When I found out I’d be working with two editors simultaneously—one in the US and the other in the UK—I’ll admit I was a little freaked out. I went looking for a YouTube clip to illustrate my level of freakoutedness (totally a word) and I came up with this montage of Nicholas Cage losing his mind.
Please note: I was nowhere near this bad. I don’t ever recall running down the street screaming “I’m a vampire! I’m a vampire!” But still…
The fact that my UK editor works with China Miéville was panic-inducing enough—the guy is a master, and he paints with words. But I’d done my homework on how publishing worked, dammit. I knew there were supposed to be story edits and line edits and copy edits and whatnot. There was a system and I’d studied it and I was prepared. And the fact that I’d never heard of an author working with two different editors on the same manuscript at the same time sent me into fits of panty-soiling terror.
What if they didn’t agree? What if they had different visions for the book? Would I get two sets of editor’s notes, and have to double-dutch on every step of the process? Would I end up with two different versions of the book? The US and UK spell things differently—what was I going to do with all the “U’s”?
Worst of all, I’m of Irish decent—aren’t I genetically obligated to hate the English?
My usual online sources for the mechanics of the publishing industry left me dry, so after a comforting “forgeddaboudit” from my agent, I was left to quietly panic. But it turns out the process is actually quite similar to working with one editor, at least from the author’s side of the desk. In case anyone out there ends up in the same situation, hopefully this will save you some underpants.
Pete (US) and Julie (UK) first read the MS, and write their own set of individual notes without consulting each other. They then get together to discuss their thoughts and the changes they’re suggesting to make sure they’re on the same page—I like to imagine differences of opinion being resolved by Tekken Tag Tournament, or maybe lightsaber duel, but apparently they just talk them through. Booooring. After the dust settles, the pair compile their notes into one document for little old me to wrap my brainspace around. If I have questions, I bounce them off both, and tend to get answers from whichever editor suggested the change or addition.
The awesome thing about the process is that you get two sets of eyes, and two perspectives on the story. I’m uncertain if it’s because I’m working with both a male and female, but each editor applies very different sensibilities to the manuscript, and I get the best of both. Julie tends to think very visually, and is focused on character motivation, development and relationships. Pete is a details kind of guy, concerned with whys and wherefores, with making sure everything has a consistent internal logic. He obsesses over the mythology, rules of society, the mechanics of the story itself. Plus, if a problem comes along (you must whip it), there are three brains tackling it instead of two. You really do get two heads for the price of one.
It’s not like anyone can choose to work with two editors, but if you ever get the opportunity, your underoos can breathe easy—I guarantee it will be awesome.1
PS: The English are lovely.
JAY KRISTOFF is an Australian SF/F author. His debut novel, Stormdancer, a Japanese-inspired steampunk fantasy, is set to be published in September 13 in the UK and September 18 in the US. He is as surprised about it as you are.
- Not a guarantee. ↩