Friday, November 26, 2010

My Brush With New York Publishing/Why *Good* Editors Are Worth Gold

A few weeks ago, I spoke with a major  New York publisher.  I won't say which, not to be all vague, but I don't want to talk about something that may never happen.   Anyway, through several mysterious levels of serendipity,  I had the chance to pitch my story to an acquisitions editor there.  Interest was expressed, and a synopsis requested.

Then, a week later, said acquisitions editor emailed me, requesting a phone conference that coming Friday to discuss my synopsis, which he/she said they really enjoyed reading, that they'd love to give me feedback on.

You can imagine my reaction.  Had to peel me off the ceiling.  Good thing I had nothing but vocabulary tests to give at school Friday, because I'm sure NOTHING productive would've gotten done.  Understandably, I was stoked.  Amped.  Totally floored. This was a major house.  I'd be lying if I said dreams of J. K. Rowling success WEREN'T dancing before my eyes.

How'd the call go?

They liked the concept.  Liked certain parts of the story.

They trashed the rest.

And I couldn't be happier. 

See, here's the thing.  THAT'S WHAT GOOD EDITORS DO.

I know there's lots of chatter out there about the evils of New York publishing, how writers of the future are better off self-pubbing or going with small/micro-presses that give them intellectual and creative freedom, that the small press is so much better. 

Problem is, I've heard it so much, it's all become "blah, blah, blah, blah."  

Lots of noise.  

And I'm not saying that the chatter's wrong.  But hardly anything in this world fits into generalized little boxes, and I have to believe New York Publishing is one of those things.  I'm sure there are plenty of bad, heartless editors out there and they probably do screw writers over when it comes to money and ideas and other things.

THIS editor, however - was pure gold.  At least for the duration of this phone call.  


Because he/she asked me the type of questions that turned my story inside out.  I was SO sure of myself and this story before I got on the phone.  Confident. Maybe even overconfident.  However, when this editor got past all the compliments, he/she got down to the nitty gritty, and it went something like this:

Editor: "Well, this part's been done before.  Pretty Harry Potter. And Sword in the Stone.  Have you thought about how you could avoid that?" 

Me: "Uhh.  Yeah.  Got a point.  I'll look at that..." 

Editor: "And this plot twist seems awfully convenient.  Why does this even happen?  What's the motive for the monsters to attack this guy? What's the point?" 

Me: "Right. Yeah. Hmmm."

Editor: "Also, you need a female character in this desperately.  Have you thought about adding a female character yet?"

Me: "Well, I was thinking about it, obviously...a love interest..." 

Editor: "I do love the smart brother teamed with tough brother angle, though.  Have you thought about having them vie for the female character's affections?"

Me: "Uh....."

Editor: Now, this is a fantasy, right?  Hard sell for teens.  We're really talking tweeners, with this."

Me: "Oh."

Editor: "Other than that....I like the idea.  So what made you want to right teen fiction?"

Me: "Well....."


The editor asked that after I'd considered these things, I should send them an expanded, more detailed synopsis and novel proposal, and we'd discuss it some more.  You'd think I might be a little depressed at the rather pointed, meticulous deconstruction of my "BABY", but I'm not.

See, I AGREE with everything this editor said.  All those plot points WERE cliched and done before.  And, this whole thing proved to me that I didn't know my story nearly as well as I thought I did.  In fact, these suggestions have almost entirely re-written the story at this point, and I feel SO much better about it, that if in the end this editor decides this story isn't for them...I won't care.

I LOVE this story now.  All because of the questions this editor asked me.  I would NEVER have forced myself to reconsider my story without them. It's not a fantasy now - more suspense/thriller/horror - and the story is MUCH more original than it was.

So I'll be busy the next few weeks with the first three chapters, synopsis and all that.  The best thing? Someone will want this story, eventually. And, regardless of what everyone has to say about New York editors, it'll be because of the questions this one asked me, forced me to consider.

So.  I couldn't be happier.