Thursday, December 18, 2008

Guest blogger Courtney Summers on building a working relationship with your editor.

Thinking up topics for guestblogs is hard. Especially when you insist on tying everything back to Jeff Probst*. Anyway, you know who is awesome? ~*Colleen*~. Because she suggested the topic for this one just out of the blue and I was like YESSS on the inside because she saved me at least thirty hours of mulling... though it did take me like, a bajillion hours to to type this. I'm always so fashionably late with these guestblogs, you guys. It's a fashionable crime. But enough of that! Gather round, Swiveteers, for today we are going to talk about building a working relationship with your editor.

The day my agent called to tell me St. Martin's made an offer on Cracked Up to Be isn't one I'll soon forget. One of the most vivid parts of that exciting memory is when Amy started telling me about the person behind the offer--"Her name is Sara..."--and a little voice inside me went, Sara could be your editor. Editor! That's a big, six letter word for a writer. Until that day, I'd only ever read about people who had editors and now I was going to become a person who had one.


My brain snapped. I was as nervous as I was excited (extremely so) and I wanted to make sure Sara's belief in me and my novel--and as Lou Anders pointed out, that's truly where the editor/author relationship begins--was well placed.

Building a working relationship with your editor takes time and effort. The year I've spent working with mine on Cracked Up to Be has been an incredibly rewarding experience and I've had--and continue to have--a totally awesome time being her author.

Each author/editor relationship is unique. Sometimes they can be the stuff of nightmares, sometimes they can be the stuff of Disney fairytales, but here is a fact: getting a book ready for publication is hard work for everyone involved. Here is another fact: having a functional relationship with your editor definitely makes it way less hard. It makes it fun! Awesome, even!

Now, I don't know if I'll ever feel totally qualified to give advice on uhm, anything, but if you're in the process of building a relationship with your editor--or you want to be prepared for when that time comes (and it will!)--I humbly share with you these tips based on my experiences and hope they help you with your own.

~*Trust is the foundation of any relationship.*~

The first thing to remember is your editor wants what you want: for your book to be the BEST it can be. They might have different ideas than you do for how to go about doing that--ideas you've never even considered, have maybe considered, or ideas you might not want to consider--but unless your editor is Corinne from this past season of Survivor (can you believe what she said to Sugar at the final Tribal Council?! MEAN!), these ideas do not come from a malicious place, I promise.

The next is that you have a voice. Don't be afraid to use it--your editor wants to hear it. One of my earliest worries after I accepted the offer from SMP and before I talked to my editor for the first time was that I wouldn't have the freedom to say 'no' to anything, lest I become labeled a Problem Author Nobody Ever Wanted to Work with Again. So I prepared to say yes. To everything. Seriously, I was one trip away from the hair dye aisle to being hottest Stepford Author on THE BLOCK, y'all.

... And what a boring and uninspired experience that would've been, if my editor had let me get away with it. Which she didn't. Because she's a rockstar.

See, the lovely thing about writing is all the possibility words hold and it's all that possibility that has me writing in the first place. There can be so many different paths to get to one resolution and your editor wants to explore as many as they can with you until you find the perfect one for your story. So don't be afraid to be engaged. The editorial process, while intimidating, is a dialogue--a back-and-forth--and not to get all Cosmo on you guys, but Communication is Key. Talk it out.

(On the flipside, while you do have a voice--please don't yell at your editor with it. And please remember all the possibilities of words when you are convinced not one of yours can be changed. Tip number whatever this one is: never go into the editorial process believing you won't be edited. Nobody's that good. Not even Jeff Probst. And he's amazing.)

I shouldn't even have to say this one, but: editors are people. Offer them the same courtesies--both professional and personal--that you expect to be extended to you.

And finally, the most important advice I can give you: listen. The fabulous(ly sexy) Alan Rickman once said something fabulous(ly sexy). He said, "All I want to see from an actor, to me, is the intensity and accuracy of their listening."

Sexyface was obviously talking about acting and how much of an actor's response is defined by how well they listen to their fellow actors. The believability of their response, the room to experiment, to interpret, to make a character and a scene really ~*sparkle*~ alive depended entirely on how well they were listening. This is so relevant to the editor/author relationship, it makes Alan Rickman even more sexy than he already is (Oh, Alan! Marry me! But don't tell Jeff!). So listen. Listen to your editor because, as my dear Alan goes on to say, you can then, "work on it and shape it and talk about it."

And really, ain't that what building a working relationship with your editor is all about?

And the answer to that question is 'yes', just in case I didn't write this good... Sara dosn't edit these blgopsots, so its entirly p ossible!1;...

* Sugar was robbed!


Sue said...

Sugar WAS robbed! A travesty.

Oh, wait, are we not supposed to be talking about Survivor?

(great post - even the NON-Survivor parts ;>)

Ann Victor said...

Haha! Great post. Had me laughing and learning!

Emily said...

Omg, I can't believe you invoked Alan Rickman!! Ahh, he will ~*always*~ be the Sheriff of Nottingham to me... *swoon*

Great post, bb! ;)

Julie Butcher-Fedynich said...

Yayyyy! An answer. I asked this question on another blog yesterday (sorry CL I'm not a monogamistic blog reader) but they've evidently left for Christmasland. Great post.

Jeff said...

This is great advice if you're lucky enough to end up with an editor who is a human being.

pseudosu said...

Thanks again for sharing your journey to publication- aka- fame, fortune, Edward/Jeff Probst polygamy, y'know, basic ~*sparkly*~ fabulousness.
Can't wait to have my very own editor someday. Can't wait to get my hands on CUTB either. ;)

freddie said...

"Sexyface." OMG, I'm stealing that.