I’m sorry to be running so behind this morning. I am juggling multiple projects and responsibilities at the moment, including my children’s deadlines for school projects, and settling my brain down to write a blog post has taken me several hours.
A friend of mine has often lamented that her editors seem to have a radar for when she’s buried in work for another editor and that they inevitably hit her with something they need at the same time. This has been my experience, too. Weeks can go by with blissful quiet during which I can write in peace, and then *bam* a dozen things need to be turned in, worked on, considered or finished at once. Right now I’m in that position editorially and that’s put me in a contemplative mood about edits and the process of working with editors.
Some authors are heavily dependent on their editors to the point that they don’t think they write quality work without one. I can’t say I’m one of those. I can write a good book without an editor. I’m not faultless with grammar and punctuation, but I usually get copy editor notes that say, “This was a very clean manuscript.” Some things are natural to me (meaning I don’t think about them at all while I’m writing), such as structure and pacing. When I get compliments on those from my editors, I don’t know what to say since I don’t consciously work on those aspects. All that said, I firmly believe the right editor/author relationship is worth its weight in gold.
I’ll never forget sitting in a bar in Dallas with Kate Duffy and Eileen Dreyer, and Eileen’s analogy for working with an editor. She compared it to being in a swamp filled with alligators, with the author swimming through the treacherous waters and the editor sitting safe on the shore, saying, “Alligator to your left. Alligator to your right.” The author has to navigate the hazards in his or her own way (and I firmly believe they should be left to figure it out on their own), but the editor is there to point out problems that the author may not see.
And that’s really where I find editors hugely invaluable. Not because they tell me how to write a book or try to rewrite my story, but because they see what I can’t. Another friend of mine compares it to having your face pressed into the glass of a window–you just can’t see clearly. You need someone to stand behind you and give you the overall picture… then to stay back so you can figure out what to do with that picture. It’s a delicate balance. The author needs to be able to say, “You’re right. I have to rethink because my original vision isn’t going to work.” and the editor needs to be able to say, “Okay, you don’t agree with me and it’s your story to do what you need to with it.”
My favorite type of edits are the “more” edits. Dig deeper, try harder, go bigger. I wish I could say I didn’t skip corners here and there, but I do. I love it when an editor basically says, “You copped out here. Do it right.” Going back to the alligator analogy, I think it’s awesome when an editor tells me to stop dipping my toes in on the shore and jump the hell in and get messy. Maybe a little bloody. Maybe drown a little. I’ll be the first to say that I can use a good shove or kick in the ass now and then.
So, I’m off to jump back in the swamp. 🙂
I’ve got a copy of The Promise of Love to give away to a random commenter. Oh… Did anyone else watch Spartacus: Vengeance on Friday? What did you think?