One of the greatest pleasures I have professionally is working with editors who truly make an effort to challenge me as a writer. This small cadre of editors regularly go out of their way (or have done so in the past) to make me re-think how I had presented a specific piece, consider how it could be better, more clear, more engaging, and more empathetic, and by extension force me to grow and improve my skill set instead of simply relying on what has always worked.
This might sound like an unusual plaudit to aim in the direction of an editor, but the fact of the matter is that in the fast-paced world of content creation, there are any number of editors asked to wear a huge number of hats. In between managing publication schedules, coordinating with writers, approving and discussing pitches, attending meetings, and copy-editing, there’s not always the time to take such a direct interest in a writer. It’s a business that does the best it can with what few resources are allocated to it, so I am always grateful to those who were able to make the time to work specifically with me on improving the work and my own abilities.
With Code 45, I wasn’t sure what kind of a vibe I would have when working with the editor who had been assigned to us by Scout Comics. Journalistic, business, and entertainment writing were quite different, at least in my mind, from growing and nurturing a fictional story from start to finish. Given that I had no experience in the comic book milieu, it was entirely new ground for me.
We had been assured as creators that almost all editorial input from Scout would be, at best, a suggestion. Obviously, this was contingent on us continuing to submit work that was at the same level of quality as our first issue, which was what had sold the publisher on our series. Still, I felt as though I was walking a line between wanting an experienced comic book editor to help me mold the story as it arced from Issue 1 to Issue 5, while at the same time feeling fiercely protective of our vision of the book.
I needn’t have worried. Our editor, Andrea Lorenzo Molinari, wasn’t just a veteran editor but also a comic book creator himself. On the initial run-through of the first couple of issues he was definitely welcome as an American seeing a Canadian (and a Quebecois) story with outside eyes. This enabled us to better explain some aspects of the story on the page that were obvious to us, but not necessarily culturally familiar to a reader.
As I began to let my armor around the story drop, I discovered that he was just as willing to call out aspects of the plot that didn’t seem logical or fully-formed. In fact, when writing Issue 3, Andrea was able to identify a dead-end that I had written myself into that I hadn’t even realized was constraining the story. The simple act of doing this – voicing his concerns about a major plot point – jolted me out of the headspace I had been locked into and helped me create a much more satisfying resolution to our main character’s journey.
It’s not an exaggeration to say that this particular interaction was a revelation, and one that convinced me to involve my editor at a much earlier stage of the writing process – outlines and initial drafts – rather than the completed drafts he had been working from before. Andrea is just as gracious when our team doesn’t incorporate our suggestions as he is when we thank him for helping us with a particularly difficult passage of the story, and that’s helped build significant trust between us.
There’s a certain aspect of ‘us against the world’ when working to birth a fairly large comic book project into the world, and it’s natural to be overprotective of a story as a result of that outlook. Getting over myself – just as I did so many years ago when working with magazines and other publications – has proven to be just as crucial for improving the stories that spring forth from my imagination as it has those grounded in reality.