And this is why editors are important
As I write this, I’m sitting here with a glass of wine and a lot to ponder. I just heard back from my editor for Revelations in Blood. I’d finished my own edit pass and sent it to her with this caveat: “I think it’s terrible, but I don’t know why.”
Well, now I know. And I wasn’t wrong. The book needs to be burned down to the ground. When I’m done with it again, the only things that are going to remain the same are the main characters. Most of them.
Now, I outline everything these days, and Revs wasn’t exempt from this treatment. I did a lot of work on it. If I lift my gaze from my computer screen, I can see a 4.5 ft by 2.5 ft white board with characters and scenes covering it. COVERING.
But that didn’t help.
Well, the wine tells me that honesty is the best policy, so here goes. I fell in love with a few plot points and I shoehorned the rest of the book to fit them. Now, I know better. Hell, I’m an editor. I council clients all the time not to hold too tightly to their darlings. And I’m usually okay about cutting them myself. When I wrote A Shift in the Water, I cut three whole chapters from the book between the first draft and the final. I can kill darlings with the best of them. But in this case, I had too many of them, they were too precious, and I kept trying to resurrect them.
And, there’s another reason too…and I hesitate to say this, because I don’t want to offend anyone. But here goes. Because this is important. My beta readers didn’t see anything wrong. I love my beta readers. Seriously. They are almost always spot on in their feedback. I’ve picked them well. For this book, two of them were writers, so they could look at scenes from a craft standpoint. But they didn’t see it either. Or if they did, they didn’t tell me. (I don’t think they saw it.)
Maybe that’s because they had the same darlings I did.
Now, please don’t think that I am in any way upset at them. I’m not. Beta readers serve an important function and mine are kick ass and fabulous. But here’s the key. They aren’t editors. And they also (in my case) don’t always look at the book on the whole. Did Chapter Five work? Sure. Chapter Five was fine. But did it work in context of the whole story? No.
And this is why editors are important. It’s an editor’s job to be objective. Even if they love your characters and your story, they have to put that aside. Even if they love YOU as a person, they have to put that aside. An editor must know story. They must understand conflict and urgency and language so that they can help you produce the best book possible.
Was the writing in Revelations good? I think it was decent. Sure, it had all the common issues…even editors make editing mistakes. I’m sure I didn’t use all of my commas correctly. I’m sure I had some of those pesky repeated words and phrases that always creep in. I probably had some simultaneous action (my weakness). But I probably could have paid a proofreader and produced something decent from a writing standpoint. It’s the story that I needed help with this time, because I was too close to it to fix it.
So now, I’m going to drink my wine, watch baseball, and ponder how I’m going to fix this story. And then next week, I’m going to get to work.