Wednesday, May 5, 2010

a crime of fashion

besides working as a barista, i was also an assistant to a fashion photographer.
it was an extremely fun, high-pressure, and intense learning environment. i met some wonderful mentors, artists, and just plain great people at this job, but i also met my fair share of kooks.
there was one woman, a former model from brazil, who was very pleasant, until she found out i was a writer and became very clingy.

mi's mistake #1 - upon our first meeting i offered to read her manuscript and tell her what i thought.

mi's mistake #2 - instead of corresponding through email, i gave her my phone number. which she used. often.

mi's mistake #3 - within first three pages i could tell the manuscript was a train wreck, but instead of telling her it was not for me, i forced myself to read all 768 pages.

i think we've heard the old adage so many times: write what you know, but sometimes what you know isn't worth putting to paper, feel me?

this ex-model's manuscript was about the fashion industry.
ok, at first glance that's fine, right?
the book started out with a former model receiving a phone call from her ex-agent, in fact - the opening paragraphs weren't that bad. but this ex-model character (the first character the reader is introduced to) did not reappear until after page 300.
her ex-agent was only mentioned a couple times later in the book, and the subject of their phone conversation was never revisited.

the book was supposed to be about a high-powered fashion family and their exploits. apparently the reader was supposed to glean from the descriptions that the writer was referencing all the great designers, like lagerfeld, galliano, and donetella versace.
well, all that flew over my head, but maybe someone else could have sifted through the endless pages and description to come to that conclusion.
the most memorable character in her novel was one of the adult children in the high powered fashion family.
i take that back - he wasn't that memorable but his parrots were.
the author took great pains to tell the reader about this character's twelve parrots. she spent over a page on each parrot, giving physical descriptions and personality traits, as well as the best events and designer outfits suited for each parrot.

BUT this wasn't even the worst part of the novel.
the worst part, in my opinion, was that her manuscript was full of misspelled words, incorrect subject/verb agreements, and had no contractions. at all.
everything was "i am, can not, there is". let me tell you, 700+ pages of no contractions will make your brain hurt.

so, when it came to giving her my opinion i tried to be honest.
i told her that it needed to be edited. heavily.
it needed a fluent english speaker to proof read it (she asked if i could edit/proofread. i think you can deduce my answer).
it needed to have a different opening because it was very misleading to the reader.

she listened to me, told me that i just didn't "get" her book because i didn't know much about the fashion industry, and that she really needed some money so she was just going to self-publish it as is so she could sell copies to her friends.

it was at that point i wished her good luck and left our coffee meeting.
and decided i'd never again offer to read the manuscript of someone i'd just met.


KarenG said...

Really?? Really?? She disregarded every single thing you said?? After you read all stinkin'750 pages??? And it's these people who give self-publishing a bad name. A very bad name. But YOUR story was awesome, and I was hanging on every word!

Sarah said...

Hi! Thank you so much for the comment on my blog -- I'm so glad you found it and took the time to comment.

Sometimes I really hate when other people find out I'm a writer and suddenly they want me to read or refer or try and give me industry advice that makes absolutely no sense. It can be very frustrating.

mi said...

kareng - yes, she was clearly someone who wanted her ego stroked. and to be honest, her pages were horribly formatted (and she used a very large font) so it was probably closer to 500 pages, but still!

sarah - i agree. i find it especially frustrating when they tell me how i can be a better writer (even though they haven't read my work) and they haven't written more than a to-do list in their adult life!

~Nicole Ducleroir~ said...

I can imagine your frustration with this person. It's awful trying to read through bad writing, and doubly hard when the writer isn't writing in their first language. Yikes. But more than that, her attitude that anyone can bang out a story when they need some cash is hard to swallow. That's rather insulting to those of us working hard everyday to improve our crafts, despite ridiculous odds working against us in the publishing world. Hats off to you for your integrity, for reading the MS in the first place, and for a hard lesson learned!

Have a fab day!

Dawn said...

Hey! Want to read my book?
Just kidding. I can honestly relate. Sounds like you learn from yours though - I tend to forget the last experience and enthusiastically offer to read the MS of new writers.

Johnny Rojo said...

Wow-- you didn't get it because you're not in the fashion industry? Did it occur to her that 99.99% of her potential readers were also not in the fashion industry, and presumably wouldn't "get it?"

Christine Fletcher said...

Ha! Johnny Rojo, that's a great point.

I like when folks come to book events and hog the Q&A period talking about their OWN writing. And then they don't even buy a book. :)

700 pages--mi, you're a helluva trouper. Too bad that woman didn't listen, she could have learned a lot.

mi said...

nicole - yeah, the whole "i'm just going to self-publish and sell it to my friends to make money" was really bad. and i'm sure if she did pressure her pals into buying a copy, after reading it they wouldn't stay friends with her long!

dawn - haha! i'm sure you have some pretty horrific stories as well, but i'm hoping you've been lucky and read mostly good manuscripts.

johnny - exactly! btw - congrats on your exam results!

christine - just, wow. do people really do that? they must be the same sort who are incapable of having conversations. the kind who just wait for you to finish talking so they can start running their mouths.
do you ever read other writer's manuscripts? i've heard before that published authors often shy away from this because they fear a lawsuit down the road, or that someone will claim they got their ideas from another writer's manuscript.
(don't worry, i'm not soliciting you to read mine, haha!)

Johnny Rojo said...

Thanks mi!

Sling said...

Maybe she should write a book about Parrots!

Creepy Query Girl said...

Oh god. Thanks for sharing this noteworthy piece of advice. I can't believe after the time and effort you put into reading her ms, she blew off your feedback. That would make me crazy.

Nishant said...

she was clearly someone who wanted her ego stroked.
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