Milo Yiannopolous and Editors’ Comments

Last February, when Milo Yiannopolous was self-destructing, I wrote this:

I understand he used inflammatory language and controversial behaviour to get people to listen to him, but once he had the world’s attention it was time to take it down a notch and start portraying himself as a serious, mature individual who beneath the act is really worth listening to. Instead he stuck with the jokes about sucking black dicks, “feminism is cancer” remarks, calling Trump “Daddy”, and others, all of which were crucial parts of his early “game” of getting attention but made him look as though he was never going to be serious about anything and was purely a professional attention-seeker.

Shortly after this episode, the publishers Simon & Schuster cancelled his book deal, for which he’d been paid an $80k advance (Milo claimed at the time it was $250k). Milo took umbrage at this and sued Simon & Schuster claiming $10m in damages. As a result of this lawsuit, the first draft of Milo’s book Dangerous is now publicly available on the New York state courts’ website, complete with editor’s comments. It can be downloaded from here in .pdf and boy does it make for some grim reading.

Firstly, it is obvious that Milo had no intention of toning down the infantile jokes. Sure, they’re funny once or twice when he says them in front of an audience who didn’t know what to expect, but they quickly got tiresome and the book is full of them. What makes it worse is this brand of humour doesn’t translate into print well.

P.J. O’Rourke once wrote an article called “How to Drive Fast on Drugs While Getting Your Wing-Wang Squeezed and Not Spill Your Drink”. It was snortingly funny and got him a lot of attention, but he never used a title like that again (or made many sexual jokes) because it’s only really funny once. Milo hasn’t worked this out, and nor is he anywhere near as clever and funny as P.J. O’Rourke. Consider this for example:

And compare it to this from O’Rourke:

The French are a smallish, monkey-looking bunch and not dressed any better, on average, than the citizens of Baltimore. True, you can sit outside in Paris and drink little cups of coffee, but why this is more stylish than sitting inside and drinking large glasses of whisky I don’t know.

O’Rourke had the extremely rare skill of being able to apply off-hand humour while still making serious points. Milo, as we can see, simply isn’t gifted enough to do this.

The other thing that doesn’t translate well to print is Milo’s ego. Self-aggrandising comments work well enough verbally, but they really grate in the written form.

Unless the author is writing as an obvious alter-ego and staying in character, self-depreciation is far more effective and amusing than self-aggrandisement.

This might not matter so much were Milo capable of making the serious points well. Sadly, it seems he isn’t:

This one is especially scathing:

While some people are showing sympathy for the editor who had to go through this mess, many are asking what Simon & Schuster expected. Milo’s fans would say that Milo has simply written what would be expected of Milo, which is undoubtedly true. I suspect what happened was Simon & Schuster thought they could cash in on the Milo phenomenon and were perhaps persuaded by his articulate and consistent verbal arguments, without realising he can’t write for toffee. And I think that’s the problem here: Milo simply can’t write, or if he can, he decided not to apply his skills here. There are rumours that it might have been ghost written, which doesn’t say much for the ghost. Even for a first draft, this is poor and it’s not surprising Simon & Schuster are using it in defence of their cancelling the contract. Whether they are successful or not remains to be seen; if they’re not, I can’t see anyone having much sympathy for them.

I found all this particularly interesting because the story came about as I was implementing my editor’s comments on my own book. Thankfully I received very few comments of the nature of those above, although this might be because I was paying him. If he’d shovelled eighty grand in my direction in advance of the manuscript, he might have been a little less forgiving. But another reason could be that I didn’t send a first draft to my editor, he got the third draft after I’d gone through it twice removing anything I thought was superfluous. I actually read every line out loud, as if I were on a stage. It’s a good way of seeing how the text flows and if a joke falls flat.

I must thank my readers for helping me with this. When I posted an excerpt of the first draft a lot of people jumped in and told me, quite bluntly, that it was overwritten shite and I should lose at least 50% of it. Someone patiently explained I should write the scene rather than describe it word for word, and introduced to me the concept of being efficient with words. Then Adam Piggott rang me up on Skype and told me it was sub-Dan Brown garbage and if it went to an editor like that he’d be robbing me blind. None of this was particularly easy to take but, armed with a much more critical eye, I was able to make major improvements for the second draft. I was determined that whatever I sent to the editor would not have his eyes rolling, and that he’d at least see I’d made the effort to get the manuscript as good as I could on my own. This is why I didn’t have any problem accepting the editor’s comments. I’d already taken the beating after the first draft; his comments were extremely benign by comparison.

If Milo had run his stuff by someone first, he might not have saved his contract but he’d at least have avoided the humiliation of having editor’s comments like these plastered all over newspapers. He eventually self-published his book, but it didn’t do very well. Writing, it appears, is difficult and requires a lot of effort. Who knew?


27 thoughts on “Milo Yiannopolous and Editors’ Comments

  1. I would have to agree with those who say that Milo has simply written what would be expected of Milo and S&S can’t weasel out of the contract on that account. It’s a bit Capt Renault of them to be shocked, shocked that Milo’s book is full of campy references to gay sex and tasteless jokes.

  2. What’s the current sales figures? The Grauniad article is only a week or so after the launch and the book was released in other markets later, for whatever reason.

    The finished book had a lot less of the juvenile stuff in it, so an editor got their way, it would seem.

    I don’t think Milo’s business model is really going to rise or fall on his writing talents. He was doing good business with the VIP meet and greet tickets at the Sydney gig I attended (out of curiosity).

    I will say this though; about half an hour in I suddenly remembered a quote from (I think) Harry Seacombe about entertaining troops during WW2; something along the lines of “you can stand in front of 2,000 soldiers and say ‘arsehole’ and get a big laugh. It doesn’t make it funny though”.

    Standing up on stage in Australia in front of 2,000 red meat non-lefties and saying “Clementine Ford is a fat ugly feminist” is Milo’s equivalent.

  3. I think his book has done pretty well – it’s sitting at the 2500 rank on Amazon which is huge for a self published book. It’s big for any book, and with over 2000 reviews there is no doubt that it has done very well.

    But I agree with every point that you have made concerning Milo and his book. Milo is the ultimate hysterical hypocrite. How he can take a stand against gay marriage whilst being married to a man is beyond me.

    As regards to your editor’s comments and the work that he did for you, you got your money’s worth due to the extra work that you put in before you sent it to him, and I am very happy to hear it. The sad state of any first time writer is that he is inevitably seeking some form of validation when he sends off that miserable first draft. I am glad to see that you avoided that trap.

    Still, Milo’s book, as worthless as it undoubtedly is, cannot be described in any other fashion than a big success. The world is not just; it is full of randomness.

  4. Writing is just putting your thoughts onto paper or in Word – if Milo can’t write, that means he can’t think coherently either.

    Editing must be most difficult part of writing process, strangers hacking away at your work that you think is pretty good as is. Necessary part of book development but I imagine author has to put ego to one side and trust their editor, which would be difficult to do for many of us.

  5. I stand corrected on the success of Milo’s book. I’m glad he’s at least got a proper editor to go through it before self-publishing.

  6. Your ego isn’t as large as your ability, so you are prepared to accept criticism which is not motivated by malice. This is rare, but invaluable.👍😄

  7. Milo and P.J. O’Rourke are not really operating in the same field.

    Having said that, people who share certain perspectives with P.J. O’Rourke should be especially glad they have had such an eloquent spokesperson to communicate their views for them.

    Should people who share certain perspectives with Milo be glad of the way he has become their spokesperson-cum-showman and, in the media, the face of their views?

  8. I like the boy Milo but any publishers who expected anything other than a carelessly tossed-off work full of bumsex jokes was a fucking idiot and deserved to to be fleeced.

  9. Out of interest, isn’t the defense / court in breach of copyright publishing the draft? It’s not theirs to publish as they refused to pay for it, and presumably Milo still owns the copyright of it if he’s subsequently self published an edited version.

  10. I suspect the normally pretty straight-laced Mr Ears and the racier MC to be close to Milo’s editorial team. How else to explain (and I blush) references that include “cum-showman” and “tossed off”?

  11. With all due respect, I don’t think you understand Milo’s brand.

    I think I do, only it’s more that I’d thought it would have become something else. When he first burst onto the scene I was impressed with his ability to counter points verbally while thinking very quickly on his feet, and I thought if he ever got the chance to do this on a bigger stage he had a bright future ahead of him. With such an opportunity beckoning (he was making headlines at one point) I thought he’d dial down the silly jokes and use his intellect to ram home the many points he makes which nobody else wants to discuss. But for whatever reason he didn’t, and chose instead to remain a troll who, although he has a decent and loyal following, barely gets mentioned any more outside the alt-right newsfeeds. Now I’ve seen his book, I’m wondering if such a switch was beyond him.

  12. Out of interest, isn’t the defense / court in breach of copyright publishing the draft? It’s not theirs to publish as they refused to pay for it, and presumably Milo still owns the copyright of it if he’s subsequently self published an edited version.

    No, I think S&S own the rights to the manuscript unless Milo returns the $80k advance. There’s a court document to that effect somewhere.

  13. I like the boy Milo but any publishers who expected anything other than a carelessly tossed-off work full of bumsex jokes was a fucking idiot and deserved to to be fleeced.

    It’s looking that way, isn’t it? Shame, because Milo is a smart guy and ought to be more than a troll making bumsex jokes.

  14. “There are rumours that it might have been ghost written, which doesn’t say much for the ghost. ”

    It was in large part ghosted. As has been much of Milo’s stuff. He is the brand, not the writer.

    One thing that the UK press/journalistic cabal is very, very good at is spotting people who have real writing talent. That proper “Good God, why can’t I do that?” stuff.

    AA Gill, Giles Coren (his sister as well), Julie Birchill, Bernard Levin back in the day, Owen Jones today and to some extent Laurie Penny. Forget the views and the bandwagons being climbed aboard. They really do have that ability to put words in interesting orders.

    Milo was around in London for some time. He wasn’t spotted. He had all the right contacts, under Damian Thompson’s wing (amusingly told just recently). Ergo……

    I would and do say exactly the same about myself. I’ve been doing this for a decade, I’ve not got that ability. I might still work out as a jobbing hack, might get hired to stir up the snowflakes occasionally. But I’m not being hired for the gorgeousness of my prose.

    Nor is Milo.

  15. and to some extent Laurie Penny

    I’ll agree with you about Penny. For all my knocking her, she can turn a phrase when she wants to. That said, she does some truly torturous analogies.

  16. TMB

    Well observed though I wrote it because I thought it was funny and couldn’t resist rather than anything more sophisticated!

  17. Tim N

    “When he first burst onto the scene I was impressed …”

    His original incarnations from his earliest appearances were really quite unimpressive, though one could tell he was a controversialist at heart.

    I have a feeling he was involved in student journalism so some people may have seem him coming (hehe) earlier, but as a fresh graduate “tech journalist” he was mischievous, uninformative and far too full of himself. I thought he’d go away pretty quickly – waste of column space – but he kept going at it for a surprisingly long time until the big reinvention.

  18. @Tim Worstall
    I used to read Giles Coren in the Times, I never thought that he was that great – I can’t remember any of it now and would say you and Tim Newman are as good as him if not better.
    I would say Raheem Kassam is pretty good and really liked his recent book.
    I used to really like Scott of the Daily Abolution.

  19. Raheem’s an absolute horror. Should be shot. He was thinking about offering me some work then didn’t come through with it.

    Shoot him!

  20. I used to really like Scott of the Daily Abolution.

    Yes, he was excellent. A damned shame he stopped blogging.

  21. Glad you could take the feedback. I thought your first draft was gently handled, but then again you should see how I comment on work papers. Some of my stuff is published but not going to say where as it’s generally paragraphs or pages in bigger things. I look at some of it in hindsight and cringe. Your blog is a great stopping point for arguments written quickly yet crafted well. That is a skill that few possess.

    As for Milo, he has been getting feedback constantly but more of the burning tyres and smashing windows kind that indirectly encouraged him to be offensive. I thought he had gone to ground so am pleased to see he is still out there but am also not surprised to see that the offence takers have moved on to new targets. I feel that shows they are not serious and are just attacking high profile targets rather. I stand to be proved wrong though.

  22. “Out of interest, isn’t the defense / court in breach of copyright publishing the draft?”
    In the USA this comes under the ‘Fair Use’ doctrine, and copyright doesn’t apply.

  23. @Tim Worstall
    The fact that he did not or did give you work doesn’t make him a bad writer.

  24. I thought he’d dial down the silly jokes and use his intellect to ram home the many points he makes which nobody else wants to discuss.

    That’s what I mean by not understanding his brand. Milo doesn’t want to be another Ben Shapiro. He wants to be another Alinsky, and he’s pulling it off.

    Milo’s real problem is that he’s a provocateur, and the left has started to realize that giving him oxygen makes them look worse. The fascist left in the US has settled down a fair bit. Whether that’s because they’re being ordered to or because they’ve run out of steam depends on how much you believe Soros conspiracy theories.

    Personally, I think it’s the weather. People don’t riot when it’s cold out.

  25. Further to TimW’s comment: I wholeheartedly agree with the inclusion of Giles Coren. He writes fantastically and regularly makes me weep with envy.

    Laurie Penny, though? I’ve never had the same feeling about- and it’s not just the content. She’s never turned a particularly memorable phrase, nor drawn me in to a piece she’s written.

    That just leaves her thoughts to be digested, and as TimN regularly points out: there’s not much to those.

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