Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Conference Sneak Preview: The Editor-Author Relationship

By Courtney C. Stevens


Did your mind automatically fill in the blank above with a C? If so, you might say that writer (me) and reader (you) collaborated to make a word or a title. On a different level, this is what happens when an editor and author work on a novel: they collaborate to fill in the blank spaces together. Writer Kristin O’Donnell Tubb and her editor Liz Szabla will speak on this aspect of craft during our upcoming fall conference. As a tiny preview of that talk, Liz says: “Since we’re talking about collaboration, what better way than for two of us, an author and her editor, to collaborate on this presentation. Kristin and I aren’t soft-pedaling any of this, and we hope writers will come away with a clear picture of the revision process. Because it is a PROCESS.”

Kristin adds: “A good editor is an engineer, able to identify a story structure’s strengths and weaknesses. She or he also is able to communicate those issues to a writer in a way that allows the writer to explore the best ways to bolster the story. I feel very lucky to have an editor/engineer like Liz Szabla inspecting my stories. She can pinpoint what needs work but allows me loads of flexibility in strengthening those sections.”

In a different way, the Midsouth Fall Conference will also host another dynamic author/editor duo this year. Instead of this author being on faculty with her editor, though, she will be a conference attendee. Her editor will be discussing her book in her presentations. Martha Mihalick and Bethany Griffin combined their creative powers to produce Bethany’s novel, Masque of the Red Death. Bethany says, “I think the great thing about working with Martha is that she loved the book as much as I do. But her love for the book didn’t blind her to its flaws, and she worked nonstop to make it better. I feel as if every suggestion she made helped to improve the book. Something unique is that she wrote notes directly on the manuscript and drew little hearts all around the love scenes. When the revisions became hard, I’d go back and look at those scenes for encouragement!”

There are words all authors can learn from in the collaborative effort: love, listen, explore, process, and my favorite, trust, which Martha speaks to below.

“The author/editor relationship is all about collaboration and trust. And it’s a conversation. Both sides have to talk and to listen, and consider what the other’s saying. Bethany’s so receptive, and I always trust that she thinks about every point I bring up and why I’ve brought it up. Then she goes and works her magic and each revision comes back stronger—often in ways I couldn’t have imagined. That surprise is the best, because it means the story is becoming more and more fully realized.”

The two author-editor teams represent the future teams all authors hope to join one day. Ha_py Wr_ting to you al_.

Courtney C. Stevens, who contributed this piece, is one of the coordinators of the 2012 Midsouth Fall Conference. She recently received a contract from HarperCollins for her debut novel, Faking Normal.

No comments:

Post a Comment