Ask your editor
For eight months the ten authors of The Yin Book have had to put up with me
interfering with suggesting improvements for their stories. And now that the editing is done and the books are available, they get a chance to turn the tables a little by asking me questions; any questions they like about the editing of the anthology in particular, and the Chinese Whisperings project in particular.
Jen Brubacher kicked things off with this tough question:
Who is your favourite character from the entire Yin Book? Yes, you have to pick just one…
That’s an evil question to begin proceedings with. You might as well have asked “which nine ladies do you want to piss off most?” Seriously though, I’m spoiled for choice with characters; not only ones created by the ten writers, but by some who first appeared in The Yang Book and were reinterpretted in The Yin Book.
If I have to choose (and it seems like I do), then I think it could actually be Randall, who appears in both The Other Side of Limbo and Lost and Found. Jodi and I discussed Randall a bit, as one of those characters who we could tell had more story in him, but who didn’t get the chance to step into the limelight. He’s had a military past (or at least pretends), and he’s always trying to help those in need. What’s brought him from his past life to this one, and has it affected how he views others? In some respects he reminds me of my main character from One in the Chamber in The Red Book.
Then Jasmine Gallant asked the question I think everyone was wondering:
How you are planning on bringing both story arcs to a conclusion at the end of the anthologies? I try to think of a solution but it just makes my head hurt.
It made my head hurt too. Jodi cursed having to write the prologue, then about half-way through the anthology she realised just how difficult the epilogue was going to be. I realised that for it to work, it would need to feature only elements that were common to both anthologies, but not rely too heavily on them, otherwise it would make no sense for either anthology.
In the end Paul Servini’s Three Monkeys in The Yang Book, and Lily Mulholland’s Double Talk in The Yin Book provided the elements I needed to tie the anthologies together. It provided motivations for the characters, clarified allegiances. Then there was one line from Jodi’s prologue that brought everything together, and explained why things had turned out as they had.
There’s Nazis and espionage. Everything can be explained by Nazis and espionage.
How many hours ( and bottles of wine) have you and Jodi invested so far in the Yin and Yang books?
Far less wine than you might imagine! I will admit to some pints of cider, glasses of margarita and a few bottles of beer during some of the intense editorial Skype calls, but no wine! Can’t speak for Jodi though.
In terms of hours? I can’t even begin to count. It’s been eight months, there can’t have been many days when we weren’t at the very least thinking about the anthologies, if not editing, planning, promoting, etc. There were 250 days between when we started and when we launched. Towards the end of it we were both putting in at least 6 hour a day on the anthology. If between us we didn’t hit about 1000 hours I’d be very surprised.
Then Annie had these further questions for me:
How do you distinguish between a ‘rewrite’ and a ‘heavy edit’? – i.e when do you send a story back to a writer and when do you go a head a fiddle and fix bits and bobs along the way?
To me, an edit means that grammar, spelling and punctuation need improving, and that meaning and expression can be clarified, but that essentially the plot and structure of the story are fine. Sure, we might suggest changes for the sake of continuity, but it is only a rewrite in my mind if the underlying structure itself simply isn’t working.
What are the qualities of a good editor for a collaborative project?
When I find a good editor I’ll be sure to ask them that! I think a good editor needs to be able to read and listen to what the author is saying, not what they think they are saying. Ego needs to be left at the door, particularly in a project like this. There were many times when I thought “I wouldn’t let this happen, I’d do this instead”. But our project didn’t have a set direction, we let the direction grow organically through our writers, and as such just because I personally may not have set the story on one path, doesn’t mean it is ‘wrong’.
With two projects under your belt, what are the qualities you as the Managing Editors are looking for in writers for the next project?
A willingness to take a risk; that’s something that I like about our current writers. We started as an unknown quality, and whilst some of our writers had never been published before, several had. They took a big risk by joining us for this crazy ride, and it’s been appreciated.
The next quality is the willingness to listen. The whole ego thing I mentioned for editors applies to the writers too. A writer may be unhappy with a change to their story, but in an anthology reliant on weaving connections and events together, sometimes a change may need to be made not specifically for the story’s sake, but for the anthology’s sake.
Having said that, as editors we don’t just make changes to a writer’s story on a capricious whim. If the reason isn’t grammatical, then it will either be due to continuity, or clarity.
You’ve pushed the anthology of short stories to limits very few have ventured… how are you going to top that next year?
Chinese Whisperings: IN SPACE!
Chinese Whisperings: Meet Abbott & Costello versus Dracula
Chinese Whisperings: The Write It Yourself Book (includes exclusive pen and blank pages)
Honestly, we have no idea yet. But it’ll be spectacular!