Monday, February 16, 2015

Adventures in Editorial Guidance

So, the name of the game this month is “Author Anecdotes,” eh?

Wow. How much time do you have? I mean, we could be here a while.

For example, there are the odd conversations that take place between author and editor. As often as not, they can end up being e-Mail back-n-forth sessions that start at a reasonable time before continuing into the wee hours of the night, long after sensible people have shuffled off to bed or at least forsaken their computers for reruns of Everybody Loves Raymond or that gazillionth airing of The Shawshank Redemption. Still, I’ve had some of the best conversations with my editor during such late-night sessions; the kind of discussions that allow me to go back to the novel I’m writing fueled by renewed vigor and sense of purpose.

Then, there are the sorts of drive-by chats that leave me scratching my head before I start doing Google searches for things like “How to dissolve a body in an inflatable swimming pool.”

Not really, of course. Everyone knows the best way to go solve such problems is to just call in an air strike.

And then there are the times when you think your editor just has to be screwing with your head.

Case in point: Back in the early 2000s, my editor at Pocket Books proposed a rather ambitious Star Trek mini-series. It was to be a nine-book effort, with four writers each writing two books, and a final book written by yet another author to cap off everything. Late in 2002, I was contacted by my editor, for whom I’d recently written my first Star Trek novel and who also was editing what would become my first original science fiction novel. He wanted us to write two of the books! This was, in retrospect, our call up from the minors as until that point, my writing partner and I had been writing e-Book novellas for Pocket, but we weren’t considered part of the “starting lineup” with respect to the Star Trek author stable. Of course we couldn’t say no!

The hook was set. There was no getting away. That’s when the fun started.

We were brought into the project rather late in its development. The other writers were already plotting their stories and a couple had even started writing. As we were called in to replace another writer who had bowed out, we were already behind the 8-ball so far as devising a story that didn’t trip over the other contributors to the mini-series. Our editor, ever the helpful one, offered this bit of editorial wisdom:

”Yours will be the third and fourth books in the lineup,” he told us. “Now, the first two books take place in space, and the fifth and sixth books take place on a planet, so try not to set your story in either of those two places.”



Yeah. It’s a Star Trek story, so piece of cake, right?

He had to be messing with us; it was the only explanation. In truth, he was messing with us, because he just enjoyed saying things like that in order to provoke a response. However, in his own way, he more or less was telling us what he wanted. Really.

To this day, that’s still the funniest piece of “guidance” an editor’s ever given me.


Charles Gramlich said...

No space or planets. Hum! :)

Liane Spicer said...

Hmm... Set it on a star. There ya go.

Anonymous said...

We ended up setting it in an asteroid field. :D

KeVin K. said...

Right! I remember those "it was all a dream" novels.