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Author & Editor Teams: Editing a Contemporary Novel with Sylvan Creekmore

Ever been curious about editor/author relationships? Editor Sylvan Creekmore teamed up with Lily Anderson, author of Not Now, Not Ever, to answer some burning questions about putting the finishing touches on realistic stories and the importance of finding each story's hook. And if you missed Sylvan's questions for Lily yesterday, catch up here.

not now not ever coverLily Anderson (LA): What is the most rewarding part of editing contemporary YA?

Sylvan Creekmore (SC): Without a doubt, the most rewarding part of editing anything is getting the next draft back and seeing the brilliant changes an author has made. The process of writing/reading is communication across space and time, after all; seeing that connection made concrete is a fantastic and invigorating feeling. Did that get too deep?

LA: What is the most challenging part of editing contemporary YA?

SC: Finding the balance where the characters and their circumstances are believable as teenagers, and yet still affecting and moving and enjoyable to read. I’m not sure about you, but I would NEVER want to read a book about myself or my friends as teenagers: my most memorable moment of independence pre-college was driving alone for the first time… ten minutes down the road to pick up my prom dress from the dry cleaners. That does not a gripping plot make. So the story has to step outside the bounds of strict realism sometimes, to keep the story moving, while still remaining faithful to that viscerally-necessary feeling that makes being a teenager such a potent experience.

LA: What advice do you have for writers interested in writing contemporary YA?

SC: Apart from the necessary classics (read everything; write every day): Make sure you don’t neglect the hook! Genre fiction often seems to come with its own ready-made hook, because it’s usually high-concept by default, but it’s just as important in contemporary YA. A book needs to have an intriguing one- or two-sentence pitch in order for your editor (and by extension, your publicist and sales force etc.) to be able to convince anyone else to read it. There is no worse kiss of death for a book than “It’s so much better than it sounds I promise!”

LA: Can you describe the editing process?

SC: 1. Receive ms draft

2. Make schedule to edit: a. set deadline; b. pick solitary, quiet place; c. gather all necessary materials (printed ms + stickies + pen, laptop, etc)

3. Have editing schedule completely derailed by another “crisis”

4. Repeat step #2 until it sticks

5. Arrive at editing location with all materials except pen (I have yet to remember a pen)

6. Read: a. Laugh, giggle, cry, smile, swoon, squirm, rage, sigh, etc. as applicable; b. Text colleagues about the best parts

7. Pour all your many thoughts into a disaster of an editorial letter, then fix it

8. Wait with baited breath for the next draft. 

LA: If you were a cocktail, what would your ingredients be?

SC: My standard, I’d reckon: a Gin Ricky (gin, soda, lemon). It’s a classic from the 1920s so it has class and intrigue, but it’s also simple and made with things you definitely just have around the house, because I like to think I’m mysterious and interesting but really I’m a comfortable homebody. And it still sounds cool when you order it, which is really the only goal.

LA: What is your ultimate #MSWL book? Is it a particular blend of tropes or other books that you've never seen?

SC: This is impossible because I have like, twenty. One is definitely queer girl pirates currently—historical and fantasy and scifi and even contemporary can all apply.

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