, middle-class BBC-English presenter’s voice you have adopted for ninety-five per cent of the work. Other examples are: ‘he took her hand with the confidence of a donkey-riding chiropractor’ and: ‘she swayed along the street like a telephone box on heat.’ I fear that such extravagances might well confuse and alienate the reader, unless you are completely sure of your audience.

5. Can we step back from your insistence that every suggested edit point is sent to you individually by post as I encounter them? I would much prefer to go through your fine work methodically, to weigh and consider my views, and then offer you a composite and complete opinion, ‘in the round.’ Also, your request to the publisher that I must change every suggestion you do not agree with back ‘immediately’ is inappropriate, as suggested changes are simply stored, subject to approval, in a computer. – So if you could just let me know your opinion in the usual way…

6. May I just inform you that, in offering opinions on spelling, I am consulting the contemporary Oxford dictionary that does allow many current modern words and usage. I am also allowing leeway on words used for effect. However, my belief is that, for your readers, saying:


is arguably as effective as your original

For me, three is enough to make the point, mmm? Have you ever read Lynne Truss’s book by the way (on exclamation points)?

7. As a great fan of Irvine Welsh myself, I can have no quarrel with flexibility in a novel. But does the scene where the hero and villain have a conversation really have to have only one word per line from each, on opposite sides of the page for a staggering eighty pages or more? And the occasional ten lines of the word ‘hate’ with little arrows pointing across the page? Together with the idea you have for ‘columns’ this means your 300-page book would be increased to one covering over 1000? In economic terms this is quite impossible, as well as making reading difficult for your avid fans.

I look forward very much to working with you, and hope you can forgive my rather pedantic requests. I am sure we can discuss these as we travel through the magnificent edifice that is the construct of your mind, your novel.

I, as a supplicant to the shrines of Apollo, Hermes, Clio and Thoth, at which we both worship, salute you!

Your humble and obedient servant,

J Treadgold Montacute, D Lit, MBE, OOCG,
(Editing at reasonable rates. Please contact me, attaching your references.)