Even though several folks have asked me to write more on writing, I remain convinced that I don’t really have that much new to say that writers haven’t already heard before. Oh, I think I’m a decent encourager, which is necessary for editorial type work…but that’s more of a one-on-one basis. I never planned to be an editor, it just happened.
Well, I’m glad you asked. When I started selling stories back in the late 80s, I began attending local shows as a “comic writer guest.” Yeah, people wanted to talk to me about my books and get my autograph. Yeah, it was pretty cool. But I soon realized that there were many other talented folks spread around the boonies of the South and—like me—didn’t have access to the offices of Marvel and DC in New York.
SO, seeing the opportunity, I started trying to “hook” some of the talent up. Next thing I know, Silverline was packaging for the same publishers I’d been writing for. “Packaging,” is essentially just freelance editing. I’d cut a deal with the publisher, then deliver them a finished, ready-to-print book. It was a win-win situation for both of us. A few years later, Malibu Comics was preparing to cut down on freelance writers, but needing an editor. Since I’d already had a track record with them, it was a natural fit. The rest, of course, is history.
But I continued to attend conferences, conventions, shows as editor for Malibu. It was different then; writers and artists wanted to know what they needed to do so that I would hire them. Problem was, I had very limited opportunities; fewer opportunities than talented folks.
Fast forward to last year. You’ll recall I talked about attending the ACFW Conference in September. Like many of the other writers there hoping to find that special ingredient that makes editors take note, I sat in on a big panel of editors who were taking questions from the attendees.
One question has continued to haunt me and I have come to realize that we were given an avoidance answer. When asked what kind of material they’re looking for (which, I’ll readily admit is difficult to answer), several of them mentioned reading the “classics.”
I’ve just come off a year reading many of the classics for the Campfire line of graphic novels. I daresay if the books weren’t “classics,” most of the editors wouldn’t touch them as many of them do the things today’s editors tell us not to do!
A couple of examples: many of them are incredibly passive and have a heavy use of “was.” Many of them also take time to build up to the story whereas today’s editors want the action to start immediately.
Now I’m not suggesting this is wrong…but what I am suggesting is that editors shouldn’t be pointing writers to works that do not reflect their own editorial likes, even if they are classics. After all, none of them would publish Shakespeare today but we still consider Shakespeare’s work classic.
I think the thing that I’ve really noticed is that many of the books that actually get published break many of the “rules” writers are constantly hammered with over and over. Bottom line, I guess, is…the right writer has to find the right editor…not an easy thing to do.