seawasp (seawasp) wrote,

First Gratitude Post of Year: Publishers/Editors

As part of 2009, I've decided to try and thank people who make a difference in my life and that of my family -- especially people who often may not get thanked for what they do.

In this case, it's my publisher/editors.

Authors often hear horror stories about editors; the process of "becoming a published author" is an arcane one to many people, and most of us who fortunately BECOME authors still started out as innocent readers without any idea of what really goes on -- just stories, often scarily funny ones of stories mangled by the publisher, of changes forced on an author, etc., making many new prospective authors fearful of That Moment when an Editor actually touches their work.

Well, I'm here to say that, thus far, EVERY interaction I've had with editors has been positive.

As most people here know, I found a rather... different route to the door of publication, by flaming Eric Flint in public on Usenet for his arrogance and wilful hack jobs on poor deceased authors. (We do not recommend any other prospective author attempt to emulate this approach -- just a warning). But it was just a door opening; I had to be ready to step through.

My first "Editorial Suggestion" experience was from Jim Baen himself (transmitted through Eric), wherein he (besides pointing out that the stories which became Digital Knight were too short -- at that time they were about 55-60,000 words total) mentioned that the transition of Verne Domingo from Druglord to Semi-Respectable Citizen needed something clearer and more defined. This was partly simply to make sure that the continuing character of Verne was no longer seen as being associated with that group, but also to help define what it was that made Verne and Jason go from allies-of-convenience to associates and eventually friends. This resulted of course in the section of _Digital Knight_ which was titled "Lawyers, Ghouls, and Mummies", and not only did this help define Jason and Verne's relationship, it also gave a glimpse of Verne's household, his people's personalities, what it might be like to be Verne, and introduced a few other characters of interest. As the first "bridge" section, it accomplished a great deal... and in the end also gave me what remains my absolute favorite scene in that novel.

Thank you, Jim. I wish I could have met you so I could have thanked you in person.

The next editorial experiences I had were from Eric himself, as a coauthor but also an editor of considerable experience and skill (something I'd come to grasp during the resolution of our debates RE the Schmitz and other author reissues). In _Boundary_, he was able to take what was "serviceable" material and made it, I think, damn good -- just by pointing out to me what wasn't quite working in it. These might be poor assumptions of how the world works (the original characters of Madeline and her boss, for instance, were much more Bad James Bond than semi-realistic), or my trying to cut story corners because I was trying to get to the end, or other bad habits of new authors. Eric can be a hardass when he conveys these things -- but he also always tries to make a point about what was GOOD, and why these issues are there to make what's good better, NOT to tear apart what you've done.

Yeah, sometimes it stings, at first, but by GOD it made Boundary a MUCH better story, and a much better book. Hopefully the same will be true of Threshold.

Thank you, Eric. It's always fun talking with you, and you never fail to have something new to tell me that, once I GRASP it, makes what I do a little bit better.

Most recently, I submitted the first draft of _Grand Central Arena_ to Toni; it came back with quite a list of things that she felt didn't quite work (and a final comment that had to be translated because for a moment it sounded like she was going Lit'ry on me!) but with the overall positive slant of "if you think you can do this, we'll take it".

Some of the comments and suggestions, at first, made me blink, or wince, or have a gut reaction to argue. But I didn't. And I thought about them. And virtually all of them, once I'd thought about it, were not merely good comments, but once I started FOLLOWING them I started seeing the story more clearly. Grand Central Arena remained the story I wanted to tell.... but now it was a BETTER VERSION of the story I wanted to tell. It was stronger. It had fewer weak spots where someone could kick at it and say "Now, WAAAAAIIIT a minute, that wouldn't work...". It had new scenes that made the whole universe a little more clear and a little more alive.

In short, it made my work better. And THAT is what editors are supposed to do.

Thank you, Toni. For seeing the Sensawunda I was trying to project, and showing me that it could be done -- by me! -- better than I was doing it.

So for anyone out there who reads these boards and has heard horror stories of editors... remember that most of them are there to HELP your writing. Not all of them are writers -- but all the good ones understand what makes writing WORK, and what they want to do with any suggestions or requests they make is to make your material better.
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