Just Write Cat

One Writer, One Journey

And I Have Issues? April 7, 2010

Filed under: Editing,Life — justwritecat @ 4:28 am

So, this is the post I’ve been putting off.  Not because I’m a procrastinator by nature (I’m not), and not because I don’t have anything to say about this particular experience.  I’m torn between wanting to maintain a positive approach to my writing experiences….and wanting to be 100% honest about my experiences.  Honesty wins.

I’ve blogged about working with a developmental editor, and in those posts mostly positive things were discussed.  This is the post about the not-so-positive part of the experience.  The part that has me regretting working with this specific editor and doubting some of his feedback (which means, doubting the revisions I’ve made).  Here goes.

The protagonist of Seeing Red: Set ‘Em Up, Joe (which may be changed to Seeing Red) is a guy by the name of – Joe Cooper.  He’s the kind of guy other guys want to be like, the kind of guy women plain want.  He’s a bit of a cad on the exterior, but his heart’s in the right place and his intentions are good.  In this novel (the first of what I hope becomes a series), Joe hooks up with a gal named Pamela.  Now, Joe likes Pamela.  Quite a bit.  And that’s kinda hard for Joe because he’s a vampire and always on the run for a couple of reasons.  Pamela is a human – one who has no idea that vampires exist.  So Joe tries to keep his distance, for her sake (and for his).  One of the ways Joe does this is by keeping the relationship not too serious (and Pamela is fine with this).  He also flirts with other women.  Or rather, one in particular.  Detective Grace Gutierrez, the officer working the murders Joe is trying to solve. 

The developmental editor said that Joe should be 100% monogamous with Pam.  That he shouldn’t even look at another woman, much less flirt.  That his doing so makes Joe seem weak and despicable.  When he returned my manuscript, all the scenes/lines where Joe flirted with Grace were deleted and a few disparaging remarks were made about the character (Grace) because she shows some interest in Joe. 

I read his comments and admittedly, quickly ignored them.  I wasn’t about to change that aspect of Joe’s personality.  Joe’s a bit of a cad like that, perhaps – but that is who he is. 

When the editor and I had our one-hour phone consult about his suggestions/deletions/possible revisions, I did not bring up the whole flirting issue.  Near the end of the call, he did.  And that’s when things went downhill – and damn fast.  I said that Joe was a flirt, but nothing more (he doesn’t sleep with the Detective, just with Pamela).  I explained that his flirting was a way of keeping things ‘safe’ for him, of keeping his distance from Pamela instead of admitting to himself how much Pam really means to him.  But that by the middle of the novel he realizes what Pamela means, and he stops flirting with Grace. 

The editor implied that was unacceptable.  I say implied, because I do not recall his exact words.  That part of the conversation is a blur of insults and shouts.  Yes, he was literally yelling at me over the phone about this issue.  Methinks there exists a spot that is sore.

We went back and forth on the whole ‘why Joe is like that’ thing, and without giving away too much about Joe’s history – essentially, he suffered a great loss when he was human and is now afraid to get too close to anyone for fear of losing them, too.  So partly it is his fear of loss, but mainly – of someone getting hurt because he gets too close to them.  When I explained this, the editor accused me of thinking that all men who lose someone (say, a widower) must be cads because I think they would they start sleeping around with a bunch of women. 

Now, I don’t ever recall implying I think all widowers or anyone who loses someone starts shagging crazy. And in my novel, Joe doesn’t sleep around.  He flirts around.  And sorry, but I think there’s a difference.  Do I think it is o.k. for someone in a committed relationship to flirt around – no, but Joe’s not in a committed relationship at the start of the novel (when he flirts with the other woman).  When he realizes how much Pam means – he stops the flirting, as I mentioned.

The editor hated this.  Really hated it.  I think he said a few other not-so-nice things – by then, my own blood was boiling.  I said I realized he didn’t like it, but it was my book and my characters and I was not going to delete those lines/scenes at this point.  Now, if an agent or an editor at a publishing house said – hey, you need to get rid of these lines because I don’t like him flirting around – then I would consider it.  But not until then, because I liked that part of Joe’s character and I’d been told by many readers they liked it too.  The editor replied with this “I don’t think people like him as much as you think they like him.”  This coming from the same man who told me he really liked Joe (right up to the point where I refused to make one of his suggested changes).

And please note – I did follow many of his suggestions, even ones I was not 100% sure about at first.  This was the one thing that felt wrong for me to change.  And it is my story and my characters  – if I won’t be true to them, who will?

Whew.  I feel like I just finished writing a scene from a soap opera.  Such melodrama!  It took me close to three weeks to get over that phone call.  To look past the shouting and the insults and gain the little bit of confidence I had back.  And that is really the worst part of it – that I allowed someone else to chip away at my confidence.  Shame on him for acting in such an unprofessional manner.  Shame on me for letting it get to me that way. 

Over the past few weeks, I’ve given serious thought to some of the suggestions he made.  The ones that didn’t feel wrong, but didn’t feel 100% right either.  I’ve had to find a way back to trusting my own instincts – and that is not an easy thing for me to do when it comes to my writing.  As I’ve mentioned in other posts. this is new for me – and risky.  And I’m not usually good with risk.  But you know what – I want this and I believe in myself and in my characters and in their stories. 

I am open to feedback.  Honestly – I just don’t need the name-calling/shouting  to go along with it.  That is kind of an instant turn-off, wall-up thing for me.  But whatever the feedback, whatever changes you make – when it comes down to it, it has to feel right to you.  It has to make sense to your story and be true to your characters. 

When I first considered working with a developmental editor, an agent (one who is open to re-reading my revised manuscript) gave me this advice – if you work with a freelance developmental editor, make sure he or she gets your writing.  Make sure he gets you.  Superb advice.  Unfortunately, I didn’t know how to check for that fit when I started the search for an editor.  Now, I do.

Thanks for reading –

Cat

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4 Responses to “And I Have Issues?”

  1. Bethany Says:

    O_O

    Are you serious?

    Just. Wow. I didn’t realize that every story we write is based on all our assumptions about all people for ever and ever. That is news, I must say. I thought we could create individuals who responded to their particular pasts in a particular way and in no way was a thinly veiled expression of our universal opinions.

    Man. Other than that, I think authors – particularly those who trust other professionals or try to behave professionally and somewhat collaboratively – have to remember that the ability to take in feedback doesn’t ever have to make it to the page. You’re just not going to get advice that fits the story YOU are trying to write from every professional. Now maybe you’ll get his version of the story you started but, clearly, he’s a touch too raw from Lord-knows-what to create at this point.

  2. Andy Says:

    Wow. That is nuts. I can’t believe that someone who was being paid to assist you would stoop to such unprofessional behavior. Also yeah, it sounds like they may have had some issues. Sorry you had to go through all that.

  3. Wow! I’m shocked that someone would do that! I mean, I can understand maybe getting a little frustrated if you didn’t understand his point or whatever, but name calling and yelling -really?

    I run the Writer’s Academy and I am shocked to learn of such behavior from an editor! I try to grade all the assignments in the novel classes with sound advice and lots of encouragement. I have had a few students tell me they didn’t agree but I never would angry over that! Like you said, it’s their story and their characters. Just because I make a suggestion doesn’t mean they have to listen!

    I’m glad you posted about this for other writers that are just coming into the publishing world. It could save them from the same experience.

  4. Bryan Sabol Says:

    Catherine, I am *astounded* about how unprofessional your editor was in all of this. I’d be mad as hell if someone pulled a stunt like that.

    But you do have some silver linings in this (very dark) cloud:

    – Regardless of the bad behavior on this editor’s part, you recognized where to draw your line. Meaning, even in a substantive edit pass, it is the writer, NOT the editor, who must weigh the edits in light of the intent of the story. If you know deep in your gut that something an editor suggests is not right for your story, then it’s it’s not right for your story. Simple as that.

    – You maintained a sense of ownership and responsibility to your own creative process in the thick of what sounds like a very abusive and demanding situation. Don’t give in. In the long run, you must answer to yourself for what ends up in print with your name as author.

    – Finally, you’ve moved on. I’m not saying this episode hasn’t left a horrible taste in your mouth, but to be able to blog about it and discuss what you’re doing next and the lesson you learned from the experience means that you’ve taken a pretty crappy situation and chalked it up to experience.

    So for all that: way to go!


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