Monday, May 24, 2010

The pay cheque of Damocles

I am in a strange kind of limbo.

I have, sort of, almost accepted an editing job referred by a friend.

On the plus side, it's a complete book, so a different sort of challenge for me (I have done one once before, but years ago), and perhaps just a smidgin of professional kudos. It's on a potentially interesting topic. And it's written by a native English speaker, so it shouldn't be nearly as awful as the Chinglish abominations I have to wrangle in my more regular work. I've negotiated a rate of pay which, assuming I can maintain a brisk-ish pace through the tome, should work out a little better, perhaps quite a lot better than I usually make here in China.

So much for the plus side. It's a vanity publishing project, so it's an undisciplined mess: four or five times as long as it ought to be, and lacking any kind of structure. The writing is utterly dreadful (not quite as bad as the Chinese 'academics' I edit for, but pretty nearly - the rate of progress I had optimistically envisaged is just not going to be possible). And I would be paid in US dollars, which given the slide in exchange rate over the past year, is not at all the good news it might once have been. The project is dauntingly HUGE. And they want it completed by..... next Friday.

It is just about humanly possible, if I devote every spare moment to it over the next 11 days, don't go out at all, make do with 4 hours' sleep a night, etc. But I need the money. It will drive me MAD. But I need the money. I like to turn things down if I feel I'm doing them just for the money. But, oh boy, do I need the money right now!

So, it comes down to the money. And the time. Given the time difference to the west coast of America, I figure I'm not going to get a final go-ahead from them until tomorrow morning (although I've already spent most of today working on it on spec, because there isn't any other way I could possibly get it finished in time); that doesn't matter too much, since I'm busy with other things most of tomorrow.

However, the guys I'm dealing with don't strike me as eminently reliable - or, at any rate, not as eminently well-organised - so, there is no way I'm going to put myself through any more of this misery until I receive a tracking confirmation that the money transfer is on its way. And if they dither too long about getting that done (such that I'm not able to begin work on it again tomorrow evening), well, then, I'm just not going to have enough time left to meet their ridiculous deadline, and I will be forced to pass on the project.

I am sort of hoping they will fail to make that payment promptly. I'm in for a wretched fortnight if I find myself committed to this.

I go to bed tonight with my fingers tightly crossed, muttering hastily improvised lazy-editor-work-dodging prayers....

If there's no more blogging until June 4th, you'll know that I've been punished for indulging in such fatuous superstition.


Tony said...

Can only wish you luck.
But I can tell you that one of my happiest memories is of my first boss, a pretentious idiot, warning me that the Sword of Damocockles was hanging over my head. I didn't have the courage to compliment him on using a quote from Cickickero.

Froog said...

Damn, oh, cockles!

I think we all know that feeling.

stuart said...

Good luck with that project, Froog.

June 4th is a good day for a blogging comeback, though.

Froog said...

Unfortunately, it's a very bad time to be surrendering your passport to the maw of the Entry & Exit Bureau for visa renewal. I am in a state of some nervous agitation.

The editing job abruptly went foop!. I may have talked my way out of it, by raising so many queries and objections about the approach they wanted. On the other hand, I am not entirely surprised, or disappointed: the guy who was setting it up (former flatmate of a friend of a friend) was a notorious sleazebag, and I was deeply suspicious that he would contrive some way to shaft me on the fee.

It was a HORRIBLE piece of work, too: no logical structure at all, not even any chapter divisions, just one long, meandering stream-of-consciousness; it read rather like the lectures notes of an obsessively eager but not-terribly-bright high-schooler.

You really shouldn't be handing something on to an editor until it's somewhere near finished. This was still a very, very, very rough and disorganised draft. Ridiculous!

I am well rid of it. But POOR.