Editors are your friends.
That bears repeating: editors are your friends. When they return your work with slashes and dashes and cross-outs and notes and red vomit, their status as friend may be questionable. But it is oh-so-true. You must check your ego at the door. Your friend is going to tell you the truth – and it’s for your own good. That’s what friends are for.
I was prepared for editors even before I began writing books. I had Rita. I worked with and for Rita for more than 20 years. She is a stickler for words. And she also happens to be my best friend.
Rita and I create, review, and negotiate contracts for a living. We live by words. If the business relationship and the legal rights granted to each party are not clearly understood in a contract, hundreds of thousands – nay millions – of dollars could be at stake. If nothing else, there will be a lot of unhappy people. When Rita or I write a paragraph its meaning must be absolutely clear.
Rita rewrites my contract paragraphs. She always has and probably always will. She is a perfectionist with an excellent grasp of the English language. She spots inconsistencies, contradictions, and omissions in an agreement. And corrects them. With ease. Over the years I have come to accept the fact that she will not find my writing perfect. Sometimes her editing is maddening, but never is it wrong. She makes my work better.
That’s what an editor is supposed to do.
I had the great fortune of working with a wonderful editor for my first book – Rick Biegel. Rick suggested alternative word choices, corrected grammar and spelling, and highlighted places where he saw patterns and themes emerging (targeting almost every one that I intended, even though I gave him no clues ahead of time!). He inserted Comments about historical facts related to the time and place of my story – mostly to emphasize that I had correctly described that time in my text or had created dialogue that would have been appropriate for the era! In addition, he highlighted certain passages for a quick “This is in keeping with your character,” “Well written” or, my favorite, “Beautifully written.” For a rookie without prior validation this was a priceless gift. I looked forward to receiving his edited chapters every day.
For my latest manuscript, I have engaged someone new. Not by choice, mind you. Rick was badly injured in a hit-and-run and has temporarily (I hope) retired from editing.
I don’t know what to expect from my new editor friend. All I know is that her job is to improve my work. She will do what Rita and Rick have done before:
She will make my writing better, she will make my writing better, she will…