Good, Better, Chocolate

Or, Why you need an Editor

It’s a rather dreary Saturday on the third coast, as I write this. A rare day of sunshine yesterday made slush out of all the fluffy white snow and now the sky is overcast in the same shade as the dingy stuff that didn’t melt completely away when it had the rare chance to do so. I am desirous of a day without numbers, but responsibility is a cruel mistress, so this digression will be brief.

Having just received the draft of my hope-to-be-published-at-some-future-point novel from my editor, I am salivating to begin the process of rewriting. I truly believe that had I done my due diligence with my first novel and rewritten it oh, about a zillion times, I’d’ve sold maybe a hundred copies instead of fifty. But I did what a lot of “unrecognized talent” does. I thought I was better than that. It’s a humbling lesson some of us indie folk fail to learn. We get our little fan base, chat our butts off, get our egos fattened and think we’re the bestest. Then our hot messes don’t sell, so we shlep them off to a real editor, only to be incredibly insulted when our manuscripts are gutted and handed back to us in pieces. Yeah, well…

Contrary to what you may think, editors do not drink the blood of your poor literary children.

Nor do they delight in mauling your tome-y toddlers. They really want to drape your amorphous blob of a book in the finest silk, top it with a tiara and let it rule the world. But that won’t happen if your work still needs a teat instead of a shot glass. And no editor worth his or her salt is going to put your unruly literary child on display and call it a grown effort.

Editors are actually as vested as you are in your work. They want your success as much if not more as you do. So much so that they are willing to be honest about where you are on the spectrum of bird cage floor covering versus “oh Mylanta I couldn’t stop reading” because where you see your effort as good enough they see the potential within the words as completely amazing. Editors don’t destroy a potentially great work. They refine it. They trim the fat, tone the muscle, chisel and polish—whatever metaphor you consider—a good editor will take you from where you are to where you deserve to be.

It’s not easy. Even now, as I extol the necessity of an editor’s hand across your manuscript, I contemplate the comments made by mine. Potential paragraphs scrapped. A character culled. And a lot more words to write. But she loves the story. I see it where it is. She sees it where we can take it together. It’s not as much a punitive exercise by a necessary wielder of evil as it is a collaborative effort. A synergistic project that benefits both writer and editor, some next level stuff, if you will.

So when you are able to step away from your work for a bit and look at it objectively, you will grow exponentially as a wordsmith by allowing your raw brilliance to be tempered by the right editor. You won’t have to give up everything. If you truly MUST keep something, most editors are reasonable—but remember, they are not only editors but readers, writers, marketers, students, and teachers of this thing called writing. They are committed to your success.

You have to tear a muscle to build it. So it goes with writing well. Peace. I have to send a thank you note to my editor.

Tammy Boehm
Associate Editor