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Ask Editor Alison Weiss #14 (right in here!) 2 DAYS LONG

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Ask Editor Alison Weiss #14 (right in here!) 2 DAYS LONG

Post  Maggie on Tue Mar 06, 2012 10:01 am

Ask away!

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Re: Ask Editor Alison Weiss #14 (right in here!) 2 DAYS LONG

Post  Editor Alison on Tue Mar 06, 2012 11:08 am

I guess I'll start the questions today:

Where do you find inspiration? Even if you're not writing realistic contemporary, how does your life as a teen inform the world you're creating? Or does it not?
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My inspiration...

Post  silentpages on Tue Mar 06, 2012 11:26 am

My inspiration comes from everywhere. What I see, what I do. And perhaps most of all, what I'm reading. The YA books I read make me question things, and those questions lead to completely new stories. Even though I write science fiction and fantasy, my characters are teenagers. One MC is a writer, like me. Others have qualities that I WISH I had. Sometimes that's really what they bring to the table -- our characters are our wishes, of things we could do, people we could be, triumphing over things WE'D like to triumph over.

*shrug* XD

Well, the biggest question in my head lately has been... My current WIP is a series. A very complex, intricately-intertwined, foreshadowing-laced series. -_- And I've been wondering if publishers accept series like that, from a new, unknown author, and how common that would be.

Otherwise... Mmm... Has an author ever flat-out refused a MAJOR change you suggested as an editor, and if so what kind of change was it? (I don't expect details, but a vague example would be nice). And, do you think it really WORKED to ignore that suggested change in the final draft?
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Re: Ask Editor Alison Weiss #14 (right in here!) 2 DAYS LONG

Post  Editor Alison on Tue Mar 06, 2012 11:46 am

Hi Silentpages,

To answer your first question, absolutely. Publishers want projects that are doing something new and delivering an incredibly compelling story. Complexity and foreshadowing just create the tension that makes readers want to read on. And from my perspective, that's a great thing. I think as long as you have a clear picture of where your story is going, it's fine, better even, to be selling your idea as a series.

BUT be warned and aware that publishing is a tricky, finicky business. And in recent years it's the sad truth that publishers don't often have the time to let something percolate and grow. If they're not seeing the results they expected, they are more and more likely to cut a series off at its heels. So, as a writer, you need to be prepared. How many books? Would you be flexible enough if you needed to cut the extent down? I'm sure you've spent a lot of time planning since you've stressed the intricacies. If your editor were to say this piece just isn't working, are you ready to dig in, tease it out, and rework?

Don't fear trying to publish a rich complex story - it's what lots of editors are looking for - but arm yourself as a savvy author who knows that once the manuscript is written, the work is just beginning.

Question #2: An author denying me? For shame! But in all seriousness, I love working with authors on their books, and I come to think of the books on my list as mine since I've invested so much in them. But they aren't my books. They belong to my authors. And, ultimately, it's not my decision what they choose to do with their books. It's theirs.

Have I ever received pushback from an author? Yes. Have things stayed that I didn't love? Yes. But, again, it's not my book. And as an editor, you pick your battles. The book is the sum of hundreds of thousands of decisions, and each choice makes it a slightly different book. Some matter more than others, but they ultimately resolve to an end product. And, in the end, that's what you look at. A lovely, sparkling book.
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Re: Ask Editor Alison Weiss #14 (right in here!) 2 DAYS LONG

Post  Taryn on Tue Mar 06, 2012 11:48 am

Thanks for yesterday's SandA twitter chat!!! You're so ridiculously plugged in to social media, Alison. Why?

Also! Books like Love Story by Jennifer Echols and Vicious Little Darlings by Katherine Easer both have protagonists in college, but they're marketed as YA, not NA. Do college protagonists turn you off immediately? Can college work sometimes? Your thoughts on this?

@SilentPages IDK about editors, but I know my agent more points out what's wrong, rather than saying how to fix things. If you and the editor/agent see eye-to-eye on the root of the problem (which is what they point out), then you're more likely to brainstorm a way to fix things. But I'm sure there are exceptions!!!
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Re: Ask Editor Alison Weiss #14 (right in here!) 2 DAYS LONG

Post  Editor Alison on Tue Mar 06, 2012 12:17 pm

Hi Taryn!

Why am I plugged into social media? Well, part of it's my job - yes, Tweeting for Egmont has become part of my job description, and I sit on our company's digital committee - and part of it is just that I think it's fun. And the amazing Sara Sargent wanted to talk about books with people on Twitter. And Hart of Dixie is on hiatus until April.

And why weren't you reading manuscripts last night, Alison?

I'm just a rebel. And I was, while doing laundry. Sometimes you just need a night off.

Ze college protagonist question. I find this one really interesting because people keep on bringing up the topic of New Adult. But the thing is, New Adult, isn't an age category. It's a marketing attempt. And it hasn't been particularly successful yet.

Think about it this way: You're in college and go to the bookstore to pick up a good book. (How do you have time to do this? I was reading 4 500+ page novels a week!) Where do you go to find the New Adult books? Right into the other Fiction sections, I assume, because most stores don't have New Adult sections. I'm just not convinced that this will ever be its own thing. Do you go look for Geriatric Adult? No. You just read adult books. It's a wide swath and you find what you want.

College-age protagonists are a different matter. To me, whether a college age protagonist should sit in YA or adult is deeply rooted to the book itself. And that's because you change a lot in college, or so they say. When you enter you're green and still much like the boasty high school senior now beat down by a world of professors who really don't care if you've never gotten a B in your life. And when you leave college, you're on the verge of being a job-holding, rent-paying responsible adult - maybe? I'm personally of the opinion that you can have college-age kids in YA, but it needs to be very early on in that college experience. Summer before? Maybe freshman year, but you're pushing it. And it needs to connect implicitly to the tenant of YA.

One of the things that draws me to YA over adult is that you can't be egregious. You don't have characters jumping into each other’s beds, or getting high, or whatever unless it's necessary to the story. Sometimes I feel like with adult, authors do it because they can, and for me it just makes for a product that feels a bit . . . well . . . self-indulgent. And that's the first thing that turns me off when reading.
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Re: Ask Editor Alison Weiss #14 (right in here!) 2 DAYS LONG

Post  Taryn on Tue Mar 06, 2012 2:02 pm

So it comes down to the content, and the setting isn't an immediate turn off. Yeah, I agree we won't be getting NA sections in a bookstore anytime soon! Thanks Smile
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Re: Ask Editor Alison Weiss #14 (right in here!) 2 DAYS LONG

Post  silentpages on Tue Mar 06, 2012 6:31 pm

Thanks so much! That answer was really encouraging. ^^ I've heard about the possibilities of series being cut off - which is probably part of why I was stressing about it - but knowing that there's still opportunities out there for series makes me feel a lot better. ^^

"Would you be flexible enough if you needed to cut the extent down?"
Considering that not three days ago I decided to completely CUT the fourth book entirely from the series... Yeah, I think I could work with that. XD

"I'm sure you've spent a lot of time planning since you've stressed the intricacies. If your editor were to say this piece just isn't working, are you ready to dig in, tease it out, and rework?"
I have spent a long time planning. This series has been around a couple years now, and while I've only recently been making progress on a major rewrite of Book 1, I've planned basically everything that will happen in the coming books...

That said, those plans have changed so much, just in the past few weeks, that I'm starting to realize more and more how necessary and how possible some of those major changes can be. I have a stronger story now than I did a few months ago. I'm sure a million other things will have to change before the final draft, and yet I feel I'll be able to make those changes when they need to happen....

It's a good feeling. Opens up a world of possibilities, knowing things aren't fixed. :]

Let's see... Other questions... What has been the most surprising thing in your career? What keeps surprising you about editing, and about the publishing/literary world in general?
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Re: Ask Editor Alison Weiss #14 (right in here!) 2 DAYS LONG

Post  Editor Alison on Tue Mar 06, 2012 6:45 pm

So glad I could offer words of encouragement. Revising is hard, but you just have to dive in headfirst.

Well, my publishing career isn't THAT long. But I still am awed by the fact that a manuscript I saw in early stages can come out of a cardboard box as a shiny book that you can buy in any bookstore. And that I helped make that happen.

And what the outside world would probably find surprising is how little time we actually get to spend reading and editing. There are so many other draws on our time. It's shocking!

I think what keeps me always excited about my job as an editor is finding that next project that blows my mind and that I want to help bring to market. I think it's probably obvious that I love to read, but reading something that you just know is "the thing?" It's pretty special.

And I'm also blown away by what authors do with feedback. I will freely admit that I'm a very hands-on editor. I like to get into the meat of a book and ask a lot of questions and give a lot of feedback. You can imagine all of the markup on a manuscript from me. I would be scared, to tell you the truth. But the authors I've worked with are really such rock stars in their approach. Facing big plot problems, it's a week of collecting their thoughts and then, "Alison, I've been thinking about how to tackle X, and what do you think of this?" And then we strategize and when I get the revision I can't believe how transformed the book can be.

Working with Kristina McBride on her forthcoming ONE MOMENT, there was a scene we just went back-and-forth on. Reading the revision, I had no idea which direction she'd choose. And when I read the new version for the first time, I just couldn't breathe. It was perfect. I couldn't have asked her to change a thing. And I could never have told her to do that. It's just a coalescing of everything and it clicks, and it's amazing. And I love each and every one of those moments.
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Re: Ask Editor Alison Weiss #14 (right in here!) 2 DAYS LONG

Post  silentpages on Tue Mar 06, 2012 6:51 pm

And all I can say to that is...

I love books. XD
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Re: Ask Editor Alison Weiss #14 (right in here!) 2 DAYS LONG

Post  Rachel on Tue Mar 06, 2012 8:41 pm

Hi Editor Alison! (waves)

In your reply to silentpages, you said that you ask a lot of questions in the editorial process. What kinds of questions do you ask? Do you find that certain types of books tend to bring certain types of questions to your mind?

More generally, are there any plot devices that you've seen a LOT recently? I've been wondering recently about what devices in YA (any genre) actually are overused and which ones are simply time-tested.

Thanks so much for taking the time to do this!

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Re: Ask Editor Alison Weiss #14 (right in here!) 2 DAYS LONG

Post  Editor Alison on Tue Mar 06, 2012 10:38 pm

Hi Rachel,

It's hard to classify questions that always pop up. I want to know about motivations and why x is so given y. I ask about places where there may be opportunities to build on an idea that the author has already established. I have loony ideas and ask if they've considered if introducing this scene earlier. It's really manuscript specific, but always deeply entrenched in teasing out ideas and characters to make them as fully developed and contributing to the narrative as possible.

I also tend to have lots of comments like "Love this" and "ha" and "I remember this time when. . . . " My authors and I have conversations in the margins, and I think that we tend to get really fruitful exchanges out of it.

Plot devices that keep popping up. Nothing is coming to mind instantly. I think the love triangle is still running rampant. I sort of loathe it, but it does create immense tension. I might need to think about this question more though. Maybe something will occur to me tomorrow.

Yes, tomorrow. Because I will still be answering questions tomorrow, which means you should all keep asking me them!
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Re: Ask Editor Alison Weiss #14 (right in here!) 2 DAYS LONG

Post  Taryn on Wed Mar 07, 2012 10:18 am

So I'm working on revisions for my agent right now, and the main things I'm working on are developing characters and relationships and giving a little more back story. My MS was really short at first--just under 50K--and it's weird to be revising without cutting. Do you have any suggestions for how to flesh out these characters while keeping the story organic? Do you usually see MSs that need to be more fleshed out or more cut? Which do you think is an easier fix?
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Re: Ask Editor Alison Weiss #14 (right in here!) 2 DAYS LONG

Post  Editor Alison on Wed Mar 07, 2012 10:55 am

I don't think either fix is easier, Taryn. I just think they're different.

It might seem like adding would be easy. After all, you just have to write more. But what you write needs to be seemlessly integrated into the novel. It needs to have a purpose in being there.

Sometimes when you're expanding one of the best things to do is look at the overall picture and askyourself what you need more of. What hasn't been explained enough? What feels too curt? Do you have the depth you're looking for? Perhaps you can delve into character reaction or interraction to address a lack.
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Re: Ask Editor Alison Weiss #14 (right in here!) 2 DAYS LONG

Post  Rachel on Wed Mar 07, 2012 9:12 pm

Thanks so much!

One last question: what should a writer do when their personal reading interests are not wholly in line with the rest of the reading community? Recently I read a very very popular book that almost everyone on earth loves, and was shocked to find that I...didn't (I didn't hate it, it just didn't grab me). That leads me to feel like I can't really write in that particular genre with the intent of eventually being published, since my taste is apparently very different from everyone else in that area. It's frustrating, because I feel like I'm committing literary heresy by not adoring this book, but...I like the genre. Shocked Does that make sense?

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Re: Ask Editor Alison Weiss #14 (right in here!) 2 DAYS LONG

Post  Editor Alison on Fri Mar 09, 2012 10:34 am

I am so sorry I went AWOL guys. I got really sick. I'm back now.

I think you like what you like. In a genre. In a book. You like what you like.

I will admit without listing book titles that there are books that the world seems to lap up in middle grade and YA that I find really subpar. And there are books I adore that others don't get. People have different tastes, and you don't have to love everything that others love. It's not a poor reflection on you or what you can add to the literary world. It's just what it is.

Okay, I'll mention one book. Everyone loves CATCHER IN THE RYE. I think it's, for lack of a better word, "phony." But that's just how it is, right?
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