Many “how-to” tomes advise us that the days of the great writer-editor collaborations are over. No longer, are we told, can publishing houses afford the luxury of nurturing talent, as Maxwell Perkins did with Hemmingway and Fitzgerald. It’s too risky an investment. After all, helping new voices grow and evolve through an intensive editorial process is a hands-on job. It means moving past a superficial business relationship to forge a creative rapport—the old-model editor is part instructor, part father-confessor and part psychiatrist. And it takes time: these editors know that the talent they are helping to shape may not reach its zenith with the first or even the second book. It means sticking with an author’s career for a period to help them navigate the twin obstacles of immaturity and public obscurity. It’s a long-term strategy that banks on reaping even bigger rewards in the future—not the most popular point of view in today’s instant gratification, risk-adverse economy. No, we are told, if that enlightened philosophy ever did exist, it has gone the way of the dodo bird. The modern mantra is this: our manuscripts must be publication-ready upon submission—especially if we are first-time authors.Read More...
Posts in the "Trusted Collaborator or Annoying Schoolmarm?" Category
Long before I ever worked with editors, I had a fascination with them. My idea of editors came mostly from fictional portrayals of newspaper editors, who were always shown as fast-talking, gruff, but ultimately lovable Perry White types. As a young aspiring writer, I dreamed of someday having an editor like that – somebody who trusted me enough to bark assignments at me, and who would sneer at (but secretly approve) my naïve idealism and my adorable attempts to inject a little poetry into my work. He’d be my own personal J. Jonah Jameson, a snarling, cigar-chomping softie at heart, who would sooner die than admit I was his favorite writer. But I would know.Oh yes, I would know.My first experience with a real editor was when I started doing freelance movie reviews for a small daily paper in Oregon. Before that, the only money I’d ever made from my writing was for winning a short-story contest as a teenager. Now I was in my 20s, and starting to wonder what the hell I was doing with my life.I knew I loved movies, and I knew I didn’t like the local paper’s boring film critic, so one day I decided to submit a few reviews of my own. I didn’t really expect them to be published, but that Friday I was shocked to see one of my reviews in the weekend arts section.Holy f*****g s**t! My big break!Soon I became the paper’s go-to Features reporter, writing not only about movies, but also plays, concerts, cabarets, festivals, and any other local events. This led to a second gig doing on-air arts commentary for the local public radio station. The pay for all this was peanuts, or zip, but my girlfriend and I got free tickets to everything, so we figured it was a fair trade.Read More...
My pal Scott Phillips was writing a horror tie-in novel for a company that shall remain nameless, and had turned in a draft to be edited. Now the thing you have to know about Scott, is that he writes with a kind of lyrical redneck poetry. It’s his trademark. He was therefore somewhat surprised by some of the changes that came back. For instance, in the course of a gun fight scene he had written the line:
“He pumped him full of double-aught buck.”
Nice, right? Has a little crunch and zing to it. The sentence actually kinda sounds like a shotgun blast. In the edit, this was changed to:
“He shot him.”
Right, on with the blog! (more…)Read More...
It’s a good idea for anyone who thinks they want to be a professional fiction writer to learn the ins and outs of the business from different angles. Reading slush, selling books at a bookstore, and working as an editor — even for a short while — all give you a better perspective. Seeing behind the curtain will let you know what to expect from others as well as what is expected of you. That’s why a number of us have been editors. I’m not cut out to be an editor, but that two years (the first year was spent reading slush) was definitely not wasted.
My husband says I don’t do rough drafts. (I disagree, of course.) But to be honest, I really do edit the living snot out of my work before anyone sees it. I pass things through my husband and a couple of beta readers after him. Then my agent sees it. I came out of the workshop school, and I like feedback because it’s been proven to me over and over again that my perspective of my own work isn’t always so good. (Sometimes I’m my own worst enemy.) If you ask me, every author needs at least a second set of eyes to go over their work. For that reason, a great editor is a priceless treasure. They’re what a conductor is to a symphony performance. They know when to dampen something down and when to punch it up. (The crazy thing is, they make it look so effortless.) Working with a great editor means seeing how your work can POP and being amazed. At the same time, working with a bad editor is a total nightmare. At best it becomes an ego battle. At worst they can destroy your manuscript. The trouble is, you won’t really understand the difference until you’ve experienced both.
A good copy editor is a whole other animal and every bit as vital — particularly in my case. Copy editors are the ones who check your grammar and punctuation and make your work conform to the publisher’s standards. (There are certain details that some publishers handle differently than others.) They’re to make sure your meaning is clear to the reader. They also check for inconsistencies in continuity. (Sometimes that’s a different person — sometimes it’s the same.) I’ve learned a lot from my copy editors so far, but I’ve been lucky. I’ve had two good ones, but I’ve heard horror stories about more than one set of STET wars from authors with more experience.
In neither case is an editor there to re-write the story how they would tell it themselves. It’s important to be able to discern the distinction between someone trampling over the work versus someone who is perfecting it. That’s one of an author’s toughest jobs — knowing when to let go and trust, and when to take a stand.Read More...
Of all the editors I have worked with, I love them all equally, and appreciate them all equally.
It was an editor, Phil Athans, that discovered my work in a slush pile, and went through seven meticulous rounds of revisions to polish my first novel, LAST DRAGON, for publication, and with whom I continue to work on the shared world project TALES FROM THE FATHOMLESS ABYSS available wherever fine eBooks are sold, including work by Mel Odom, Cat Rambo, Mike Resnick, and Jay Lake. He wrote a recommendation for me to get into graduate school. I consider him one of the wisest, calmest, and most valuable people I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting in the business. I worked with Jason Sizemore of Apex Publications on the reprint of LAST DRAGON, as well as the short story collection that’s coming out next month called DISINTEGRATION VISIONS. I consider Jason one of the wisest, calmest, and most valuable people I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting in the business. Working with Jason, I also had editorial help from Janet Harriet who provided a necessary second set of eyes on the reprint of the stories. I consider her to be one of the wisest, calmest, and most valuable people I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting in the business. When NEVER KNEW ANOTHER was running behind schedule, I worked with Juliet Ulman, who should have won a Hugo for the epic, two-and-a-half week editorial cram session that happened. I consider her to be one of the wisest, calmest, and most valuable people I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting in the business. With WHEN WE WERE EXECUTIONERS, Ross Lockheart handled the editorial efforts, and I believe the book came to his desk with only eight or nine quirks to adjust, and he was wise and calm enough to see that a heavy edit was not necessary, and I consider him one of the most valuable people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting in the business.Read More...
I’m a published author. I’ve also been a copy/line editor of published novels for a house I do not write for (very different books from what I write, or I wouldn’t do it).
I’ve also gone both ways in journalism. I’ve been a reporter (though not for very long because I hated it) who had to work with editors, and I’ve been a copy editor who had to work with reporters.
I’ve been on both sides of the desk.
So I know the rewards of each job — and I know the down side of each. So I thought I’d put together a couple of wish lists: What writers want and need from editors, and what editors want and need from writers.
Now, I’m speaking from years of experience, and not picking on anyone in particular. So please, if I’ve worked with you, this isn’t a vendetta of any kind. When talking writers, I mean novelists. When I’m talking editors, I mean line/copy editors.
HEY, EDITORS! This is what authors want you to know:
1) Remember, it is ultimately NOT your book.Read More...
2) Your responsibility is to improve the book while preserving the integrity and voice of the author who wrote it. Your job isn’t to rewrite the book the way you’d have written it if you were the author. You’re not the author. Your job is to take the author’s book and make it sing just a little bit louder and prettier than it already does.
Apologies in advance for what will be a short post. I really don’t have much to contribute to this thread, simply because I’ve only had one thing commercially published – my novel FAITH, published on January 3, the date of my first Night Bazaar post – and so I’ve only had one set of dealings with one editor, Jeremy Lassen. It was unexpectedly painless, but more of that later.
Going back a stage, I should mention the edits suggested by my agent, Jason Yarn of Paradigm. They were very perceptive, and tightened the book while leaving most of it intact. Maybe Jason’s feel for what FAITH was about explains my (so far) only interaction with an editor.
Jason had always been at pains to warn me about the editorial battles I’d have when (he always said When, not If) a publisher took my book. The edits a publisher would demand, he said, would make his edits look like the mere dabbings of a powder-puff. I was conscious that FAITH was already of more-than-average length, and that I was a totally unknown debut novelist. So when Nightshade came in, I mentally girded my loins and made ready to hear something like the remark used above as the title of this post (it’s attributed to Ambrose Bierce).
And then the unexpected happened. I got a short note from Jeremy Lassen, via Jason. It began “Not much to cut here”, and went on to outline, in only two or three paragraphs, suggestions for enhancing the book in some very specific ways. His Editorial Letter, when I finally got it after a period of some anxiety, did no more and no less than his original note had said it would. Some of his suggestions actually involved additions, not deletions. All of them made perfect sense. The net effect was that FAITH was only about 500 words shorter.
I’ve already thanked Jason and Jeremy privately, and I’m glad to repeat it publicly.Read More...
The first thing I must say about editing is that I have worked as an editor and copyeditor myself. I am accustomed to cutting out flab, reorganizing information into coherent strings , switching out “which” and “that,” and moving commas. When it comes to commas, every company I have ever worked for used the Chicago Manual of Style. The guidelines therein have soaked through me and into my bones, so that when my victims argue against corrections I can respond with, “Chicago Manual 5.30 . . . Chicago Manual 5.33 . . .” holding up that icon of perfect consistency as proof of my goodwill.
But that is not to say I enforce my preferences on everyone. I recommend the Chicago Manual to those who are struggling with punctuation and cannot get a grip on how to use it effectively. But it is the Manual of Style. It is not a rule book. Nothing is more tiresome than people on the internet telling each other what the “rules” are. One does not have to put a comma when a sentence has two different subjects , for example – but once one has chosen to do so, one should do so always. That is the only rule.
And so it happened that when I turned The Emperor’s Knife over to Jo Fletcher Books I knew that a different style may be applied, and it was. I had taken great pride in my perfect punctuation, but it was all wrong, terribly wrong – completely at odds with all acceptable forms of human communication. (more…)Read More...
Enter the Bazaar…Welcome to the Night Bazaar, a group blog for science fiction, fantasy, and horror authors with books releasing from Night Shade Books in 2012. Check in daily as we discuss topics related to the writing life, and join in the celebration for our book releases!
Night Bazaar Daily ScheduleMonday - Betsy Dornbusch, author of Exile
Tuesday - Walter Greatshell, Author of Terminal Island
Wednesday - Michael Martinez (starting Feb 6), Author of Daedalus Incident
Thursday - Zachary Jernigan, author of No Return
Friday - Mark Teppo, author of Earth Thirst
Saturday - Richard Lee Byers, author of Blind God's Bluff
Sunday - Member News/Guest
Upcoming TopicsJan 14 -20:
Sexism and misogyny and harassment within the genre community
How soon before racefail2013 happens?
The Relationship between writer and reviewer
Let's talk about sex, baby. What was your sf/fantasy "Judy Blume" moment. what are your first memories of genre fiction that had the "naughty stuff" in one way or another?
Feb 18 - 24:
Memorable roles or representations of organized religion in Genre fiction
Feb 24 - March 3:
After talking about sex and religion, lets Go for Politics.What was the first time you where conscious of political thought or ideology in a piece of genre fiction? SF and fantasy plays host to ALL political stripes. What bit of politics did you first notice in genre fiction, and why?
Guests in the BazaarMarch 17: Ross Lockhart March 10: David Malki! Feb 18: Terri Windling & Ellen Datlow Feb 11: Kameron Hurley Feb 4: Michael Dempsey Jan 21: Allison Moon Jan 14: Myke Cole Dec 18 & 25: Martha Wells Dec 11: Howard Andrew Jones Dec 4: Aliette de Bodard Nov 27: Adam Christopher Nov 20: Genevieve Valentine Nov 13: Rob Ziegler Nov 6: Martha Wells Oct 30: Ian Tregillis Oct 23: Mazarkis Williams Oct 16: Erin Hoffman Oct 9: Michael Dempsey Oct 2: Douglas Hulick Sep 25: Martha Wells Sep 18: T.C. McCarthy Sep 11: Daniel Polansky Sep 4: Mark Lawrence Aug 28: Jonathan Wood Aug 14: J.M. McDermott Aug 7: Martha Wells Jul 31: Alex Bledsoe Jul 24: Chris Moriarty Jul 17: Martha Wells Jul 10: Liane Merciel Jul 3: Teresa Frohock Jun 26: Ari Marmell Jun 19: Kendare Blake Jun 12: Jody Lynn Nye Jun 5: Martha Wells May 29: Jane Fancher May 22: Gregory A. Wilson May 15: Benjamin Tate/Joshua Palmatier May 8: C. J. Cherryh May 1: Martha Wells Apr 24: Will McIntosh Apr 17: Peter Orullian Apr 10: Barbara Hambly Apr 3: Paul Genesse Mar 27: Teresa Frohock Mar 20: Anton Strout Mar 13: Martha Wells Mar 6: Chris Roberson Feb 27: Kevin Hearne Feb 20: Lisa Brackmann Feb 13: Martha Wells Feb 6: Laura Bickle/Alayna Williams Jan 30: Martha Wells Jan 23: Carol Berg Jan 16: Martha Wells Jan 9: Martha Wells
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