I Break Down The Door (Amanda Valentine)

I broke down the door by offering my help. I broke down the door by working hard to make other people’s work better. I broke down the door by not stopping at what they asked me to do. I broke down the door by sending the book back and telling them to try again. I kept breaking down doors until it got to the point where people were willing to hire me, and then doors started opening before I broke them down.

I broke down doors, and in those vaults I found the chance to edit such games as Dragonlance, The Dresden Files, and Smallville. Beyond that, doors opened into Bulldogs!, the Fiasco Companion, and Marvel Heroic Roleplaying, among others. And now I’m discovering doors leading to fiction editing. It’s been an exciting delve so far.

In so many ways, I was really lucky to even have access to these doors. One of my first gaming groups was made up mostly of couples—Clark and me, Cam and Jessica Banks, and Jim and Shannon Butcher. Little did I know I sat among future luminaries in the worlds of RPGs and fantasy fiction!

I remember when Jim handed me a copy of Storm Front, mumbling something about a book that he’d written and how he had a closet full of them and did I want one? And thus I was introduced to The Dresden Files—but that’s a door that wouldn’t fully swing open for a few more years.

Cam was just getting started writing for Dragonlance, and some of his ideas were quietly playtested on our group. While he was working on the module Spectre of Sorrows, he asked Clark and me to look over it. I’m convinced he only asked me to be polite—how rude would it be to ask for Clark’s opinion and not mine when I was standing right there? But I broke down the first door by deciding that he needed an editor whether he wanted one or not.

It turns out that Cam and I work well together, in large part because we can disagree—sometimes vehemently—without getting truly angry, and through that struggle we bring out the best in each other. He asked me to edit the next module, Price of Courage. However, at that point the publisher didn’t realize they needed an editor, so that was a door Cam and I broke down together.

After that, I was officially hired to work on several Dragonlance sourcebooks. Most of the doors I broke down around that time were about the role of an editor. It was often assumed that an editor should just do proofreading and light copyediting, but by this time Clark and Cam were both writing for Dragonlance and it was important to me that the books that bore their names were as good as they could be. I started asking for rewrites, I tossed outlines out the window, and I reorganized the books. My perceived role expanded to fit whatever needed to happen to make the book work better. I’m sure I occasionally seemed like more trouble than I was worth, but in the end I’m confident that those books are stronger for my involvement.

Cam and I apparently got so used to breaking down doors together that I’ve been working with him nonstop, as Sovereign Press became Margaret Weis Productions. My role on the Cortex Plus games has expanded to the point where I’m involved from the beginning, usually playing a mild role in development and being kept up to date on all aspects of the project instead of just coming in at the end.

On Marvel Heroic Roleplaying, I’m expanding that role into management—there are so many books being released that one editor isn’t enough. Working with a team of editors is a new, wonderful, and occasionally mind-boggling experience that I’ve really enjoyed. Working closely with other editors has required that I look critically at how and why I approach editing so that the books all have a similar tone and feel, even if I’m not the one doing the primary editing. Of course, it helps a lot that my team is fantastic.

Breaking down those early doors led to other doors I didn’t even know about. Thanks to my connections with the Butchers and the Bankses, I met Rob Donoghue and heard lots about Fred Hicks. At Gen Con, I got up the courage to introduce myself to Fred, and I asked him to keep me in mind if he needed an editor. It just so happened that he’d been talking to Rob about hiring an editor for The Dresden Files RPG, and before the convention was over I was on the team.

This is one of those times when I really wish I’d just broken the damn door down and gone barging in, but I let myself be intimidated by the exuberant team I barely knew except by reputation and a game I was beyond excited to work on. They opened the door wide for me and invited me in and it all turned out wonderfully in the end, but I also know that they’d have greeted me just as enthusiastically if I’d barged right through that door and acted like I lived there instead of coming in timidly like a guest. But over the years that I’ve worked with the amazing people at Evil Hat, it’s a place that feels like home.

I’m now at the point where it seems like there aren’t doors left to break down. Any doors I want to go through are being opened, thanks to the phenomenal people I know and the community I’m now a part of. With the move into managing editor and working with a team, I like the idea that some people are breaking down doors and finding me standing there, eager to help them expand their role in the industry.

I want more!

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