Since the sale of Bright of the Sky to Pyr, I’m getting to know how it is to work with a new editor. In the space of six months, Lou Anders and I have worked together on two long manuscripts, and therefore I am getting to know The Mind of The Man Who Is Fiddling With my Books. Happily, I can report that we seem to have a remarkable meeting of the minds.
Still, it is with some trepidation that an author opens up an email from her editor–especially her new editor–when the subject is likely to be a list of requested changes to a novel. I mean, after 480pages of already-hugely-fiddled-with prose, now I have to make more changes? Well, yes. He bought the book, he gets to fiddle. You might even want him to be involved, although I know some authors who hate intrusion.
It shouldn’t be an ordeal, but an author has to be open to some criticism. The editorial process shouldn’t be that hard. After all, here is a person (the editor) who has paid money for your book and therefore presumably already looks favorably on it. If the editor has bought it on the strength of the manuscript and not on proposal, then they Get What You Are Trying To Do, and feel you’ve largely accomplished it. This is the huge advantage of being with your acquiring editor and not orphaned, as when an editor leaves a publisher. Live long and prosper at Pyr, Lou!
I can’t emphasize strongly enough how important it is that your editor understands and supports your story concept. In the case of Bright of the Sky, which is the first of my series, The Entire and the Rose, Lou saw that the story was a science fiction epic with a fantasy feel… a character-driven story married to high adventure. If he’d insisted it lean harder into Space Opera or hard science fiction, we’d have been at odds.
Aside from a few scenes that just beg for rewriting, most of the changes I’m working through with Lou are at the level of tone and word choice. Does that sound picky? It isn’t. A reader’s experience of a novel is on the page right in front of her. If the tone is off, if the dialog rings false, the reader loses her grip on the unfolding drama, even if only for a moment, and that’s bad. The reader is “kicked out of the story.” I am delighted that Lou has such a good ear for that sort of thing. In the vast majority of cases, I can immediately understand why the wording clunked for him. I’m grateful he found it. OK, sometimes a little sheepish.
Isn’t it amazing that people can see such things the same way (after the passage of time anyway)? I am led to muse on how much of the brain must be given over to language and the nuances of it. There are levels of abstraction here. Fiction writers are telling lies; that fiction has the semblance of truth; the editor is interacting with my lies and comparing it to the overall concept that I he believes I am striving for. He is able to say, “Are you sure that your character would use the word “would” there?
So, you can see there’s plenty of room for disagreement and confusion. When the confusion doesn’t materialize, you not only have a more pleasant editing phase–you also get a stronger book!
And that’s the point of it all. So, Lou, edit me.