Monday, July 03, 2006

KB: Enter the Editor, part 2

Let’s see, where were we? Oh yes, enter the editor.

Yeah, yeah, I know. Saying that to a bunch of writers is like telling a kid the Boogey Man is not just under the bed, he’s comin’ out to play. But if you’re done shuddering, let me tell you what editors are all about. Not, contrary to some writers’ thinking, destroying voice or taking over your story and making it his or hers. Not by a longshot. I know many of the editors in the CBA, and to a person, I can tell you what drives him or her.

Beautiful writing. Powerful truth. Changing lives.

That’s what we’re about. Making an author’s writing even stronger, more powerful, and more beautiful than it already is. Coming alongside an author—not running him over—to draw out the passion and impact contained in the story he’s created. Editors don’t want to upset you, disrespect you, or make you over in their image. Not at all. What we want—what I want when I edit—is to take you and your writing to the next level. Not because I’m so wonderful, but because I have something you don’t: distance. The ability to review your work with an eye to what really works and what REALLY doesn’t.

Trust me on this, folks: your editor can be your best friend as a writer. Now remember, true best friends see you as you are--and love you too much to let you stay that way. They walk beside you, urging you to better and higher. That’s my goal as an editor. To understand my authors as well as their writing, to respect their quirks and voice even as I seek to push and tug and massage so the gold that’s too often buried can come out and shine.

Now, that being said, editors also know (or should know) that this is YOUR book. Not his or hers. And while it’s the editor’s job to point out challenges and makes suggestions for improvement, it’s your call whether or not to do those things. Do you disagree with your editor? Fine, just talk it over with her. Editors—good editors, that is—realize they don’t know everything. And they’re not always right. Okay, it’s a painful realization, but it’s there.

Case in point. A number of years ago, while at one of the publishing houses where I worked (no, I won’t tell you which one) I edited a manuscript from an unpublished author (won’t tell you which one of those, either). I’d acquired the manuscript on the strength of the first chapter (something most editors, this one included, have learned not to do). I was so excited when I received the whole manuscript that I sat down and started reading. Sure enough, the first chapter was just as strong as I remembered. Then came chapter 2. And suddenly my excitement shifted into something else.

I think “ panic” best describes the feeling.
As I read, I saw problem after problem, until I finally set the manuscript down and leaned my forehead on my desk. What had I done? This manuscript wasn’t publishable! Well, fine. So there was work to be done. That was, after all, my job. I straightened up, shoved up my sleeves, and went to it. Spent hours upon hours working, refining, doing some of the best editing I’ve ever done. By the time I was done, I was sure this would be a bestseller. Not, again, because I was so wonderful, but because the writer really did have a masterful story in there, under the challenges.

So what happened?

Ah, that, dear reader, is for the next blog.

Everything you want to know about Karen Ball (and probably way more) can be found at .


At 8:30 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If it is as you say, I look forward to my editor! I have always valued just what you say, the distance, that another eyes have on my words.

I "grew up" writing, however, in a newspaper setting where, daily, at least three different sets of eyes "edited" my copy. Almost always making it better...almost always.

Maybe it's because my dream is actually to BE an editor one day that I see the value of a good one.

Looking forward to the rest.

At 12:19 PM, Blogger Domino said...

Thanks, Karen, for being so enlightening and encouraging.

At 3:14 PM, Blogger Ernie W. said...

Karen, thanks so much for your insight into the mind of an editor. Thank God for editors.

At 9:41 PM, Blogger Dineen A. Miller said...

Awww, man, Brandilyn's rubbing off on you, leaving us hanging like that. LOL!

This really gives me some perspective. I think as an author waiting to be published, part of the growth is to prepare for what's to come, therefore building the correct mindset.

I want to be open and willing to hear what an editor has to say and to grow in my writing. Creativity can grow in an individual but only at the rate the person allows. Creativity flourishes and surprises when sparked among two or more people. Found that to be true in design as well. Guess that's I love brainstorming so much.

At 8:56 PM, Blogger Southern-fried Fiction said...

I want you for my editor Karen! :o) I love your humor and encouragment. I'm looking forward to working with an editor, and I'll remember your words when I do. Thank you!


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