Sunday, March 21, 2010

Shoe, Meet Other Foot



by Diane Peron-Gelman


A Chicago native and history buff, Diane Piron-Gelman is both a freelance writer and editor with nearly twenty years’ experience in the field. Her first novel, NO LESS IN BLOOD is forthcoming from Five Star in February, 2011. She has graciously volunteered to guest post on the conflict between writing and editing.


The note from Roz hit my email box on August 11th. The first part sent me into a delighted tizzy: “I will ask Five Star for approval to acquire your book!” The next sentence started out pretty well, too—until I got to the final word. “You received an enthusiastic recommendation from the reviewer—Deni—who will be your Editor.”

Editor. Oh. That.


I’ve been an editor for Five Star since 2003 or so. (I’m past forty, with two kids; Swiss-cheese brain can make me hazy on details.) For a decade-plus prior to that, I worked as an editor for publishers of role-playing games and comic books. I’ve also written my share of RPG source fiction, comic-book scripts and catalog copy, plus one short story—and in all that time, I’d never been edited by anybody. Except me.

So now I have an editor who isn’t me. Wonder what this’ll be like?

Never mind that I know Deni, had edited a marvelous novel of hers, and had every reason to a) respect her expertise, and b) trust her with my literary firstborn. Never mind that Five Star editors bend over backward to respect each author’s voice—a skill I had to learn when I started working for them, coming as I did out of the game industry where everything’s work-for-hire and not a lot of people know how to write well (which meant wholesale rewrites were normal to turn a rough manuscript into a saleable book). I was nervous. What if Deni thought I’d messed something up—some character’s pivotal action or insight, some vital turning point—and what if she was right? Impostor Syndrome stirred and muttered. What if my manuscript came back all marked up with red lines and changes and notes? How would I handle it? Would I ever have confidence in my writing again?

You’d think I’d know better. Whatever Deni found would be something that needed fixing. That’s what editors do. I may be one, and pretty whiz-bang at catching my own typos and errors, but that doesn’t mean another set of trained eyes doesn’t work. So after I stopped hyperventilating at the thought of Terrible Hidden Flaws in My Manuscript, I decided I would grow up and take what came.

Which, in the end, wasn’t as much as I’d feared. I did manage to completely mess up the in-house formatting, and was duly smacked for it (“btw, I know you must have a good reason for not formatting?????? Seriously, even your margins were wrong.”), but everything else turned out to be fairly small. I found myself enormously reassured—because I knew Deni would’ve found any bigger problems that were there. And worked with me to fix them. Bottom line, I had nothing to be afraid of, and a better book to gain.

So has this experience changed how I edit? Yes and no. I still pretty much do what I do, but I hope I'm more sensitive. After all, I do feel your pain.

What about you? Do you have a fear-factor response at the thought of being edited? How about making the transition between editor and writer? How do you do it?

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