Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Cheese and the Lactose Intolerant Editor

When I was younger (much, much younger) I drank milk like a baby calf. (This is to say that I drank a lot of milk, not that I stuck my head under a cow's belly and pretended it was rush week at the tri-Delt's favorite tap.) When I was pregnant with my second child, however, dairy became my enemy. I became lactose intolerant. And I still am, as is Ellerie, the child who made me thus.

But I am an undisciplined sort of gal and dairy is freaking everywhere. Have you ever tried to make a decent casserole without cheese, milk, or cream-of-something soup? Have you given up ice cream, yogurt, and Culver's Chocolate Malts?

Me neither. At least not for long stretches at a time. But I am reminded today, after consuming a lunch of leftover tuna casserole (can you really call Velveeta cheese?--but oh, there was that cream of celery soup in it, too....) and topping it off with one Lactaid pill and an ice cream sandwich (okay, so it wasn't exactly a healthy meal. Sue me. I'm writing today and in a hurry to get back to a story!) I am reminded that cutting out dairy from my diet is so I don't have to cut the proverbial cheese quite so frequently.

Nothing like a little discussion of the bodily functions of the lactose intolerant to brighten up your day, eh?

Anyway.... So as I sit at my desk, my gut expanding with leaden bubbles, my innards gurgling, and my brain screaming, "You idiot!" I am reminded that there is, quite possibly, a lot of cheese biding its time within both my works in progress and my finished novels. It's the sort of purple prose and misdirected metaphor that fills the body of the work with air and lets off a sort of aroma which makes a publisher wary. And, one way or another, that useless gas has to come out. It's a metaphor turned upside down, because in the way of the editorial scalpel, you must cut the cheese to avoid making the book stink.

Aside from the soupy Harlequin-type romances (poor girl meets rich boy, overcomes obstacles and his mamma in order to marry rich boy and live happily ever after) I think professional editors are largely lactose intolerant. They want the good stuff, the clear, dairy-free writing that doesn't leave a film on your throat or a sick feeling in your stomach. They want to be filled with excessively digestible prose and tasty morsels which do not sour in the sun.

So that is the goal for the day: to cut the cheese.

I'll understand if you keep your distance.


S. R. Van Ness said...

So now I remember that the preceding post was entitled, "What is that smell?" Hmm. I wonder how many people will be scared away????

S. R. Van Ness said...

Okay, it appears my attempt at comic metaphor struck a couple of people as tasteless. sorry 'bout that.

Tracy Krauss said...

Brilliant! Your pain and discomfort led to this eloquent post, so it was worth it, right?

S. R. Van Ness said...

Not sure I'd call it "eloquent"--but thanks, Tracy!