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.
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.