In praise of Holly Blanck

I really hated being edited. I fumed, I sulked, I muttered darkly. I thought my editor, Holly Blanck, was wrong, wrong, wrong. How on earth could she pronounce the book as”wonderful” then tell me it needed major surgery? How could she write “brilliant” in some sections, and then ask me to tear the damn thing apart?

Bullshit, I fumed.

Now, looking back, I realize that I was one lucky puppy.

First, I have an amazing agent, Deidre Knight. Why is she so awesome? Because somewhere around the fourth week of that seemingly endless revision hell,  Deidre spent a big chunk of a day helping me to put the editorial experience in perspective.

Do you know what was the single most important thing I learned that day? (Besides the fact that I needed to put on the big-girl panties and that any email that begins with, “You know I love you” is going to sting?)

An editor’s time amounts to a gift.

Why? Because they have so little of it. They work on weekends, on the train heading home, at lunch–they never get to have the feeling that they’ve got their job under control.  Generally speaking, they’re usually running from one apology to another.

Think about that.

So, when a writer gets a long assed letter from their editor that breaks her heart, and creates a firepit in her gut, instead of muttering, “WTF does she know?” , that writer should stand back and read the comments carefully, knowing that it’s not personal, or the editor trying to screw her over…it’s a professional…

Gifting you with their time.

And if you’re lucky enough to have an editor who has good book sense, and a fire in her belly–someone who makes insightful comments,  spares no platitudes and demands that you dig deep–then you should be saying, “Thank you.”

Holly cared enough this series and my book to make sure that the end product was not going to be beneath my talent or potential. She had the courage and fire to push me. Hoping that I would find the gumption to move forward.

Holly and Leigh at RWA 2012

I did. But oh-so-grudgingly.

Now? I’m kind of embarrassed about how much I doubted Holly. Why? Because one day, around the fifth week of revision hell, after I’d taken out about 16,000 words and put in 20,000 new ones, plus chopped one long sequence into three segments, I realized something fairly pivotal.

Dammit, Holly’s right.

The stuff I took out? It deserved to go. And…oh, my God…look at that. The book’s knitting itself back together. And it’s stronger. No longer a bunch of fireflies–little flashes of good writing here and there–but a solid book.

All the way through.

That’s what I wanted to give my readers. And in some places I came real close to doing that, without Holly’s help. But here’s the truth. TTAW’s is my second book. I just don’t have the writing chops to be able to produce a bullet-proof book without editorial input. Put bluntly, I can’t see the misfires. In some places, I had the vague sense that it wasn’t quite up to snuff, but I just didn’t know how it wasn’t working. I couldn’t identify the flaws. Not until Holly pointed out where I’d failed and how I’d failed.

So, I’ve learned a lot during this process. About time and editors. About ego and blindness. About my writing strengths and failures. About the fact that writing is hard, and striving to get better at it is harder.

And here’s a sad and awful truth: there is no finish line. You will always be pushed to grow stronger.

And lastly, that I like and respect Holly Blanck.

You know what? She and I are going to see that Leigh Evans produces some pretty decent books.


About Leigh Evans

Leigh's an urban fantasy writer, living in Southern Ontario.
This entry was posted in Deidre Knight, Holly Blanck, St. Martin's Press and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to In praise of Holly Blanck

  1. Shelly Bell says:

    You are such an inspiration! You’re fortunate to have such a brilliant editor.

  2. Denise says:

    I love, love, love this post. After meeting Holly, I knew she was an editor I’d give my left…big toe (yeah, that’s it) to work with. And after reading your post? I’m even more enthusiastic about it because she sounds like everything I’ve wanted in an editor.

    I know you’re an amazingly talented author, and you inspire me to grow and get better. Someday I hope to write a blog just like this.

    Congratulations on your UK sale!

  3. Oh, I am right there with you! I LOVE LOVE LOVE when Holly sends me ten to twenty pages of revisions. Because I know she cares. And it makes me care even more.

    So glad you’ve decided to swim in the deep end of the revisions pool, Leigh! Cheers!

  4. Ida Blanck says:

    We as a family are so Proud of Holly our niece.

  5. I just went through this with my last book, and my fabulous agent Elaine Spencer. I’d been a little spoiled, because the book she signed me with didn’t need any edits at all. So there was some minor (ha!) muttering and cursing when she sent me huge notes for edits on the last one. But yes, she was right on 98% of it, and yes, the book is a lot better now. Even more, I’ve learned that I can DO that kind of major edit, which means that next time, I’ll probably only mutter and curse a little…

    Thank goodness for the professionals who keep us from putting out work that is “almost but not quite” right. And for the lovely folks at the Knight Agency, all of whom rock.

  6. Great post, it’s always good to remind one’s self that revision isn’t mutilation but just your baby growing up ^_^

  7. Some of the writgers I USED to read got BIG–and I truly feel had it put on their contracts that the editors should leave them allow. I don’t know if that really happened, but at some point I realized they didn’t write as well and the books weren’t as good and the plots had holes. A good editors is a gift to a writer–if we’re smart enough to accept that.

  8. Finding a good editor for your book has to be one of the more important aspects of being an author. It is a joy to read about a positive experience in this endeavor. Keep up the good work and best of luck with your novels! 🙂

  9. Virginia says:

    Oh, ow. I’m in sulky mode right now after getting my newest ms shot down by my agent. And then I saw this post and feel… even crappier, haha! Thanks a ton.

    Seriously, as a writer I thank you for kicking my azz a bit here. Because the longer I sulk, the longer it will be before I actually do anything about those revisions.

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