f a i t h * i n * f i c t i o n: Blink – Speed Dating…for Editors

f a i t h * i n * f i c t i o n

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Blink – Speed Dating…for Editors

In Blink, one of the interesting findings involves “speed dating.” Do you know what this is? Essentially, singles get together and, in an organized fashion, spend 6 minutes talking to each member of the opposite gender. You rank everyone you meet, they rate you, and if you’re compatible the organizers will let you know.

What some psychologists found is that a person’s parameters for what they want in a date change when involved in speed dating.

For instance, a woman may say at the outset that she’s most interested in meeting someone smart, honorable, and successful. The men she ranks highest during her 6-minute dates, however, turn out to be funny, self-deprecating, and charming.

Because of this, the next day, asked what she wants in a date, she’s more likely to say, “funny, self-deprecating, and charming.” A week or two later, though, she’s back at smart, honorable, and successful.

This doesn’t mean the woman doesn’t know what she wants. Instead, it means that her parameters shift when forced to evaluate someone in a brief time. Funny translates well to 6 minutes. Honorable, not so much.

If you asked any editor to describe their ideal book, you’d get a variety of answers. I’ve spent over a year partially talking about what I’m looking for in a book. The fact is, that I’ve not yet acquired that ideal book. And yet I’ve acquired books I’ve been thrilled with.

The reason isn’t that I’m looking for the wrong thing. The reason is because when faced with actual manuscripts, my response isn’t based on whether a book is hitting each ideal point I’ve set up. Instead, I look at whether a book is working at some very fundamental levels. Is it unique? Does the writing flow? Is it a story that fits our publisher?

I think each editor has one major parameter on which a book must work.

For me (and I’m thinking of the books I’ve signed), I think that parameter is voice. The writing is strong, but it’s also strong in a way that creates, in my mind, a distinct and engaging voice. This can be first-person, third-person, whatever. But it’s like the difference between hearing something in mono, stereo, and dolby stereo. Everything is richer and more vibrant. That is the experience of reading I treasure and books that offer that to me are ones that gain my instant attention.