Dragonfly proposal editor Diana Ceres splits her time between technical editing and creative scriptwriting. Curious about that unexpected combination, we just had to ask how she makes it all work. Especially since she does it all from Santa Fe, New Mexico—close to neither the proposal world of DC nor the script world of Hollywood.
Dragonfly: You have such a varied career, and varied interests – scriptwriting vs. technical editing. Are there any unexpected commonalities between the two? Lessons from one that might apply to the other?
Diana: There is definitely some overlap. Writing for the screen requires much passion for structure and an uncanny sense of the visual. More so than writing for publication, screenwriting requires that you show rather than tell what is going on inside the character’s head. Technical editing also requires attention to detail and a strong grasp of the material.
Dragonfly: What about writing vs. editing?
Diana: I think that writing and editing complement each other. For example, I was taking a screenwriting class earlier this year that recommended making several passes through the finished script to focus on specific turning points or scenes to create more dramatic tension and strengthen the script. I do the same thing when editing a book or proposal. I make different passes through the document to make sure I focus on specific things with each pass, which also creates a richer finished product.
Having said all of that, writing and editing can also get in each other’s way. When I write, I try to just write. I do my best to put my inner editor away until I get to the rewrite process. I don’t like being censored. But this is precisely what the inner editor does. She loves to nag me about adjective/adverb abuse and point out all of the comma splices and choppy sentences along the way.
So sometimes I have to gag and bind her and tell her to be quiet or I am going to have to ship her off to some large NYC publishing house where I will never hear from her again, because she will be in such high demand, so I can write in peace. This usually keeps her quiet long enough for me to complete my first draft.
Dragonfly: Others also might be interested to hear about your decision to leave a day job and pursue screenwriting full-time. For many people, that would represent a huge risk. How did you make this decision? How has it been?
Diana: I must have been completely insane to quit a steady job as a museum publicist in the middle of an economic recession. But it was either me or the job, so I left the security of a full-time job behind and dedicated myself to writing, so I could say at the end of my life that I lived well, loved well, and had no regrets.
I am grateful to have clients back East, such as Dragonfly. The editing and proofreading work that I do with them allows me to continue my dream of writing and publishing, without worrying too much about the balance in my bank account. Some days can be real nail biters. On those days, I take deep breaths and consider the alternative and am grounded in my decision, for better or worse, to be a writer.
Dragonfly: What about your move away from DC? Do you find that “place” affects your day-to-day life, even if you work from home?
Diana: I am very affected by place. I left DC soon after all the 9/11 DHS scare tactics. I found reading my safety forecast on the Beltway was just more than I wanted to process on a daily basis. Code Red: You’re a goner. Code Orange: You might die, but we’re not sure. Code Yellow: It’s probably safe to leave the home, but we’re not making any promises.
Fortunately, I have learned over the years that home really is wherever I am. It took me an inordinate amount of time to learn this. I have moved more times than I have years, and I really want to put roots down here in Santa Fe. I love being so close to the heavens and seeing the mountains when I drive to Target or Whole Foods. There is something majestic about that, and I feel really lucky, blessed to live here and to experience that.
I know many screenwriters, actors, and directors who say if you want to be in the movie business you have to live in LA. I’m hoping/praying that I can be one of those weird exceptions. I love high-desert living. The New Mexico landscape is wide and vast. For the first time in my life, I feel like I can really breathe, expand, create. I feel so cramped when I visit big cities like DC or LA. I am happy to fly home to visit relatives or into LAX when needed to pitch screenplays, visit with my agent, or do rewrites on set. But for now, Santa Fe is home, and I don’t think I’m ready to give that up just yet.