Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Disagreeing with an Editor

Rehtaek11 asked me a question that I think will make an interesting blog post.

Does the company that publishes your work ever make demands that you… change your work in a way that you don't like?

This has happened to me. There has been editorial advice that I initially thought was rooted in the deep end of the Insanity Pool.

The first time this happened to me was with the first edition of Full Circle. I held a great deal of respect for my editor there and told her that I thought she was bonkers for her suggestion, but I’d give it my best shot.

It’s been a while since Full Circle was out for public consumption, but do you guys and gals remember the scene where Byron is speaking to Pebble? Tami planted that seed of creativity. Yes, I created Pebble. Yes, I wrote the scene. But, when she told me that the scene fell flat because of all the inner dialog and reflection coming from Byron and that he needed to talk to someone or do something to make it interesting (“hell, have him talk to the bird”), the creative juices started to flow.

I went back (all the while muttering about how crazy my editor was and telling her so) and crafted Pebble. The friendly neighborhood oh-dear-God-please-let-it-just-be-a-bird-but-we-all-know-Cup-is-up-to-something-creepy Pebble. I then wrote the scenes with Pebble thinking they were going to fail miserably. (Too cryptic? Too obvious? Too batshit insane?) When I finished the scenes, I’d surprised myself. I loved those scenes. I think they really work and add another layer to the novel. And...yes...I told her so. I even let her do the “I told you so dance” and gloat about it.

When I was working on Personal Demon the editor insisted that a condom be used. I didn’t want a condom in the scene and countered. She countered. I was about to counter and realized that I really didn’t want a reputation of being a PITA author and really wanted more contracts with Freya’s Bower (Karen didn’t threaten me or anything), but most importantly, I realized that, Holy crap the lady had a point…kind of...sort of...

I went back and added the condom to the story. I still don’t like the condom being there. Karen saw the implications in the story that support the condom. I didn’t see them and felt that the condom solidifies what I never intended to be there.

So, why didn’t I put my foot down and refuse to allow a condom?

Because with editors you must pick your battles.

The presence of the condom, in my eyes, does change the story, but not to the point where I feel detached from the story. I still feel like it’s my story. I think it adds an element of premeditation that shouldn’t be there. Karen’s point is that the premeditation was always there. I can see that. I can see my point too. Bottom line: fighting over the condom just wasn’t worth it. It’s a short fun story and, generally speaking, I like condoms in erotic fiction.

Let’s go forward again with the editing for the second edition of Full Circle. The editor I’m working with at Freya’s Bower made a suggestion that I thought was a complete deal breaker. She wanted me to eliminate something from the story that I refused to do. Putting my foot down on this particular aspect was worth risking my contract being canceled. It was worth risking not getting another contract with Freya’s Bower. It was worth all feasible consequences. In my rebuttal (two typed pages explaining the importance of the item in question, reviewer feedback about the item in question, and reader feedback of the item in question) and she told me that it was fine. She still doesn’t like it and still wants it changed, but she’s willing to let me have my way with this.

We hadn’t had a dispute before that and we haven’t had one since. I respect her and she knows that. I feel that she respects me. Marci is just awesome like that.

I picked my battle here and I picked it carefully.

In these three cases we resolved the issue in a professional manner, but what happens when the editor and the writer can’t agree?

In some cases the issue is brought to the Executive Managing Editor. Basically, taken up with the editor’s boss and a decision is made and the editor and author are put back to work on the title. Sometimes a writer will be assigned another editor. In extreme cases, the contract is cancelled by the publisher or by the author.

I’m not willing to bother a boss or get accustomed to another editor over a condom. I’m willing to show deference to my editor’s experience in most cases. But every so often there’s something so critical to the story that it’s worth the risk of having to find another publishing house and editor.


MissWrite said...

I still kind of do 'that' dance. I still remember the 'are you crazy' talk too... haha.

IM Cupnjava said...

I miss working with you. Remember all the snark we quietly shared during live chats? Damn we can get catty!