Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Why I Need My Editor-CJ Omololu

That's my editor. She's cute, right? We've been working together since 2009 and I've met her exactly twice (once involved a diner, a very tall chocolate milkshake, a child and some vomiting, but that is for another post altogether). Right now, we're at the very end of a very long revision process for the new book that comes out in June of 2012. By my count, we've completely redone the ending four different times, switched five chapters into very different places, changed three character names and have yet to decide on a title. This is our second book together, and we've developed a process that seems to work well for us.

After I send her the manuscript electronically, she sends me back extensive revision notes. Usually two to three pages single spaced about all of the general things that need to be fixed, followed by a giant goldenrod envelope via Fed-Ex containing the printed manuscript with all of the smaller, written-in comments. You wouldn't think anything from this face would cause any kind of angst, would you? Don't let the sunny pink scarf fool you. Whenever I open one of these revision emails, teeth are gnashed, chests are thumped and heavens are cursed. My usual reaction is to read it through quickly, crying '"What?!?" and "Is she crazy?!?" the entire time. I usually sit for a while with my head on the laptop, silently rocking until I jump to life and send off a scathing email or text to one of my poor unsuspecting writer friends, looking for an understanding shoulder to complain on. Then I shut the computer down and walk away until the next day.

The next morning, with a big cup of coffee in front of me, I begin to see things differently. I read through each sentence slowly, and gradually, I start to acknowledge that what she's saying might make a tiny bit of sense. Maybe the pacing at the ending really isn't working. And she just might be right about the fact that Cole wouldn't really say that here. And perhaps the library scene is taking away from the breakneck speed we have in the last couple of chapters. At this point, I usually answer her email in blue ink. She'll answer back in orange, then I'll answer back in green. After just a few email exchanges, I print out the entire set of rainbow colored pages so that I can go back to them as I start the process of making our book different. Of making our book better.

I just turned in the third (and hopefully final) revision and I can't lie and say it's been easy. It's been many weeks of 10 hour days sitting in front of the laptop. Of switching index cards around on the bulletin board to make the story flow. Of moments of thinking that I just couldn't do it. But together we did, and the book is so much stronger for it.

When I sent my editor the manuscript for the first time many months ago I thought it was perfect. I thought it was the best book I could possibly write. But I was wrong. My editor managed to help me take the book to a whole new level, and there's no way I could have done it alone. I really think of the finished product as a collaboration between two people who both have a big stake in the outcome.

I think this partnership is missing for many writers who decide to go it alone. While I admire authors who take the process into their own hands, having someone along side of you who can bring out the best in your writing and your work over many long, laborious months is invaluable. Any editor can correct your comma placement and the fact that you constantly misspell the word grammar, but it takes someone with commitment to persuade you to question everything you thought you knew about your characters and your story in order to make it the best it can possibly be.

6 comments:

  1. This was really good to read. Going it alone is, well, lonely, and we all need a bit of support. That's why I still hope to get published traditionally in future.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Great post, it gives such a good insight into the relationship between a writer and editor. Thanks for sharing.

    ReplyDelete
  3. This was such an awesome post! I can't wait to have a relationship like that one day. :)

    ReplyDelete
  4. I love this post!!! Your editor sounds amazing and I'm glad you have a process with her that works so well. My editor was key to making my books as strong as they were too. And i just love seeing how other writers make notes because it makes me feel less crazy :)

    ReplyDelete
  5. Thanks guys. It's an intimate and often painful relationship, but I wouldn't trade it for anything. And I think we're all a little crazy.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Great post! I love how you describe your initial reaction. I totally feel that way when I first get the news.

    ReplyDelete