Thursday, May 26, 2011

Why You Need an Editor - Part II

This morning I read an e-mail from the woman I now call my editor. (Yes, you're now my editor. There. I said it.)

I was feeling pretty good about The Eroe, all things considered... I was sure she would have some feedback about it, but all-in-all, I had tried to remember what she had told me about The Wrong Path, and tried to keep that in the back of my mind as I was redrafting The Eroe. So when I sent it to her, I was petrified (because as we all know, The Quest of Dai is my baby!), but I was also feeling pretty confident.

Imagine my surprise when I get an e-mail back from her, saying she really enjoyed the story--but the first twenty pages were dreadfully boring and had to go.

For a few minutes, I read and re-read the e-mail. I thought about what was in the first twenty pages. I thought about how much mythology I had prepped in those twenty pages. I thought about how important those twenty pages were not for the first book, really, but for the second and third. I thought about a lot of things in those few minutes.

And once the sting wore off (and it wasn't as bad as it was the last time I received editing feedback--apparently you really do get used to it!) I started thinking. And then I thought some more. And then I thought even more. And finally I text messaged my husband and said, "I don't know what the hell I'm going to do."

I finally called him during a slow period at work, and together we hashed out my editor's (there! I said it again!) feedback and what I could do to fix the problems. I couldn't really drop the whole storyline, I pointed out to my husband, but what was the point of having it if no one could even read through the twenty pages to get to the rest of the book?

So we chatted some more, which was mostly me talking and telling him what I couldn't do, and talking about how I had to have certain key scenes, and while sure, I could tighten this or that up, I just couldn't lose--

"But maybe I could..." I started excitedly, quickly rambling off the idea to my husband. And then, even more excited, I said, "Or what if I...?"

"That would work," he assured me enthusiastically.

"That's so great!" I caroled. I could almost feel my eyes shining. "It would be so exciting to start out this way. And then I could move it into this scene, and tighten up the scene!"

He laughed, and told me they were all great ideas. (He's such a good husband.) I quickly went back to work and wrote my editor an e-mail. I thanked her for her feedback and telling me exactly what I needed to hear, and then asked what I thought was a rather crucial question: "Where was it that you thought it started to pick up?"

Her answer, I'm not going to lie, caught me completely by surprise.

Later, as I was driving home to work, I mused over this with my husband. "She said it didn't pick up until there," I said thoughtfully. "But there are a lot of scenes before that one that are really important. I can't really take those out without ruining the story. I could tighten them up," I continued, thinking back on her feedback. "If I tighten up the scenes, and then--OH!" I gaped at the back of the car in front of me. "I could add in another scene in there, which would add a little more interest like she was talking about, and give a little more background."

"That sounds good," he told me, laughing.

"This is great!" I declared cheerfully, ecstatic. I couldn't wait to get home to work on the manuscript.

(Of course, it should be noted here that I'm currently in the middle of another WIP, and I'm currently monitoring work for a giant launch we're doing today. So sadly, not the best day to try working on editing a manuscript.)

That being said--you need an editor. You need someone to bounce ideas off of. You need someone who cares about you enough to be brutally honest in their feedback--because it's really just got the end-goal of making your story better. I never, ever would have considered ripping out the first twenty pages of my book until today. It had never occurred to me they were boring. I was using them to set a scene--to showcase the difference between Dai in her world and Dai in the new world. And, of course, to introduce the reader to some stuff they wouldn't realize was important until later.

But hearing it from another point of view, I get it. I see what I can do differently. I see a way to improve. And I guarantee, if you let an editor have their hands on your manuscript, you will, too.

Trust me--you won't be sorry!