Wednesday, December 3, 2008

What does an editor do?

That's me, on Wednesday, listening to my editor's voice as she saved my chapter and maybe my book. Remember the other day how murky I found the chapter I was working on? How I couldn't reach the emotions in it? Well, what my editor *didn't* do was rewrite a word of it. Good editors--and she's one of the best-- don't do that. I'm the writer; that's my job. What she did was listen to me whine about my problems with the chapter and then she started talking, digging into what she saw as the most important inner development of my main character, and how that development actually began with this problem chapter. She looked into my character's past, heart, and psyche in the way that only a person who has a superb grasp of human nature--and fiction--can do. I actually found myself gasping as I listened to her revelations. It was like going to a counselor who tells you things about yourself that are so damned true you can't deny them, things that were hidden in your subconscious, things that reveal crucial points, things that give you hope for the future.

It took about fifteen minutes.

My job was to be willing to listen, learn, and not be a know-it-all about my own book, because if there's anything I don't know everything about, as strange as this sounds, it's my own books.

Afterward, I went in to where my mom was watching tv and I stood in the doorway, shaking my head, and exclaiming, "My editor is a genius."

Well, she is. Now all I have to do is remember her wisdom and try to write something that reveals it in action and dialogue.


Nancy P said...

You may be thinking to yourself, "Does Nancy know how lucky she is?"

Yes. I'm even lucky among published authors, because this kind of editing is rare. Maybe I'll write more about editors and the differences among them tomorrow, or sometime soon. Getting one is such a pig in a poke for most of us, because we're just pathetically happy to get published at all, and we'll take whoever they hand us. I got lucky years ago with this editor. I'm really really really grateful for that luck.

Nancy P said...

Who remembers the name of the company that used that photo for its advertising? And who remembers the slogan that went with it?

Anonymous said...

RCA, isn't it, NP? His Master's Voice...I'm showing my age....unless I'm wrong! :-)

You're lucky to have such a great editor - and she's lucky to have such a great writer to work with. You'll come up with the answers in time - just trust the process. And count your blessings.

In Pensacola - too much wine and too little sleep make for one giddy girl. Off to bed - halloo to all who come after. Glad to NOT be driving tomorrow!

Anonymous said...

I HATE when I forget to check the comments box - just ignore me....

AndiF said...

We had a big dome in Indy named after that company and they tore it down this yhear. Poor doggy, dog house all gone. (I'm not so worried about Nipper -- he's a big dog -- but what about poor little Chipper.)

Glad you've made it Florida all safe and sound, Beth. Enjoy the beach.

Got a comparison for you Nancy. A lot of times when I go to take a shot, my mind filters the raw information from my eyes into a coherent picture. That's seems like what your editor is doing for you. Then it's up to me to figure how to work with what's actually there in order to create what my mind saw. So that's your task. (We'll just skip all those times, no matter what I do, I can't produce the physical image to match the mental one.)

Morning all.

Lisa M said...

Nancy-- I love when you talk writing!!!
Listening and being willing to learn sounds simple. Being able to get it down on the page--Art.

You said---
We'll just skip all those times, no matter what I do, I can't produce the physical image to match the mental one.
That is so the problem with writing too. I thrash about putting words on page and often fall short of the mental image I'm trying to create.
Makes the really good sections of my story all that much sweeter.

Beth, rub some sand between your fingers, listen to the waves, breath deep the ocean air. Nourishes the soul.

Terrific Thursday to All.

Maria Lima said...

Good editors are gold; great editors are every rare and precious gem x 1000. Sounds like you have one of those, Nancy. I do, too, and count my lucky stars daily. She pokes, she prods and always has faith in me.

I'm off to the workplace today, still hacking, but somewhat better.

Happy Thursday!

FARfetched said...

Yay! for good editors and warm beaches! (Now how can they be combined without becoming Ernest Hemingway… that's the trick.)

I could use a good editor right now. What I got is a tech support guy who found a major flaw in my description of how we select a provisioning mode. I might be beating on this one for a while.

Gotta step out of the documentation, look at the actual flow, and maybe start from scratch. Ick.

Kelly McCullough said...

Very cool. And very different from the relationship I have with my editor. Which is not to say that I think of my editor as anything other than splendid. I think it would be difficult to get much further apart on writing methods in general than thee and me and my editor suits my methods to a tee.

Nancy P said...

Oops! At five to nine, as I sat in my pj's and bathrobe sipping coffee and reading the news, I realized I had a speaking gig at nine! I got there at 15 after nine. I think yelling OHMYGOD all those times probably helped, don't you?

Back later, after breakfast, lol.

Janet said...

Fashionably late, dahhhleeeng :)

So did you tell them the truth that you were surfing the net in your pjs and had spaced it all off?


"Well you see, at first I had car trouble but since I was a MacGyver fan in the 80's I managed to fix my engine with a stick of gum, dental floss and chapstick. THEN on the way here I saw a poor dog with it's head stuck in a fence hole. Luckily I always carry a stick or two of Butter Flavored Crisco with me. THEN I couldn't drive my car because my hands were too greasy from the crisco so I had to drive here with my knees but I found I could steer better with my pants off so I undressed and wouldn't you know it a cop pulled me over wrote me a ticket which I then used to wipe my hands with ...


Janet said...

Oops cat on computer desk problem (cont)

Or you could go with the tried and true Damnit line of:

"I'm late because I couldn't decide which pair of underwear I should put on while running around the room screaming OHMYGODOHMYGOD as if my hair was on fire."


I always ask my boss if I can go home early due to "bra strap issues". :D They keep falling down because my kids help rotate the laundry and they always forget and put my bras in the dryer (ala Hedwig and the Angry Inch rant)

I can't help that my kids are totally non-segregationists. They only divide up garbage. Not laundry or people. :D

Nancy P said...

Bras aren't supposed to go in dryers???

And,lohsol, Janet! Janet for the Excuse Factory Win!

Janet said...

I guess not. That's what people tell me. I'm not very bra savvy as I didn't get boobs till I was pregnant. And then they stayed. I went from a WB size (why bother) to a C.

My bra straps seem to wear out and get all lucy goosey. I should stitch the straps down but that would take some mad skilz I simply don't have. :D

Janet said...

My only mad skilz I seem to have are

Talking myself INTO shi!.


Talking myself OUT of sh*t.

Nancy P said...

Sloping shoulders? I got em.

Janet said...

Honey, everything on my now could be considered "sloping".

However, I'm determined to thrust upon our society the notion that 40is the new 20. :)

I won't protest my age, but I sure as hell will protest getting old.

Kelly McCullough said...

Okay, I'm making Janet my official maker of excuses. That rocked!

Janet said...

Excuse #1,004 for pathetic typos

Fast Finger Syndrome

Cat/Cats/Kittens or other furry or feathered critters.

My favorite: Kids must've been eating angel food cake while using the family computer AGAIN.

Slams keyboard against the desk. Damn typos. Damn those typos to hell! It couldn't even be construed as dyslexia even. Just plain old laziness. :)

My - me

Just left out the word "body" after my.

Heck I dunno what was coming out of my fingers. Who knows!

Have a great day everyone. I'm off to the mines. *Ha! Edited because I almost sent "off to the mimes!"

Janet said...


It's genetic, my kids come up with the most amazing pile of pantloads you've ever heard.

Family Man said...

Hi Nancy and everyone.

It has been raining all day, and it's gray and overcast. We're supposed to get down to 29F tonight.

Nancy your editor might be a genius, but you certainly are, because all of the book came out of your head.

FARfetched said...

It's been raining here all day too. My feet have been cold pretty much all day, despite wearing a sweater & a flannel shirt. Ick. At least I've wrestled the provisioning methods stuff to the ground.

Daughter Dearest's college chorus is putting on a concert this evening, so that's where I'll be. Not sure what I'll have for supper or where I'll have it yet.

bono said...

Interesting info re: how editors help. I didn't realize their role in book making. I can better understand authors who thank their editors at the beginning of books now. I'm glad you have a great one, Nancy.

Creative excuse making. Sign me up please, Janet. I'm not good at it.

FM, a low of 29 sounds good up here on Lake Erie. Our HIGH tomorrow is supposed to be 29. Urg.

Hi, Beth. Glad you got to the Sunshine State safely. Looking forward to the sun and warmth you're sending this way. :-)

Andif, you just made me realize why I'll never be the photographer you are. I just point and shoot. Thanks for sharing your talent with us.

Boran, someone once told me that putting peanut butter on a mouse trap is very effective. The critters can't just grab and run that way.

Greetings everyone.

Family Man said...

FAR you're just running too much. You need a week or two of slack time.

For dinner I just got through with two large pulled pork bar-b-que sandwiches. Excellent!

Hope DD's concert goes smoothly tonight.

Family Man said...

Hey Bono.

It has been years since I experienced a high that is that low. We just hit the 30's on our way to 29 tonight. Ya just got to love this weather.

olivia said...

Hello everyone.

Nancy -- that is really exciting about the relationship w/ your editor. (Love getting to peek in at your world!)

Our high tomorrow is 25F and low is 14F ... brrrrrr ... but at least it will be sunny.

Lisa M said...

Thanks God for Texas sun and temps. High 47, low 30.
Mrs. Wimp here.

Bono, here's another quilt. Stoke the fire.

FM-- Pulled pork YMMMMMM.
Pork is my favorite.

Farf--cold feet I can't stand.
Layer. Enjoy DD's concert.
I loved when my kid played at the Meyerson Concert Hall when they were in band.

Boran--Think cat. Warmth at night and no mouse problems at my house. Thank you Agatha (she who must be obeyed and the pack leader) and Toby (short bus kitty--not the sharpest pencil in the box).

Olivia--Canada isn't it. I remember my honeymoon in the Quetico. Water really cold at the end of May.BRRRRR. Come visit Texas anytime for a thaw.

Grab a quilt and cuddle up all to come.

Kelly McCullough said...

The wind chill is at 0 and we just got back from a walk and dinner. Is that crazy?

bono said...

Ummm, yeah, Kelly, sounds kind of nutty to me. But I don't like cold. I think I missed out on the enjoy winter weather gene. lol

Thanks for the extra quilt, Lisa!!!

Anonymous said...

Wish I had your constitution, Kelly. It was 70 here today, and we had sweatshirts on after dinner! Sending warmth to anyone who wants it...

Nancy P said...

Geez, what kind of hostess invites all her guests in and then goes off and abandons them all day??

Ha! The kind who knows people who can entertain themselves, thank you very much.

It's pretty nice that several of us have editors who are just right for us.

Nice insight from a photog's pov, Andi.