Thursday, April 01, 2010

Guest Post & Giveaway Featuring James Knapp

When I reviewed "State of Decay" by James Knapp, I said it was a "cool" book-- and I meant it. So I was really excited when Knapp contacted me and offered to sponsor a giveaway for THREE signed copies of the book. And he let me talk him into a guest post too! It doesn't get much better than that... Love for the Editor by James Knapp When I was younger, I read a short story I loved that involved an editor (I think I would love it more now, but have never been able to track it down). In the story, a writer makes a pact with the Devil, who makes him successful. The only catch is that the writer must, before the appointed time, convince an editor to publish a ‘Pact with the Devil’ story. It is told entirely in the form of proposal and rejection letters, as the editor politely (and continuously) explains to the author that ‘Pact with the Devil’ stories are played out, and will not be published. When the writer finally fails, he is whisked off to Hell, doomed to eternally try and sell ‘Pact with the Editor’ stories to the Devil, who eternally rejects them. That was my first exposure to the concept of an editor. Other than reject stories, I had no idea still what they really did. I had on occasion, before getting published myself, read books that left me thinking "I liked it, but that guy/gal could use a good editor". When I said that, I would mean that I thought the book had indulged in too many irrelevant (though maybe interesting) tangents. When I said that, I also still had no real idea what an editor actually did. My first novel STATE OF DECAY has now been published, and as I wrap up the first round of edits on the second book in the trilogy THE SILENT ARMY, I understand more the true role, and value, of an editor. My current editor's name is Jessica Wade, and she works over at ACE/ROC. She juggles a stable of other authors (that's where they keep us) and it's actually amazing to me that she provides the same services she provides me to a bunch of others. I use the word 'amazing' because I realized something this go around, and I'll try and explain it as best I can: I'm sure every author is different, but for me the process involves writing, sketching out story arcs, walking around talking to myself, and rewriting. As I do this, I decide to change things, get new ideas, scrap other things, until the pieces fall into place and click. I've yet to write a book that didn't leave me with 30K words or so of scenes I cut out, and I've never done less than three rewrites, but still...there's always some little nagging items, some little nagging details that didn't *quite* click. I'm usually pretty whipped by the end of that last draft, and if the test readers didn't identify them as problems, I tuck them away thinking 'maybe this is just some sort of writer's neuroses' after all, I could always find *something* to change if I stare long enough. I tuck them away, but I don't forget them. Jessica then reads the manuscript, and immediately zeros in on those things. She spots them (along with other things), calls them out, and then having had some time away from the book, I suddenly am able to see the answer that I couldn't see before. That's not all she does, of course. You'll note I used the phrase 'first round' of edits back there; there are multiple rounds. The first round she makes both small suggestions (this is the part where she finds the things that bothered me, the things that I missed, and the things that need further (or less) explaining, etc), and big suggestions. The 'big' suggestions are what I think of as 'shaping the story'. Not in a 'could Chapter Three be Chapter Six?' kind of way, but in more of a broad sense...she understands books and story structure very well, and knows when a story arc has drifted or doesn't land as well as it could. She doesn't micromanage; I never feel like she's trying to turn the book into something I didn't intend, we have a common goal - we both want the book to be the best it can be. Therefore she is very honest...very nice (her tone sometimes suggests to me that editors might be used to authors freaking out) but very honest, and an honest opinion from a professional who is also nice is a good thing. After the first round, there's a second round, and then copy edits (although someone else does those)...the process takes months and months, but in the end, the book is better than it started. The point is, behind every writer is an editor, and that editor contributes a lot to the books you and I read. Their name doesn't go on the cover, and most readers have no idea who they even are, but the editor (and copy editor, and cover artist, and publicist, etc) are the team in the author's corner who give them the best shot at succeeding in an arena where success is not guaranteed. They're in the sometimes (I imagine) unenviable position of crushing dreams, stepping on raw nerves, and basically banging on an artist's finely assembled contraption with a rubber mallet to shake out the loose pieces, but they do it, usually with a smile, and no one ever writes a wiki about them. So, it used to be when I thought 'editor' I imagined that cigar-chomping guy that always yells at Peter Parker. I don't *think* my editor chomps cigars, but I don't actually know that for a fact. I do know she doesn't yell at Peter Parker because she works for Penguin and he works for The Daily Bugle. Also, he is fictional. I will now get back to editing, though, as not to provoke her into channeling her inner Jonah Jameson – editors keep an eye on deadlines, too. Thanks James! There are a lot of writers, who aspire to be published, that frequent the review blogs (myself included) so it's always interesting to get a glimpse at real-world publishing and I know I appreciate the insight. For everyone else, if you haven't yet gotten your hands on a copy of State of Decay, now you have a chance to win one of THREE SIGNED COPIES that James has graciously offered to giveaway. Just add your information to the form below to enter (all information is guaranteed confidential and will be discarded once the contest ends) and I will randomly pick THREE winners by Friday April 23rd. No multiple entries-- all multiple entries will be discarded. Open in the U.S. and Canada. Good luck! **Contest Closed**

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