Category: editing


I got busy yesterday and totally forgot to mark the occasion. Five years ago on April 9 I was laid off from my day job. I’d spent ten years with my employer. I started as a copyeditor, moved up to associate editor, then acquiring editor. But publishing continues to go through adjustments in the age of Amazon—and the corresponding dwindling of brick-and-mortar bookstores—and e-books and self-publishing that upend traditional publishing models. I had dodged the bullet in a couple of prior rounds of layoffs, but then my time came.

It was scary and depressing, but, as I told my former boss a little later on, it was the best thing that could have happened. I’d really needed to move on, but never would have gotten up the nerve to jump out of the plane on my own. Getting kicked out was rough, but things started happening. I was contracted to write Star Trek: The More Things Change around then. My former boss also hired me as a writer for a dream assignment: I was flown down to the Kennedy Space Center to research and write their new premium guidebook with primary author Piers Bizony. I started freelance copyediting Simon & Schuster’s Star Trek fiction line. I’ve gotten to do more work with Afterglow Studios, for whom I’d cowritten the space documentary Space Next while I was still at my day job, recently turning in another space documentary, Touch the Stars, and I’m working on a third screenplay right now. I’ve got a continuing gig reviewing materials for the role-playing game Star Trek Adventures to make sure the details remain true to the established canon of the movies and series.

Certainly there have been lows to balance those highs, and, as always, I struggle to get more momentum behind my original writing, which has been languishing for several years. But I’m spending my time writing and editing, more or less making a living as a full-time freelancer. Various things are going on that I can’t yet talk about that could turn into exciting things . . . or not, because that’s the way the business works. But it’s been a pretty amazing five years. Feel free to use this as an excuse for raising a glass, I know I will!

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Things continue to be a blur, and not because I’ve had too much wine; but writing that did make me get up and pour myself a glass of Coppola Claret. That’s just a little product placement in my blog, although it’s never worked for me before. My first published Star Trek story (Happy 45th, Trek!), “Full Circle,” featured the fabulous Scoma’s on Fisherman’s Wharf as a setting, bit I never received a big shipment of fettuccine with smoked salmon and rock shrimp. Not that I hold it against them. Just means I have to get back there in person for a giant plate of incredibly fresh seafood. But I digress. 

I’ve been working on a short story to submit to A Quiet Shelter There, an anthology from Hadley Rille Books edited by Gerri Leen. The deadline was August 31, and my work was complicated by a week of vacation in midmonth, so time was getting short. Also had a review due to Author Magazine on September 1. Sent the story into the editor at 9 p.m. August 30. And I was still reading the book for the review. Emailed Jeff Ayers, my editor at the magazine, that I had Thursday, the first, off, so would finish the book and review then. Jeff responded that he wouldn’t be reading the reviews until Sunday, so I could take until the fourth.

That worked out nicely, because I’d taken the first off because it was my birthday. So I did absolutely no work that day. It was relaxing. Meanwhile, I had heard back from Gerri on the thirty-first that she liked my story, but she had some suggestions for rewrites. She gave me until September 7 to submit revised manuscript. Which brings us back to me taking Thursday off, but knowing that I had some work to get done and was coming into the holiday weekend. Further complications because my mom has a Labor Day tradition of having a big camp out. Friends come in RVs, tent campers, and tents, set up in her big yard, and spend the weekend eating and drinking around the campfire. Not the most conducive environment for writing, but there it is. I decided to write the review and work on the story over the weekend.

This required some planning on my part. I’d be writing on my iBook, but my mom has a Windows machine. Okay, make sure to bring a flash drive to move review from laptop to desktop, and I’m set. My mom’s out in the country and only has dial-up internet, but it’ll still get the job done. We arrive on Friday evening, and just about the first thing my mom tells me is her computer isn’t working. All right then. Had to head into Cloquet, Minnesota, home of the world’s only Frank Lloyd Wright designed gas station, on Sunday to find a place with Wi-Fi. Ella tagged along to go to Bearaboo Coffee Escape, which gave her a chance to get online on her iPad. Tangentially, the Bearaboo should not be confused with the cat named Beariboo, which I inadvertently discovered while trying to confirm the spelling of the coffee shop. Beariboo has his picture on a charming website called “Cats That Look Like Hitler.” I’ll let you judge for yourself. But I digress.

Sent in my review from the Bearaboo, then decided we needed malts and fries from Gordy’s Hi-Hat, a family-owned burger joint that opened in 1960. They were recently featured on Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives on Food Network. Classic juicy fresh-made burgers, lightly battered fries, great malts . . . an essential stop when you’re in you’re in the area. There I go again with product placement. I don’t think their fries would ship well, but I’d be willing to give it a try. Again with the digressions.

Got home Sunday evening and did some writing. Pulled a late night on Monday and sent in revised story at 9:30 p.m. Tuesday. Meanwhile, on the fifth got an email from Tony Dierckins, publisher at X-comm, my second day job. Next freelance copyediting gig is ready to download. Then found out on the eighth that my story, “On My Side,” will indeed be in A Quiet Shelter There, along with stories from some of my Star Trek writing friends, Amy Sisson and Bill Leisner. Cool. So, you know, not much going on. Now for another glass of claret. Which is never a digression.

I was on vacation last week, and so there is very little to report by way of writing. We did have a lovely time in the great Northwoods of Minnesota, however. We were way up in beautiful Ely, Minnesota, just twenty or so miles from Canada as the crow flies. Went to the International Wolf Center and the North American Bear Center, which were both pretty cool. And we got to see some, well, wolves and bears, as you might expect. Also seemed like a good place to hide during the coming zombie apocalypse. Was most amused to see a book I cowrote, The Mosquito Book, on sale in a number of gift shops. This book is essentially out of print at this point, so it was a pleasant surprise to see the few remaining copies on the shelf somewhere.

On the way up we spent a day in Duluth and popped into the Fitger’s Bookstore. The manager actually recognized me and remembered my name, which was impressive. So I did some schmoozing about books I’ve written and edited, and a few more of them may turn up on the shelf there. Cool.

As mentioned last week, I have a short story due to the editor by August 31. I’ve gotten some good work done on that the last couple nights, so I think I’ll make that deadline. Took tonight off. Watched some Dr. Who with my daughter, and then I’m going to bed at a reasonable time instead of falling asleep at the keyboard. Because that’s just silly.

Previously on Enemy Lines…I’m a writer who makes my living as an editor. It’s my day job, like Bruce Wayne without the money, that covers for my writing, like fighting crime, but without the crime or the fighting. It’s the perfect metaphor, except for all the exceptions. Literally.

I was a writer for many years before I ended up as an editor, so I approach my work in a sometimes substantially different way from my fellow editors who do not pursue writing professionally outside what’s necessary for their jobs. I can see things entirely from the writer’s point of view. I know what it is to hand over your precious work to some person you don’t know and will, most likely, never meet face to face.

That established, I’d like to give some general advice to the myriad writers out there who are up-and-comers trying to get something accepted somewhere or who have sold their first manuscript and are tip-toeing into the shallow end of the pool of the editorial process. In a word: collaborate.

Writing is a solitary process, and some new to the field don’t foresee how much that solitariness evaporates upon the happy day you sign a contract. Now you have an editor, but that editor is just the tip of the iceberg. She’s your connection to the publishing company, and represents all the people that work beneath the surface to create a book: sales and marketing people, freelance copyeditors and proofers, designers, and more. The writer doesn’t have to deal directly with any of those people, just the editor. The editor has to juggle all the needs, sometimes competing needs, from the rest of the team, in an effort to make the best book possible. And here’s the hard truth: the writer is part of that team now. Before you were the god of your manuscript, now you’re just a player on the team, a significant player, the player everyone is counting on, the player that will be hoisted onto shoulders and paraded around if the book is a hit, but during the process of going from manuscript to book…a player. And you have to ask yourself: Am I going to be a team player?

Because here’s the thing: who’s the boss? Neither writer nor editor. As in any business, the boss is the guy who writes the checks. Both editor and writer get their checks from the same place. They are working together for the same boss. To be successful, they need to collaborate. To enter the field of commerce, the writer has to surrender some of his art to the team. There is no I in traditional publishing. Well, it looks like there are actually three i‘s there…so the third eye is the…okay, let’s let that metaphor go.

Anyway, where was I? Collaboration. Don’t enter your relationship with your editor with heels dug in. As soon as the process becomes adversarial both writer and editor are in for months of hell. Writers, remember that your editor is working on many other manuscripts at the same time as yours. Editors are forced to work like contractors, rotating from job to job, each job in a different stage of completion. I choose that metaphor knowing that contractors are often hated, they are like lawyers with tool belts, never there when you need them, off on some other site when you need them most. It’s a rough part of the job for the editor. I hate when I have to tell one of my writers “I can’t get to you right now, I’ve got another project on deadline.” But in my little cube it’s a constant editorial triage…what’s due next? What manuscript has had something go horrible wrong? Which one can afford to run a day or a week late? Which book is timed to some event and absolutely has to make a hard sales date?

So, keep that in mind. Whatever you’re doing just once on your manuscript the editor is dealing with on a couple dozen manuscripts. Helping out with little things like formatting the manuscript the way the editor wants, even if it seems weird to you, is the first step to playing ball, and your editor will appreciate it. Remember, your editor can also be your advocate. Although you both have the same boss, in most cases the editor is the only one who gets face time with the publisher. Your editor is the one who’s in a position to say, “Hey, I know this manuscript is a little unconventional, but here’s why it works, and why we should keep it this way.” Because the editor is on your side, on your team.

None of this is to say you have to simply roll over to every suggestion from your editor. Stand up for what you believe in, explain why you’ve done something the way you have, but do it in a professional, civil fashion. I’ve often changed points of style on a book because the writer has given her reasoning behind it. And, yes, I’ve gone the other way as well, and said, “I see what you’re saying, but I’ve got to tell you that I don’t think the reader is going to get that. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel here.” The point is to have discussions and reach understandings. If everyone works in a collaborative way, no one should end up stating demands, and in the end you produce a better book than any one person could have done. That’s what everyone wants, isn’t it?

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Crossposted from my head to various places in an ephemeral stream of digits.

Enemy Lines is new (sort of) and improved (kind of), and now with lemon-fresh scent! Actually, the blog has been up and running three years next month on its original home at Live Journal, but I decided it was time to add some additional affiliates. So I want to officially welcome Blog Spot and Word Press to my little network. I hope this makes it a bit easier for people to find me. No matter which of these places you like hanging out in, you can now follow my writing and editing misadventures.

For anyone who stumbles across Enemy Lines for the first time here at the relaunch, a quick introduction: I’m a writer who makes his living editing. My latest publication as a writer is the Star Trek novella Honor in the Night in the collection Myriad Universes: Shattered Light, in stores now from Simon & Schuster. As an editor, the newest published book I worked on is Battle for the City of the Dead: In the Shadow of the Golden Dome, Najaf, August 2004 by Dick Camp, published by Zenith Press. You can find just about everything I’ve ever worked on at my website, yeahsure.net. I’m also on Facebook.

One thing you should know about me: I’m inordinately fond of toast.

That is all.

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Crossposted from my head to various places on the internet.