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Thread: Assessing project & collaborator needs & goals

  1. LeeNordling Guest

    Quote Originally Posted by StevenForbes View Post
    Finally, I'm out from under!

    I've been working with a lot of writers lately, in an editorial capacity. With one of them, we went through a lot of back and forth before he decided to hire me. He then sent over his script, and I had no choice but to tear it down in order to start to build it back up.

    He then wrote to me, saying that he was going to filter my edits through his own judgement as to whether or not he was going to listen to them.

    Yes, that kinda ruffled my feathers.

    Here's my line of thinking: if you're coming to an editor to help make your story better, as long as they're not trying to change your sci-fi epic into a romantic comedy or somesuch, why would you NOT adhere to the changes the editor suggests?

    This conversation has forced me to change my process a bit. Yes, I'm a whore--times are tough, and I'll edit you if you meet my price--but I also have personal standards that I maintain.

    I wrote in Bolts & Nuts about working with an editor, especially when working with a freelance one. You have to understand that you're giving up your power to someone else. You've hired an informed opinion, and when you no longer want to listen to that opinion, you no longer need the services of that person.

    So, before, my process was simply to edit the script. Most people that I've edited are only trying to get their foot in the door, and I do my best to bring the script up to snuff so that it can be published in most places with little additional editing. That's generally a single script, around 22 pages, and then they'll go off on their own to find an artist and do their thing.

    However, a couple of writers have asked me to edit the scripts of their entire limited series. With that, I have to ask questions and ask for additional materials:

    What are your publishing goals--submission, physical self-publishing, webcomics?

    What exactly are you needing me to do? Make sure that the story will sell?

    Send me the pitch, so I can follow the overall arc of the story, and make sure that the issues get there.

    Do you have a timeframe for this to be done?

    And on and on. Questions that are relevant to me and to the story--and hopefully, the questions that are relevant to the story will also be relevant to the writer.

    But now, I'm also being forced to ask "who wins?" And I hate that question, because it implies a contest, and someone having to lose. "If we both see the opposite sides of the spectrum on a relevant part of the story, then who wins? Do you trust the informed opinion you've hired, or do you go your own way?"

    Naive on my part to not get that basic, fundamental question out of the way first? More than likely. But no more.

    I have to make a list of things that are important to me as an editor in order to make sure I'm the right fit for anyone else who wants to hire me, which is separate than my list of things from a creative/project initiator side.

    Yes, asking the hard questions sucks. But if they're not asked and answered, then there are too many ways for needless frustration to set in.

    And yes, I'm still working with that writer.
    Hi, Steven.

    It would help if you could note how this experience relates to the discussion.

    If this is for the "interview questions" discussion from the previous thread, it should probably go back there so we don't derail this new topic...but please share your thoughts first; I could be wrong about that conclusion.

    "Who wins?" is a great question, a great topic for discussion (over at the previous thread).

    Without intending to derail myself: A collaborator and I are working on an exciting new project that we just set up, and he had EXACTLY that question. We agreed it was OUR project, not MY project. We also agreed to take any disputes that couldn't be resolved to our editor, to present both sides equitably, and to agree to comply with his decision...without recrimination.

    Somebody has to have the final say, and I'm addressing this now to clarify my point in this week's column that THIS is why it's important folks contribute more to the previous thread. If you don't know the questions to ask, or the concerns to be concerned about, this paradigm isn't worth the paper it's printed on...er, if it were printed.

    So, this discussion stays here to make a point, but let's carry further discussion on this topic back to the previous thread where it belongs.

    Steven, if there was something relevant to this week's thread here, please share the connection I'm missing.

    Thanks.

    --Lee

    PS. "So what should we be discussing here?" you ask.

    We should be discussing the paradigm, what belongs in which column, and how to determine whether stuff does or doesn't match up.
    Last edited by LeeNordling; Thursday, February 04, 2010 at 05:51 PM.



  2. StevenForbes Guest

    Thanks, Lee.

    I was trying to get at that creators, when entering into a collaboration, need to hash out their needs and goals before going further with a project.

    I've found that I need to ask more questions, and concretely state my needs and goals to a writer who hires me to work with them. They need to answer my questions in order for me to understand their needs and goals as it pertains to the project.

    If our mutual points are agreeable, or at least, not too objectionable and are able to be discussed and sussed out into a position where we understand what the other needs and why they need it, then moving forward is great.

    If there are sticking points where both are intractable, then we both know right then that we're not a good fit.

    It's all about needs and goals, which I was trying to illuminate with my story. (And it seems like I didn't do too good of a good job in doing.)



  3. LeeNordling Guest

    Quote Originally Posted by StevenForbes View Post
    Thanks, Lee.

    I was trying to get at that creators, when entering into a collaboration, need to hash out their needs and goals before going further with a project.

    I've found that I need to ask more questions, and concretely state my needs and goals to a writer who hires me to work with them. They need to answer my questions in order for me to understand their needs and goals as it pertains to the project.

    If our mutual points are agreeable, or at least, not too objectionable and are able to be discussed and sussed out into a position where we understand what the other needs and why they need it, then moving forward is great.

    If there are sticking points where both are intractable, then we both know right then that we're not a good fit.

    It's all about needs and goals, which I was trying to illuminate with my story. (And it seems like I didn't do too good of a good job in doing.)
    Thanks, Steven.

    Let's apply that to this week's column, rather than saying it.

    If you or the writer had a do-over, how would you structure this particular issue (not all the issues) for this project.

    Three columns:writer, project, editor (taking the place of the Potential Collaborator).

    Truthfully, except for Ronald, I haven't a clue about whether this column made sense to anybody, or if it didn't, why it didn't.

    And we're two days after I posted it.

    --Lee



  4. LeeNordling Guest

    I was out this afternoon, and now I'm back, so let's tackle Steven's specific circumstance, and hopefully folks will have a better idea of what this approach can do for you.

    First, it's clear that nobody laid down ground rules for this job...or at least not all the ground rules; I'm sure money got discussed.

    This was a classic cluster-poke, from (no offense intended, Steven) both sides.

    How COULD this have gone?

    Well, the writer (PI) could have put together a diagram for the project, and when he got to the line under discussion, it would've read like this:

    Column 1
    PI
    I get final vote on everything

    Column 2
    Project
    N/A (not applicable)

    Column 3
    PC
    Has to take PI's decisions for project as final

    Now, if Steven's writer didn't do that, then, when considering the project, Steven (the PC) could have, through a series of interviews, put this list together, and when he realized that the PI needed the final say, he would have written down the last line under his own role.

    In theory, he could have, at this point, accepted it or rejected it...and there wouldn't have been all that predictable drama.

    If he didn't agree with it, he could have tried negotiating his reason:

    PC
    I was hired as the editor, so my edits must be accepted.

    (BTW, do folks recognize this perspective from last week's discussion about a writer's AND artist's POV on why they should be able to do whatever they want to, without necessarily respecting the other person's position? Extreme positions like this make for tough relationships, unless somebody's paying somebody else so they can hold to this position.)

    Back to the point.

    Take a look at some of my last lines in my column, and you'll see that this paradigm is designed for CLEAR and COMPLETE communication.

    Had this occurred, nobody would've fought; they would have negotiated, and something would have been determined, without all the unnecessary angst and frustration...on both sides.

    Thanks, Steven, for bringing up this example; it helped specifically demonstrate that this paradigm has practical and realistic applications, which are designed to help build better working relationships and products.

    --Lee
    Last edited by LeeNordling; Thursday, February 04, 2010 at 10:53 PM.



  5. RonaldMontgomery Guest

    OK, so we've talked about assessing the project and making sure talent is understanding of one another.

    In a WFH and/or corporate environment will you have these engagements with anyone but the editor?

    I know WFH and corporate aren't synonymous, but there is overlap...



  6. LeeNordling Guest

    Quote Originally Posted by RonaldMontgomery View Post
    OK, so we've talked about assessing the project and making sure talent is understanding of one another.

    In a WFH and/or corporate environment will you have these engagements with anyone but the editor?

    I know WFH and corporate aren't synonymous, but there is overlap...
    I think "rights" are always an issue that need to be made clear.

    "Who owns it" and "who needs to own it" and "who won't own/control it" are all important.

    If a writer is looking for an artist, the writer's intent needs to be clear, as does the artist's.

    Does this need to be covered with publishers, in addition to editors? Sure, at some level.

    And when you (or I) don't, the results can be terrible.

    We got really far into a creative discussion with a publisher about a project. Essentially, they had a framework, but not an editorial concept, which we developed entirely from scratch. And we kept tweaking.

    Then, just as we were nailing down money...the bomb dropped. Just out of habit, I looked for clarification that I knew they'd expect to own it (for reasons I'm not going to explain) but I wondered what royalties would offset their relatively low pay.

    "There are no royalties," I was told.

    I then needed to assess whether this was acceptable or not, but we covered the bases before going to contract; can you imagine me finding out the royalties answer at the contract stage? THIS is why you need to assess your needs. If you do it helterskelter, you get helterskelter.

    Again, I do this stuff in my head these days, but for those of you not experienced at laundry-listing your needs for a wide range of variable responses, the list helps...in any negotiation, and yep, even the ones that go beyond finding the right collaborator.

    Well, I'm sorry we didn't get more discussion on this topic, because this is really one of the most important aspects of learning to work like a professional that we'll have.

    Next week: comics cultures: a discussion (because what's the point of me writing stuff, if we don't discuss it?)

    --Lee
    Last edited by LeeNordling; Friday, February 05, 2010 at 08:52 PM.



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