Last week, Phyl talked about the process of editing an anthology from the viewpoint of the project editor – getting the stories as they are finished and doing What Editors Do on them (a complicated process that pretty much boils down to “I broke it for you, now fix it better.”).
As they come back fixed-better, the stories then come to me for a second pass.
‘But,’ you say, ‘they’ve already been edited! Phyl already told them what they missed – how many times does the poor writer have to fix their story? Isn’t it their story?
Well, yes, of course. And no.
As I read each story, I am making notes on the content, of course. There are things that worked for Phyl that threw me out of the story, and vice versa, and I make note of that, and pass my thoughts back to Phyl, the suspenders to her belt, as it were. But that’s only part of the editor-in-chief gig.
You see, this is not only a theme anthology, but a linked, shared-origin anthology. That means each story has to work not only within itself, as a complete whole, but it also has to work as part of the larger collection without negating any of the originality or imagination of the individual story.
To manage that, we didn’t give our intrepid authors strict guidelines – or even very much in the way of Thou Shalt Nots. Instead, we let them go their merry creative ways – and now it’s my job to make sure nobody’s contradicting canon, or stepping on anyone else’s plot-toes.
[pause to consider the joy of herding cats, yes]
So while I’m reading these stories, with their amazing scope of character and place, I’m also thinking Big Picture. How, when someone reads this anthology, will all the pieces fit into the timeline, the basic laws of steampunk physics, the historical and anti-historical elements established within the origin story? And if not – does it matter? Do I have to step in and ask something to be reworked, or is it a question of different interpretations of the same theme, and therefore falling under the “Sez you” school of historical accuracy?
We’ve already had a three-way mashup wherein one event is interpreted three different and contradicting ways – so who wins? How do we have them rework their stories so that the overall internal logic remains? [my suggestion, a 3-way cage match, did not go over well. Phoo.]
Fun, yes. But headache-inducing, too.
Next up: Figuring the Table of Contents. Oy. Someone hand me another aspirin…