I love this picture. My son-in-law, Tom Reindl, and my son Dan came across this furniture-dump in rural Snohomish County while they were hiking. Tom shot the picture, and my youngest daughter, Meg Clear who is a graphic-designer made it into a poster.
When you first look at it, you are so visually assaulted by the jumble of abandoned furniture you don’t see the individual pieces.
While this works for the picture and is indeed what the picture is all about, it is not good in a manuscript; but that is how the raw manuscript appears when it comes to the line-editor’s desk. Paring the manuscript down to the important elements, and then guiding an author in illuminating those moments is the vital task of the line-editor, and no manuscript can achieve its potential without someone who will perform this function.
Not everyone can line-edit. It takes more than simply having a basic understanding of proper grammar; it takes immense patience and love for the craft. It also takes experience. I really believe unless you have been through the intense editing process as an author, you cannot edit for someone else. You can beta-read, and point out places that don’t work, which is critical. However, beta-reading is not line-editing.
Lately I have been on both sides of the editing fence. My third book, ‘Forbidden Road’ (which is a follow-up novel to Tower of Bones) is currently being edited by the fabulous Carlie Cullen. I confess that I have a girl-crush on her for all the work and effort she puts into making my wretched first-draft readable. Her notes and suggestions are not only spot-on, they are crucial in helping me to ‘flavor the soup’ by the process of reduction rather than by over-seasoning it.
In a way, everything in my life revolves around reducing things to the simplest form, and then adding only the most necessary embellishment which make a vignette both pleasing to the eye, and uncluttered. I require an uncluttered environment for my creativity to really flow.
I, too, have worked as an editor on several books by other authors. While all of these books had a wonderful story line and great promise, some don’t make it through the entire process. So far, in the cases I have been involved in, this is because the author has no understanding of what the editing process really involves, and is not willing to make the suggested changes him/herself. They feel the editor should simply make all the changes for them; in some cases, completely rewriting the book for them.
This is not going to happen. It is not ethical, and no editor is going to allow it to happen.
First, an author must make sure the manuscript is as submission-ready as they are able to make it. This means they have a beta-reader look at it and point out the rough spots, and then they rewrite it. Then, they must understand the editing-process. In some cases, it takes longer to properly edit a manuscript than it does to write it in the first place.
An author and the editor must write in the same genre, and have a real working relationship. They must both be completely on the same page as to what the story is about and what the characters are like. At times, you will disagree on the details, but you must always agree on the overall direction you are going in.
During editing, the author must remain intimately connected to their work, and they must find ways to achieve the recommendations an editor gives them. Conversely they have the right to reject making those changes, but an editor points out areas which need consideration. The final responsibility for a manuscript lies in the author’s hands, so I take a dim view of authors who are too lazy to do the required work themselves. I (gently and with compassion) remove myself from the project when an author refuses to understand that having an editor does not absolve them of their responsibility to personally do the work involved in making their manuscript reader-ready.
I am blessed in that I have had three great editors who are willing to work with me and guide me in learning what is working in my tales as well as showing me what I need to revisit. Even so, there is always something which is missed, especially nowadays with the digital revolution and the ease in publishing your own work. Discovering and rectifying these mistakes is where we indies grow as authors.
And because she is currently pointing me in the right direction, Carlie Cullen is a Goddess! I realize that I have said exactly the same of Alison DeLuca and Danielle Raver. It was TRUE then and remains true today. They have all been the driving force, pushing me to grow as both an author and as an editor. Without the efforts of the editors I have been blessed to work with, my stories would still be sitting in manila-envelopes with their rejections slips, and I would not have any idea why they were rejected.
This process fuels the growth of both the author and the editor, in a symbiotic way. God, please, may I never lose the ability to see my manuscript through my editor’s eyes!