Some of you may have noticed I’m not haunting my usual stomping grounds as much as I used to. The reason for that is simple. I’ve been up to my ears in editing!
Editors are always a hot topic among writers. If I had a dollar for every time I’ve seen or heard someone complain, I’d be sitting pretty by now on millionaire’s row. We’ve all heard the long list of gripes ranging from “they don’t get my story” to “they nitpick every little thing.” You hear horror stories about these people, and somewhere in the back of your mind the fear starts to grow. You wonder what sort of monsters wait lurking around the bend. Images of hideous beasts with hooked talons for fingers start cropping up left and right. Then…the day comes when you learn your story is going to be passed along to…*gasp*…an editor.
*cue creepy music*
The nightmares start, lingering well into the daylight hours. You toss and turn, wondering how your precious baby will fare at the hands of such a murderous stranger. You cringe, thinking about the blood bath certain to follow. Days pass. You lose weight, hair, and any quick glimpse in a mirror makes you wonder if perhaps you suddenly aren’t half raccoon.
These are all the things I’d expected. The day my publisher called to tell me my edits were waiting in my inbox, I almost got sick. I’d just finished eating dinner, and I was certain that spaghetti was going to come back up as I clicked the link with trembling hands. I shook like a junky going through major withdraws.
Then, a funny thing happened. I started reading through the long list of comments. After a minute, some of the tension started to ebb. Eventually I sagged with open relief. It wasn’t nearly as bad as I expected!
Don’t get me wrong. My book was not perfect. Far from. But, my editor posed a lot of questions. She made me think even more about the how and why behind the story. She pointed out things that I thought were clear as I was writing…but in hindsight, to readers, perhaps not so much. Not to mention a few things that made me burst into a fit of laughter.
Example: “Such a pretty girl,” it leered, the words spoken backwards in a guttural nuance.
The depraved growl made my blood run cold. As if to prove its point, the dresser swung out from the wall and crashed against my legs, pinning me as Ava’s shirt crept higher. A red wheal erupted across her abdomen.
My editor’s comment: “It’s proving Ava is pretty by hurling dressers at Seir?”
Oops! LOL See what I mean? I knew what I was trying to convey here, but THAT was NOT it! Maybe it would have made sense to a lot of readers, as is. But, I am guessing the vast majority (especially you more analytical and writerly types) would have been scratching their heads and laughing at my blunder. *blush*
Good call, editor! Good call.
Reading through the list of edits, I realized certain things. I have a strong tendency to cling to certain words or phrases. Lyrical beauty only goes so far when if you are beating people over the head with the same thing over and over again! There were places where the whys and hows of my mythos were not explained enough. There were places where my prose became a little too purple. Thankfully, I only had an occasional missing word or typo. Truth be told, I still felt bad…but not for me. For my poor editor who had to point out every single last one of these flaws. Flaws that I thought I’d buffered out over the course of two revisions. Boy was I wrong!
And damn am I glad I didn’t decide to go at this on my own. (I obviously didn’t know as much as I thought I did!)
A lot of editors get a bad rep. Maybe some of them earn that badge. I really don’t know. I can only speak from my own personal experience here, but I love mine. Tanya was efficient and nothing if not thorough. Though there were a lot of comments or questions…they all made sense. I knew halfway through, this was going to make a HUGE difference in my story. One that I would be proud of once all the extra hours of work were done. (Dear God, do I wish they were done!)
In fact, I called my publisher the next day, gushed over my editor like a giddy schoolgirl, and practically begged for the same person to do my sequel once it’s done. You cannot imagine my relief when she laughed and told me “that was the plan.”
I’ve heard of others who were not so fortunate, and left feeling resentful after their experience. I recently read a blog where an author was stunned that her editor wanted a pivotal part of her story removed. I have a friend who relies on his editor to weed through, as he puts it, his “endless pages of shit” (which really, reading his work, I find it hard to believe he produces anything of the sort…) But maybe that is the point. Perhaps his editor is just really good at their job. And maybe he is really good at his, right down to being able to set his ego aside when all is said and done and go with the flow.
I’m new to this whole publishing an entire book thing. The experience is vastly different from the ones I’ve had with my short stories. (Maybe I just have that arena a bit more down pat.) But it is not one I would change for anything. I’ve learned from my mistakes, and thus had a chance to grow. I can see both weaknesses and strengths, thanks to the time and effort a stranger has poured into my work.
That, to me, is priceless.
So what are your thoughts on editors? Have your experiences been good or bad? Are editors Satan or Savior when it comes to you and your writing?
I, for one, wouldn’t dare brave this world without one!
~Best wishes and happy haunting!~