Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Love Your Mum, Love Your Editor

I’ve become one of those people and I’m feeling ashamed of it. You know the type I’m talking about – the people who read your book and proactively looking for errors – grammatical, spelling, and especially plot. They get more excited discovering a mistake than at a plot twist. Okay, I have not fallen that far, but I am noticing mistakes and if there are too many, it becomes very off-putting.

Now let me make it perfectly clear: I have made all these mistakes…frequently. Thankfully my writer’s group or my awesome editor usually catches them. Here are a couple of examples:

In At The Walls Of Galbrieth – Seanchai and Ilana rode their horses into a closed desert enclave, met and fought some bad guys and walked out. Luckily, one of my writer’s group suggested they take their horses with them because they are in the wilderness!

I have had characters walk into a one-story building and climb stairs, and in Unwanted Heroes spent over a page talking about the pastry crumbs in Salvador’s beard – it was later cut to one line.

I have written and self-edited nine manuscripts, with six eventually published. It would not occur to me to publish a book without a professional eye scrutinizing every line. I am grateful for the people who email me when they find a mistake in one of my novels and I diligently write it down for a future revision. But I confess, it hurts when they find it. We want our novels to be perfect – if we didn’t, it would be a serious flaw in our motivation for publishing. 

imgresI am close to finishing reviewing my editor’s work on Ashbar. As with the previous two epic fantasy novels, she has cut over 10% of the manuscript. Given that my own rounds of revisions did something similar, I am still always surprised. But the manuscript reads, without a doubt, tighter and more fluent for her work.

I came across an article by Dick Margulis entitled The Editor–Author Relationship: Five Reasons Why Self-Publishing Authors Need An Editor. I was more interested in the relationship side, but Margulis focused on the latter part – fair game considering he is an editor.

You can check out his article for yourself if you need convincing your work needs an editor. I am always surprised when people present at our writer’s group and preempt by telling us that their work is finished and sent to their publisher. I just know the group are going to find a dozen errors and will show no mercy pointing it out.

I think the relationship between author and editor is fascinating. I have never met Monica Buntin, my editor for the Wycaan Master series. But I feel we have a close, sensitive, professional relationship, and yet we could be sitting at adjacent tables in a coffee shop and never know (oh no, the woman next to me has caught me staring – she will never believe my reason!).

imagesBut we have created an understanding whereby she feels comfortable to be critical and I am willing to hear what she says (it helps that she is 95% right). I can email short questions and she send back a succinct answer while inviting me to ask if what she wrote is not clear. 

I have no idea if she enjoys my novels, but I have no doubt she is totally invested in my novels being as perfect as possible. I hear from so many friends, writers and editors, how this relationship is riddled with tension, how the writer feels the editor is rushing through, how the editor is too burned out to mention a flaw knowing the writer will just become defensive. 

girl-hugging-words1

I believe I have the perfect relationship with my editor and that can only mean a better, more fluid final manuscript. Perhaps it is better that we never meet and never invest anything personal in the relationship. It might be better if the woman at the next table was not my editor. Still…she has a dictionary on the table next to her latte.

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Alon Shalev writes social justice-themed novels and YA epic fantasy. He swears there is a connection. His latest books include: Unwanted Heroes and the 2013 Eric Hoffer Book Award for YA – At The Walls Of Galbrieth. Alon tweets at @alonshalevsf and @elfwriter.   For more about the author, check out his website.

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One thought on “Love Your Mum, Love Your Editor

  1. It never hurts to have periodic reminders that without our peer critics and editors, our work is better suited to the toilet.

    Every one of my blog postings goes first to a proof who is also free to make editorial suggestions. Then to me editor, a woman for whom the adjective, Flinty, was coined. They polish and enhance in ways that allow me to fool others into believing I am a credible writer

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