Saturday, 15 August 2009

Trios: The Third Sign, by Gregory A Wilson: The Editor's View

Although Gregory A Wilson has already told us how he found a publisher, it's interesting to read a corresponding view from the other side of the fence. Here, Greg's editor at Five Star, John Helfers, discusses what he looks for in a writer, and how writers can improve the editing process. Next time we'll hear from the book's cover artist but meanwhile, my thanks to John for this revealling contribution.

I first met Greg Wilson at the 2005 GenCon. At first he seemed like one of the dozens of aspiring authors I meet at that convention and others around the country, but as our conversation progressed, I became aware of certain vital differences between him and the rest of the crowd.

Greg’s background as both an associate professor and avid fiction reader gave him an excellent grounding in the tropes of the fantasy genre, which was revealed when I first read an early draft of his novel The Third Sign. He also had the persistence and drive that marks a good author. However, before he could get to that stage, there was one last hurdle to overcome—I had to accept his book first.

Don’t get me wrong—as I mentioned above, the quality was there in his manuscript from the start. However, Greg writes in a crowded sub-genre—the high/epic fantasy. Having worked and written in the field (one of my favorites) for more than a decade, I’ve seen just about everything cross my desk while acquiring science fiction and fantasy for the Five Star line, so I have very high standards. And if an author wants to submit a high/epic fantasy to me, that’s fine, but it had better be something pretty damn special.

After reviewing his work, I saw the glimmerings of what the novel could be, but I knew it would take some hard work on both of our parts to get it there. I went back to Greg with the first three chapters edited, showing him both how I work, and outlining some of the major edits that I felt the book needed. I asked him to revise the manuscript (remember, at this point the book hadn’t been accepted yet) both to see if he could take what I had given him and incorporate it into his book, and, to be honest, gauge his reaction to my suggestions (there’s nothing worse than working with an easily-offended/haughty/balky/recalcitrant author, and often the results just aren’t worth the trouble in the first place). Greg was more than willing to revise and resubmit, and after seeing what he had done with my edits, I was pleased to offer him a contract to publish his novel.

This is not to say that after that first revision the manuscript was ready to go. Both of us worked very hard on polishing and strengthening the final version, deepening character motivations and relationships, working out the timeline so that events happening on opposite sides of the kingdom worked in the overall plot, etc. Happily, Greg was also excellent to work with during the editorial process all through the pre-production stages. I’ve always thought that the mark of a true, professional writer is that they can be open to suggestions and the alternate perspectives on their work, and that’s exactly what Greg was. Working with him to shape the manuscript into its final published form was a highly rewarding experience (for both of us, I hope!) I was very pleased to play a part in bringing Greg’s fantastic vision into print, and hope that his readers enjoy what is hopefully the first of many volumes about Calen’s adventures in his troubled homeland of Klune.


Derek said...

I'm tremendously enjoying this series where we get to follow a project through from multiple points of view.

Sally Zigmond said...

I agree, Derek. And I'm so pleased that this particular editor reminds us that even a promising, high standard manuscript requires the close co-operation between editor and author to make it even better.

That's what you don't get with self or vanity-published novels--and it shows.