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Thursday, April 30, 2015

Don't Go Breaking My Heart?

I am in the throes of editing The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy: Book Two, Chasing Dreams, which will be released in June 2015. This means I am now working with an editor.

An editor is a person who breaks your heart. That’s particularly true if the editor has her or his own vision and wants you to write a completely different book from the one you have written and insists on rewrites to conform to the editor’s vision, not the writer’s. I am fortunate in now having a truly excellent editor who understands my vision and my books, and while I may get slammed for Voltaire-length sentences and obscure word use (but I LOVED that word!), I’m not going to have to write a completely different book, and one I don’t even like very much (yes, this has happened to me) to get it published.

A good editor comes to the manuscript with fresh eyes, sees the author’s vision and has the goal of make it clearer, tighter and more interesting to readers so they truly enjoy the book and want more in a series or by the same author. In one sense, this is good. It’s all too easy to get wound up in one’s own elegant prose, one’s favorite expressions, to wander away from the story into Interesting Stuff. Not relevant Stuff, not Stuff that moves the story along, but Really Interesting Stuff nonetheless. On the other hand, it always breaks your heart at least a little bit, as you have to delete things that are interesting, funny, beautifully written, and even sometimes form the byways and backstory of the book. This process, if it’s going to work, must be all about the book as a whole.  If you’re going to have a good book, that takes readers into a different world, that pulls them along with a fast-paced and interesting story, your heart is just going to have to cope in service of the work and the service of the reader.

Too many writers who independently publish think they don’t need editors. What they produce is — sorry — all too often crap. It doesn't read well, it doesn't flow, there are plot holes, there are character inconsistencies and even character name-changes — oh, the difficulties for the reader are legion. These books aren't even properly copy-edited, so the poor grammar, punctuation and spelling distract the reader at every turn. The story idea may be good, but the book as a whole simply isn't done, and without the perspective of those fresh editorial eyes and the detail-oriented skill of a copy-editor, it’s going to be launched with all its flaws and faults. Readers may get the book free or for $0.99 off an e-book site, but those readers will say, “Ho-hum” and won’t look for and follow the succeeding books by the author. This is one of the biggest problems with independent publishing. There are too many writers who simply throw their drafts up on line without having anybody but their three best buddies listen to the overall story line and say, “It’s great. Have another beer.”

The other group who need editors but often don’t have effective ones are Big Names who publish with Major Houses for Big Bucks. NOBODY thinks these people need editors, but they need them as much as any other writer. A Big Name Author I know just published the 4th book in a series of erotica. It’s not my kind of erotica, but I like the author and generally like this author’s books, so I read a sample. It looks like a draft to me. And that’s a shame. Had the book been up to this author’s usual EDITED standards, this book might have sucked me in. It didn’t. I won’t buy this book, and I won’t take another look at the series. These Big Name Authors need editors, too, because of the things a good editor knows how to do to make the work shine — things you really can’t do for yourself.

Good editorial eyes always benefit the writer, the book and the reader. If you’re a writer who is publishing, whether independently, small press, or Major House, make sure you have an editor who is more than a yes-person, someone who actually knows how to edit, and a copy editor who knows her or his job. Getting the story out of the writer’s brain and into the computer is just the first part of the publication process. Before your Baby Book goes out into the world, it’s up to you, the writer, to make it the best book it can possibly be, and that means — among other things —  insisting on a good editor and letting her break your heart.

Now that I’ve reminded myself what a great service my wonderful editor does for me, my books and my readers, I’m going to dive into rewrites, so that Chasing Dreams will get the kind of 5-star reviews that The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy garners, and readers will be looking forward to Book Three, scheduled for 2016!


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