During dinner with friends last week, one of the women stated how shocked she was over the process genre authors go through to publish a book. Sure, she said while stuffing shrimp into her mouth, if you’re trying to win a prestigious literary award, there’s more to it. She believes “mainstream” genre writing is easy breezy, apparently.
The fact that all authors bleed for months or years, while quivering with insecurity, came as a surprise. Her mouth gapped when I explained that our trembling paws deliver our manuscript to an editor whom we pay to tear the story to shreds. We then struggle with months of rewrites before repeating the process. Nothing about writing is “easy.” At this point, a close friend shared that my editor had returned 7,308 notes in the 75,000-word manuscript of my new book. This revelation instigated a spirited discussion regarding the author-editor relationship.
No, I’m not cross with my editor because she didn’t swoon over my brilliance. I’m relieved she put so many comments into the manuscript. If she’d hated the story, she wouldn’t have bothered. That’s how this works. Editors are gifted professionals, identifying mistakes that are outright stupid: airport security has external surveillance cameras… someone couldn’t be in and out of arrivals without his car showing up. Editors understand readers and the genre: Your protagonist looks like a wimp and your reader demographic won’t like her. Editing is much more than correcting spelling and grammar.
When asked, the advice I offer new authors is to find a qualified editor and follow his/her advice. Editors don’t have a hidden agenda to make your life difficult. They didn’t pick this career so they could attack hopeful authors and crush dreams. They aren’t mean people. Editors love books and have studied hard to develop their skill. They want you to succeed. They know writing techniques that produce a gripping read and understand the psychology around how people read. The key to writing well is working with a good editor.
I will be spending the next two months rewriting, developing creative solutions and restructuring. I already have some exciting ideas to fix the creative mishaps. Sure, my feelings might be hurt a time or two as I read my editor’s comments, and some of my new ideas may not work as I weave them across the plot. I suspect my three dogs will be wishing they had opposable thumbs and a red pen. At the end of the process, the book will be better because my editor’s only goal is to help me to deliver a humdinger of a good read. That’s what you deserve and that’s what you’ll get. Well… assuming I listen to my editor!
Gotta go, Pearl-Pug is dipping her paw into red ink.