For this story, as I saw it, Shawn was at a decision point with the series. Okay, they’re together; now what do they do together? Do you break them apart and bring them back? Do we expand from love into mystery, action, drama? Shawn introduced a pair of captivating new characters in SCV; where to take them?
We did this one a little differently. Substantive editing has an inherent balance: where is the crossing point between editing the writer’s work and imposing one’s own solutions? As a general rule, I don’t believe that I should insert too much of my own identity into any book I edit. The ideal result is that it sounds like the author, but better. However, that takes more time in a couple of ways. It requires more cautious treatment, but it also means that major plot issues are referred back to the writer for resolution. It’s not that I couldn’t solve them; it’s that I would prefer to defer to the writer’s vision.
We had two issues this time, their combination heavily impacting the schedule. Both were tied to a planned release of July 4. Shawn only got the ms to me about two weeks prior to release date, which would require us to step on the gas. However, he was also dealing with some family health issues serious enough to monopolize anyone’s mindshare and emotional strength. When an author can’t focus, it is likely to impair the work product. Not only would it be difficult for him to handle me coming back with a sheaf of questions, his ability to process them was at issue. And there wasn’t time to wait out the personal matters, which presented me with the question of how to suggest we handle this. Hard part about being an editor: it isn’t acceptable to answer ‘hell, I don’t know’ about a question that concerns achieving a good book. What did they hire an editor for in the first place, if not to supply those answers?
I thought about it, wrote to Shawn, and said: ‘Why don’t we do it this way: I’ll just take the governors off and see it to completion, answering any questions myself by implementing what I think is a smart solution. No comments, no teaching, no feedback, no questions for you–just do it. If I don’t know what to do, I’ll do something I believe is intelligent.’ Shawn liked the idea, so the result was what you see in the published book. Which is my way of saying that if you feel it slipped up in any way, it’s more on me than usual.
That made clear, I’m confident that SCS has the most interesting story concept of the three books in the series to date. I like Shawn’s developing skill at satire, and his readiness to break some eggs in the literary kitchen. When you see an author daring to do that, you cannot predict what’s coming next, and it makes his future work more appealing. Shawn Inmon is on the rise as a storyteller.
About the only problem with it is that in his Author’s Notes, Shawn has once again given me excessive credit. But he’s that kind of a man, and that generous spirit comes out in his storytelling as well as his marketing. Shawn has learned what some authors never will: better to focus on writing something worth pirating, than to worry so much about piracy that the thing turns out not worth pirating.