Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Editing Series Addendum--What's it Like Working With an Editor?

Yesterday, one of my wonderful twitter friends, Richard (@PEART10 if you want to follow him--and you should!  He's super nice!) asked if I would write a little about the revision process while working with an editor vs. working on my own. 

The truth is, the editing process isn't all that different.  I thought once I had an agent and/or editor everything would be sunshine and lollipops (I should have known better.  I don't even like lollipops.)  But the truth is, it's not that much different than before I had an agent.  The biggest difference is in how the process feels.  I know.  That's incredibly vague. 

Let me try to explain.  Editing is editing.  It's looking at your words and agonizing over whether the sunlight is golden or just yellow.  It's making sure you type "a lot" instead of "alot".  It's sweating and agonizing over every little detail in your book. 

That doesn't change when you get an editor.  Editing is still Hard Work. 

However, a few things do change.  The biggest (and best) thing is that you feel like someone has your back.  On the days that I completely freak out and think there's no way possible I can pull this off, I remember that I'm working with Great People who won't let me send out a crappy book. 

I don't know about you, but that's my biggest fear.  I don't want to write a book that's bad.  I want to write a story that moves people, the way other books have moved me.  Knowing that I have an editor (and agent) who's in my corner makes me feel soooo much better.  It's like having a safety net. 

Now let me pause here for a minute and say that I'm lucky to be working with two people whose opinion I greatly respect.  They know what they're doing.  So when they say something's not working in my book, I Pay Attention. 

That's why doing your research before you query is so important.  I knew before I queried Dan that he represented the type of books that I write.  The type of books that I liked to read.  He represents books about "weird kids in small towns" and that's exactly the type of book I write.  After speaking with him and with my editor I was even more positive I wanted to work with them.  They both know their stuff. 

Which is the second thing that's been great about working with my editor.  Her suggestions have helped me reshape the book so that it's just plain better.  Yes, it's a lot of work.  But I don't really care about the amount of work.  I care about telling a good story, and her suggestions have helped me do that. 

So that's the good part about working with an editor. 

But there are also some things that are harder.  Most of all, there's more pressure.  Before if I messed up, I was only disappointing myself.  Now if I mess up, other people are involved.  Let me stop here for a minute and say that the pressure does not in any way come from my agent or my editor.  They've been great through the whole thing.  Really, I couldn't dream up a better team. 

The pressure all comes from me.  Like every other writer out there, I've dreamed about finding an agent.  About the day I finally sell my book.  I'm so close to that it's terrifying.  I'm afraid I'll do something to mess it up.  Not me personally--it's not like I'm going to freak out and run down the street naked.  No, I'm afraid that after all of this work, my writing won't be up to par.  That my story will fall short, and I'll lose this great opportunity.   

This says much more about me than it does about either my agent or my editor.  When I get this way, I force myself to remember the good things about having an editor.  She won't let me send out a crappy book.  Like most things, it's cyclical.  And, like most things, the good far outweighs the bad. 

I know that this wasn't exactly a How To post.  But it is the truth as I've experienced it.  I hope that if you find yourself in a similar situation, you can look back on this post and realize you're not alone.  Your agent and/or editor will not let you send out a crappy book, and there's a lot of comfort in that!


  1. Thanks for this post, and the shout out! I'm so glad I found you on twitter!

    This actually is what I kind of wanted to know though.

    I think my question is, when you have an agent/editor, can you/do you ask them when torn about something.

    For example, say in your story you have a flashback, it's funny, many readers love it, but you aren't sure it is in the right place.
    It might work better somewhere else, but you just don't know.

    As an unrepresented author, I have no one but myself to argue with on this. I wonder if having an editor and agent, gives you someone else to parse these things out with.

    If I'm sweating stuff like this, is it time to starty querying?

  2. Yes, if you're on the fence about something in your book, you can definitely ask them! It's great having someone to bounce ideas off of.

    What I've learned in this whole process is that even if readers like something, if your gut is telling you it's in the wrong place, it probably is.

    I had several scenes like that. Readers liked them, but my editor didn't. Turns out I almost always had a gut feeling that the scene wasn't working.

    Maybe it is time for you to query!

  3. Thanks for all the awesome posts about editing!

  4. You're welcome, Diane! I'm glad you enjoyed them!