Letters to My Editor: Dogs, Badgers & Priorities

What does a working relationship between a writer and an editor look like? Author and HNE client, Jessie Clever and I have known each other for more than ten years. So in our case, it looks a little snarky.

Welcome to Letters to My Editor. She writes to me one week on her blog. I reply the next on mine. Mayhem just might ensue.

Click here to read Jessie’s most recent letter.

Letters-to-My-Editor_edited-1Dear Jessie,

Just remember, puppies grow up, NEED to grow up. Otherwise, they’d pee on the floor and eat out of the cat’s litter box for all eternity (some even eat rocks, I hear). Stories need to grow up too. Otherwise, they’ll always be ideas and never become the inspiring, powerful, funny, terrifying beings that have changed our lives. For example, think what the world would be like if J.K. had left Harry in the cupboard under the stairs and went on to the next puppy-story. No Hermione or Ron. No Snape or Sirius or Tom Riddle. No Dobby or Griphook or Tonks. Maggie Smith would never have been known as Minerva McGonagall, which would be nothing short of criminal. And I could never proudly identify myself as a Hufflepuff to all those who scoff at the noble badger.

Therefore, managing your deadlines is vital. In addition to allowing puppies to grow into the dogs that become your loyal companions for their entire lives, you become the kind of author people (editors) want to work with.

It’s a tricky business with no one right answer, but there are things you can do. First the conceptual:

  • Learn to say no. To ideas, to opportunities, to commitments that take you away from your writing. You’ve got to keep the business of writing going, but balance is everything.
  • Learn to say yes. To one story at a time, to the commitments you’ve already made, to seeing puppies but not taking them home.

Now some more specific way to do those two things:

  • Before you work, take a moment to breathe. Turn on some calm music (or find a quiet spot if you prefer silence) and let your mind settle. The goal is to give your mind the chance to freely discover what is already weighing on it (to acknowledge each worry so that it knows – and can wait until – it will get a turn in the spotlight).
  • Prioritize. Make two pie charts for yourself. One showing how much of your time you want/dream to be spending on writing (both new ideas and continuing existing projects), editing, marketing, budgeting, etc. And the other showing how you actually are spending your time now. Compromise on a reasonable but prioritized goal between those two in order to . . .
  • Make a schedule that reflects your priorities. That can mean allowing 30-60 minutes every day to warm up your brain with new ideas but then cutting yourself off. Set reminders and make lists including external deadlines. Whatever you do, keep that pie chart goal nearby to help you make decisions.
  • Communicate. Take yourself out of isolation. Talk with your editor (I hear she’s nice). I love knowing how the story is coming, what I can do to help, and pondering long term questions you might have. This is the number one helpful thing you can do for your editor when working on multiple projects. While self-sufficiency is important (no one wants to feel like they’re changing another adult’s metaphorical diapers), keeping an editor posted helps both parties stick to the deadlines agreed upon and brings out the best work from each. Involve me. I’m your support team for a reason.
  • Buy a smoking jacket. All the movies say it works, therefore it must be true.

I’m a stalwart believer in doing something smaller well before adding more. Once a few of the above are consistently applied, managing more than one project and their accompanying deadlines becomes second nature.

My process as an editor is almost identical to what I laid out above. I fall prey to the same traps you do, and what brings me back into focus could be the same as well: Everything hinges on the mutual respect of author and editor (for each other and for the work). The Golden Rule will trump just about any other advice, tricks, or time management app out there.

Best,

K

Be sure to subscribe to Jessie’s blog at Romancing a Blog to get her next letter!

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One thought on “Letters to My Editor: Dogs, Badgers & Priorities

  1. Pingback: Letters to My Editor: What My Writing Partners Think of To Do Lists | Jessie Clever

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