The Genius

It started with a dead wasp.

Prince was ten minutes old when he walked into The Genius’s hotel room, rolled up his pages and killed her intruder. They sat down and she pulled out his pages.

“I have been looking forward to you,” she said. “This is some of the greatest world building I have seen in a decade.” She smiled at Prince and Artist had heard. He walked away sobbing in relief and Prince laughed.

“However, it is a mess. The entire thing needs to be rewritten. Your characters are great. I really liked all of them, but you have a point of view problem.”

Prince laughed. “Point of view?”

“Yeah, you are in omniscient and I can’t get close to any of your characters. I am not in them, so I don’t care as much about them. So, the immensely powerful things they are experiencing just flies right by me. You are showing me things, lots of great things. But none of them have any impact on me because they are not happening to me. You have some really great scenes in here that I want to care about but none of them hit me like they should.

“When Mandrake is rejected by his family, when he is told they want him to be executed just for being who he is, I ought to feel that in my gut. I want to know what is happening to his heart and how it is beating. I want to feel his rejection, his rage, his fear. All of it, but I get none of it. Liefdom is waiting for you to take it to the next level, but it is just not there yet.

“I am not offering to work with you, because you are not ready. You need to take this entire piece back to blank document and do all of it over again. It’s just too thin.” She smiled. “Now, I have said all the things I have to say. Now I get to say the things I want to say.

“I got fifteen pages. But this ends in the middle of a chapter and I need to know what happens next. Do you hear what I am saying? You have brought me to the point where I need to know. I need to know what happens to this character in this scene.

“I have a printer that I brought to this workshop. If you do not mind, I would like for you to print out the rest of the chapter and get it to me. I won’t work on it. I just want to read it.”

“Done,” Prince said.

“I love Gentry Mandrake. I really do. I need this character in my life. Fix this. Please don’t give up on it. But you have so much work to do. I hope you take this seriously. I want this book out in the world.”

The end of the workshop, and they have a nightclub in the hotel. We open the place and walk in before the bouncers get there. They don’t card me, which is good because I only have a sheet of paper with my information on it, remember? No card, no picture. But one of the editors has brought me, wanting to buy me a beer.

I get a Guinness and we find a little three-walled nook with a table, a couch, a chair, and a few other places to sit. All the editors are there, me, The Roller Derby Queen, and The Matron. I look at The Genius, who is sitting across from me, and I smile at her. “Thank you for all your encouragement.”

“You are a person who needs it. And deserves it. I want Gentry Mandrake protecting me,” she said. Then the music was turned up past the point of conversation.

I needed to piss, and when I came out of the bathroom the bouncers had shown up. They told me my sweat pants would not do. I needed pants with a belt if I wanted back in. I had jeans upstairs, but I had no photo ID, so I just went to my room for the night.

It’s two years later before I have Liefdom “ready” and want to send it out again, but I don’t know what to do with it. Cold submissions are almost impossible.

A cold submission is when you have not talked to the agent, the agent has not heard of you, and they did not ask for your work. All cold submissions go straight into what they call a Slush Pile with everyone else, and the agent has to try to sort through that mess. I read in an interview with a big-time agent that she got over two thousand cold submissions that year and she signed four. With a cold submission, your chances are almost nil. I didn’t know if I wanted to go that route, and I had been so encouraged by The Genius that I decided she might not mind giving me a bit of advice. I sent her an email.

Genius,

I don’t think you remember me, but I was at your workshop. I am the writer who brought the story about Gentry Mandrake, the warrior fairy.

Well, I have finished the rewrites on that book and I am wondering if you would give me some advice. I don’t know what to do with it now. Do I try the cold submission thing or should I try to find a freelance editor to work on it first? Any nudge you can give me would really help.

Hope you are well,

Jesse Teller

Prince went over the letter about six times. Bekah went over it four. She read it to him a few times, and with sweating, trembling hand we sent it.

The next day we got a reply.

Jesse,

Of course we remember you. Me and The Optimist and a few others have been wondering where you were and looking for you. It’s so great to hear that you have done the work to get Liefdom ready. I will give you advice, but I fear you will find it bias.

I would go with sending it to a freelance editor. I say that, but I am one, and I am afraid that makes me sound like I am trying to sell you something.

I offer a full story edit. The first one hundred pages line-edited. A ten-page paper on what I found in the book and my thoughts. And help with agents and publishers once the project is done.

My prices and services are more detailed on my webpage.

Think about it. Would love to work with you.

So great to hear from you!

I was so psyched! Prince blew up. He had not looked at Artist’s creation, but was all in for the after party. He was ready to take the steps needed to bring this book to a publisher. So he packaged the book, sent her all the money instead of half up front and half upon completion, and he waited.

Supposed to be a month. She got it back to us in five. She got a hold of us at three and said she hoped I understood that she had clients working under deadlines and she had to give them priority. But that was not it.

The fact was that Liefdom was such a god damn mess she needed to take breaks because her chopping arm was getting tired. Artist had given it a terrible rewrite, too proud of his work to ever imagine it would need anymore, he expected her to buff off the details. She was trying to bang out dents and make any sort of shape out of my disaster.

When we got it, she had bloodied it up so badly we were crushed. She said something encouraging after almost every chapter, but I am sure she had to search for those words of encouragement.

When I slapped the raw meat of my book on the desk, Artist sobbed. He started talking about her jealousy, and Prince slapped him. Artist started to talk about how she didn’t recognize genius work, and Prince slapped him. Prince read what had been sent to The Genius and he damn near vomited from embarrassment.

Can that be done? Can embarrassment make you vomit? I am not sure, but Prince said he got close. He didn’t know what to do about Artist. So he sat on it. Would not let Artist touch it until he had figured out a way to approach it.

He wanted to write an apology for sending her such a mess, but knew it would be unprofessional. So he kept his composure and he waited.

When we had our epiphany on the corner of KK and Logan, and we accepted that we were a bad writer, everything opened up for us.

It was three years before we got in touch with her again. This time we had written six other books. Had written over a million words and had Chaste ready for an editor.

She delivered on that too, but after a long delay beyond deadline. Again she chopped it up, but we knew it had problems. She said it had too many point of view characters. She said it had points of unbelievability and it was not ready yet. She suggested I cut my point of views down to three. Then she walked away.

Adam was in charge of everything at that point. He wrote the book with three points of view and lost way too much. It was just too thin. He needed more story and he went as far as four I think. When he was done, he asked her what her services meant when she said she would help the finished product get to agents and publishers.

She said it meant she would look at a query letter and synopsis and get it ready.

So I sent her one, and she edited it like the book, giving me the same advice. She did not comment on what I had sent. She said I still needed to cut down the point of view characters and she still didn’t want certain things in the book.

Good luck.

But every editor will tell you over and over again that their comments are suggestions. If you choose to go a different way, that is up to you.

I sent her Mestlven. She said she liked it and she cut it, but not as badly. She said a few helpful things and sent it back.

We still needed a full proofread. We still needed help with the agents and publishers, but we had pretty much given up on that.

The Genius had, in the time I knew her, become an agent. She was part of an agency and though she dealt with a different genre of book, she could have talked to her colleagues about me. She hadn’t.

That told me she was pretty much done with me. So I moved on. I haven’t talked to her since.

In the chopping and pounding she gave my work, she taught me how to do the job. She taught me how to write for consumption and how to tell a story in written fashion. It didn’t end up working out for me and The Genius, but it was never supposed to. She was never going to get me there. She could only guide me to her ideal of writing.

In the end, the path I needed to tread was my own. When I cut ties with The Genius, I decided I needed to find another way.

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