There comes a time in every author’s life when they have to make a decision.
An editorial decision, that is. A moment when your editor says, "What do you think about this?" and you have to decide one way or another whether you want to listen. It can be very, very hard to hear that a change may be necessary. I imagine there are authors out there who go into a complete tailspin when they receive "input." But good editorial input is like having opposable thumbs, it makes life a whole lot easier. I’ve been blessed so far with the suggestions and critiques I’ve received, and I’m not terribly uptight when it comes to changing aspects of my work. But that has everything to do with being surrounded by the right people.
If you were on Facebook this week, you might have seen a status update from me that said "JT loves her editor." I’m wasn’t trying to suck up. I was telling the truth. I do love my editor. She’s brilliant. And she can play me like a harp. She knows me. She gets me. And she has the vision to strengthen my work with just a few strategically placed plucks.
We’ve just finished working on the second Taylor Jackson novel. Yesterday, to be exact. The book is about to go into production, which means we backed into a hard deadline. As of now, the books is done and has been sent to copyedit, so there is much rejoicing in the Ellison household today. I’ve already received the cover art, a cover so amazing that I’m sitting on it for a few months so we can make a splash at the right time. It’s that good. Talk about people who get me, the Mira Art Department knows my mind better than I do. I give them a couple of nudges toward the direction I want, they come up with sheer genius.
Back to the editorial decision.
I always look forward to my edits. I find the process fascinating. Simply put, I write a book, do three revisions, let other people read it, read it again myself, thinking it’s the best I can possibly write and THEN submit it to my editor.
And that’s where the magic occurs. My editor suggests a tweak here, a change there, more information, less detail, sugar, spice and everything nice. When I was doing the edits for All the Pretty Girls, check that, when I thought my edits were done, my editor came in with a suggestion at the 11th hour. It was a tiny little suggestion. Minor. Minimal. I thought about it, plugged it into the manuscript, and voila! it became a novel. I hate to overuse my cooking analogy, but that’s just what it’s like. You add all the spices, let it cook, and though it tastes wonderful, something you can’t put your finger on is missing. You might even go so far as to serve the dish… then a guest says, hmmm, needs salt, and you’ve got it. Eureka. A dash will do, you taste it again, and it’s perfect. Simple, yet satisfying.
And that moment is pure bliss.
I had one of those transcendent moments Wednesday night. I submitted my revisions, my editor read through them, and she came back with a relatively minor question that rocked my boat. I don’t want to tell what it was because it goes to the crux of the story, and I’d rather not give it away just yet. She asked the question, and I didn’t have the answer. I wrote her back and said I would have to think about it and WHAM! Just as I clicked send, it hit me. The answer was already there, in the manuscript, ripe for the picking. It literally took two lines to make it come to the forefront. Crazy.
That’s what a great editor can do for your book. I made the changes. When I hit send again, I was giddy. I’d found the salt.
The past few weeks have seen several debates regarding self vs. traditional publishing. All arguments aside, I’ll tell you why I would never self-publish. Yes, I’m looking for a mainstream audience. Yes, I love the distribution models, the access to bookstores, all that jazz. But it’s the editing that I would miss.
There’s a symbiotic relationship that grows between a writer and editor. Your agent’s job is not only to place the book you’re trying to sell, it’s to match you with an editor that fits your temperament. I think it’s vital to be paired with an editor who gets you. Who can be as excited, laid-back, cheery or morose as you are. Someone who can be your polar opposite when you’re down, and knows when to reign you in for your own good. Someone who can understand when the time is right to talk to you about making changes, who won’t step on your feelings or your dreams, who knows when to push and when to pull back.
And yes, your relationship with your agent must be harmonious as well. It’s terribly difficult to be at loggerheads with your agent. They are your cheerleader, your priest, your conscience and everything in between, and it’s vital that the lines of communication stay open, that you stay open, and they stay open. This business of being reluctant to contact your agent about an issue because you don’t want to waste their time is nonsense. You need to be a cohesive unit, and that takes communication. But send them cookies. Often. Send your editor some too.
So as I float today, thrilled to pieces that I’ve found that elusive morsel that I didn’t know was missing, I ask you. Do you have any great catches that your editor made for you? I’ll lead it off. Mine once pointed out that cannibals don’t use pixie dust to shrink heads. Talk about mixing metaphors…
Wine of the Week: 2000 ODDERO BAROLO Rocche di Castiglione Falletto It’s halfway down the page. If anyone can get their hands on this stateside, let me know. The website I’ve linked to is my present to you — a bevy of wonderful, top-notch vino.
Since I will be disappearing for the week of Christmas, taking a long overdue vacation from the Internet, the writing world, and everything in between, I wish you a Merry Christmas — and if you celebrate something else this season — peace, joy and goodwill for the New Year. See you next Friday, though I’ll be remote.
—-RATI in the Media—
Our own Robert Gregory Browne will be on Kim Alexander’s Fiction Nation, on Take Five, XM 155 on
Saturday December 22nd at 6pm, on Sunday December 23rd at 10:00am, and
on Monday, December 24th at 3:00am, and on Sonic Theater, XM 163 on
Thursday, December 27th at 3:00pm. All times EDT.
Kim Alexander has been doing some amazingly cool interviews. Check out her whole backlist here, there’s plenty of familiar names.