Feminist, Fictionista, Foodie, Francophile

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Meet the Editor: Susan Schader of Story Services 4 Wrriters

photo by Michelle Seixas
Susan Schader has worked as a freelance Story Analyst/Story and Development Consultant/Editor on feature film and television projects for companies such as DreamWorks, New Regency Productions, Village Roadshow, DeLuca Productions, Donner-Shuler-Donner Productions, Icon Films, Jagged Films, Showtime, Lifetime, Turner Pictures, among others, including private clients and international film brokers and producers (covering such film festivals as Cannes, Berlin, Toronto, etc.). She was Assistant to filmmaker Albert Brooks on Defending Your Life, from project’s inception (scripting writing and editing), pre-production, and casting, to production and post-production, publicity and marketing research.

In the publishing industry in New York and San Francisco, she worked as a Developmental Editor, developing, co-authoring, editing major college textbooks, including all ancillary and audio-visual materials, from planning through publication) for Harper & Row (now Harper Collins) Publishers.  She also served as a Marketing Analyst, Research and Development, Harper College Division East. As a freelancer, she did developmental/substantive editing, copyediting, research, proofreading, redlining for such major publishing houses as Prentice-Hall, McGraw-Hill Book Company, and Abrams.
She has a background in graphic design and photography as well, and has loved “Words & Images,” which is also the title of her blog at sschader.blogspot.com. She is currently writing a Middle Grade novel  -- a new creative challenge. 

For information on Susan's rates and services, check out the Story Services 4 Writers gite here.

What is the last good book you read?

The debut novel of Brit Bennett, entitled The Mothers, which is due out this fall but I had the chance to read in advance. It’s a coming-of-age story about two young African-American teenagers and the book’s central question as Ms. Bennett describes it is, “how girls grow into women when the female figures who are supposed to usher you into womanhood aren’t there. How girls come of age with that absence. And it’s about how communities are shaped by loss… how in moments of grief, community can be both a source of comfort and a source of oppression.” It’s beautifully written, touching, and timely.

Who are your favorite writers? 

That question is hard to answer given that I read so much “professionally” that I rarely read for my own pleasure. When I can sneak in a read for “fun,” I tend gravitate toward crime/detective tales. I don’t know what that says about me, although I hope that instead of indicating I have a penchant for dark, dastardly deeds, it suggests that solving a crime or mystery is rather like solving the puzzle of what’s missing in a manuscript or screenplay, what needs to be there or needs to be removed to make the narrative soar. I do like the writing of the Scottish writer, Ian Rankin, who has penned the Detective Rankin novels. One of my all time favorite novels is Harper Lee’s, To Kill A Mockingbird, and my favorite children’s book is, Charlotte’s Web, by E.B. White, which I’ve seen described as a nearly perfect book. I agree with that assessment.

What about their books appeals to you? 

Rankin’s books are atmospheric – you can feel, smell, sense, and see Glasgow, where most of the books are set, and they are intelligent, sharp, and feature a protagonist who is his own man. I love stories about characters who try to do some good in the world, even if particular worlds in which they exist are rife with the problems human beings tend to create. To Kill A Mockingbird is moving, beautiful,  and truthful, and Charlotte’s Web, again, is nearly perfect given it is about friendship, loyalty, love, joy, sadness, birth, death, and life in toto.

What are the most commonly misspelled words you see? (For me, it’s probably “gage” for “gauge.”)

Contractions for possessives, e.g., it’s for its, you’re for your. Those drive me mad.

What is the grammar mistake you see writers making most often? (It’s and Its seems to be the downfall of many.)

The lack of the proper use of commas and comma splicing.

Oxford comma, yes or no?

Yes, for clarity’s sake, although I believe it’s not much used in AP editing.

Is there a grammar rule that used to be the bane of your existence? (For me it was further and farther. I think I’ve finally gotten it, but it was a struggle.)

No, although your example’s not bad. I think something came up last week while I was working on a project, but for the life of me, I can’t recall it now (too many words racing through my brain at all times).

Have you ever stopped reading a book because of typos or formatting errors?

I haven’t come across that issue in a book. I have, however, come across it in screenplays, and when I do, I want to hurl the script across the room, hopefully right into the trash bin. And over the years, my aim in that regard has gotten very keen.

Could you describe the process you use for a “developmental edit?”

First I obviously read the manuscript or screenplay, but I read it as a “reader,” someone coming to the material and hoping to b drawn into a good yarn. Next I think. Then I read the material again, this time more analytically, jotting notes to myself on what’s popping out to me in re what’s right, what’s wrong, what’s missing, what needs tightening, heightening, or further development. I thus tend to go off my instinct first, reacting first and foremost as a reader, and then I start digging into the material—analyzing it with a more formal, critical eye – to figure out and back-up my instinctual responses. I work creatively, trying to think of solutions or ways to make things stronger, better, and richer, rather than just hacking at material like a sushi chef who is wielding a big, sharp knife and getting out some aggression as well.

More than one set of what I call developmental “story notes” may be needed on a project. I may not be able to address everything if there are problems with big, overriding issues, such as holes in a premise that need attending to before the rest of the tale can be filled in. Writing is a process, as is development. 

Fiction writers seem to be divided into two camps—present tense and past tense—with passionate advocates on both sides. As an editor, which form do you see the most?

I’d say present tense would win out slightly.

Some readers say they will only read fiction written in the first person. What would you say to a newbie writer who wanted to know which POV he/she would use?

I’d suggest going with your first instinct with regard to POV and write one or even a few chapters from it. Then rewrite those chapters from another POV; e.g., if you write first in the third person, switch it up and rewrite in the first person. Then compare. You will know instantly which POV you prefer or works best for that specific story.

Speaking of he/she, how do you feel about the gender-neutral “zhe” being floated to replace he/she?

“Zhe” sounds like someone doing a bad impression of a French accent, “Zhe dinner was superb!”

You’ve worked as a development executive and story analyst for some of the biggest names in
the business. What are some of the projects you’re most proud of working on?

L.A. Confidential tops my list, not only because it ended up winning an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay, but because I remember the process. I read the script (and you did, as well, didn’t you?) and was pretty wow’d, which rarely happens. Then I had to read the James Elmore novel from which it was adapted. I knew instantly how stupendous that screenplay really was. I couldn’t get through or understand half of Elmore’s dense, confounding novel, and yet every element of the screenplay was spot on and mesmerizing.

Are there any errors that you consistently see screenwriters making?

Not writing dialogue that contains subtext underneath the words, and thus having characters say exactly what they mean. Humans do not operate that way. Or having characters speak in zippy one-liners, displaying endless wit, which also is rare in humans (unless you’re a stand-up comedian constantly working on material).

Are there any books or sites you’d recommend to writers?

Off the top of my too full head, I can’t think of any, other than to encourage writers to read and thus learn. If you’re a screenwriter, read the scripts you loved seeing on the screen and see how the visual medium of film was put down on paper. For those writing books, read and even re-read books you love and try to figure out how the writer did what he or she did.  And all writers should simply get off the damn computer and go out into the world and watch human beings. It’s also a good idea to keep up on events happening in the world as well and wonder why? What or who are driving certain events? Why do people do the things they do? That’s what writing is all about, to explore the complex and confounding mystery of being human.  

Do you have social media links? Where can people find you on LinkedIn?

I’m on LinkedIn and Facebook, but it’s best to go to my website,  and use its contact page.

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