Editing: the good, the bad, and the ugly
With an introduction like that, you know you’re in for it, don’t you? I just got off the phone (and Skype, and Facebook video…technology was NOT my friend today) with my editor for A Shift in the Air. It was almost a two hour call. Yes. Really.
Now, let me be clear. In part because Ally reads my posts, ::waves::. But also because that opening (and what I’m about to say next) probably has you worried. I asked for this. But I do feel a little like one of my characters: beaten, stabbed, thrown off a cliff, choked, poisoned, and then shanked with a whittled down prison toothbrush right in the eye.
And let me also be clear. I kind of loved it.
Why? Because this writing thing isn’t a lark for me. It’s not something I do for fun. It is fun. Quite often. But that’s not why I do it. I write because this is who I am. I write because characters knock at the door of my mind and don’t just ask politely to be let in or let me point to the no soliciting sign and go away quietly. They demand entrance, and then if I try to refuse them, they get out the battering ram and break the door down. Usually scaring the cats in the process.
I write because one day, I want to make this a career. I want this (along with PageCurl) to be all I do for work. Right now, I work full time. And I write almost full time. And I work for PageCurl almost full time. It’s…not easy. I write on the bus. I edit late into the night. I keep several notebooks and a lighted “Etch-a-Sketch” type device next to my bed so that if I get a story idea at three a.m. I can do something about it.
But one day, this will be my career. I know I’m capable of doing it. But in order to succeed, I need to take it seriously. Taking it seriously means that I need to surround myself with the best people to help me, and then LISTEN TO THEM. No author worth their salt does it alone. On my team, I have an editor, a proofreader, a marketing manager, and a cover designer. For A Shift in the Air, I also had models and a photographer. Seriously, that cover is gorgeous. Wait, I’m getting way off target. Still. Cover. Dreamy. Anyway.
Thankfully, unlike Revelations in Blood, A Shift in the Air doesn’t need to be burned down to the ground and rewritten from scratch. As Ally said, there’s a lot of good there. But there can be a lot of better there. (And here she’s cringing at my words.) So there’s a lot of work I’m going to have to do in a very short period of time. By the time I’m done, I hope the characters will leap off the pages and grab you. Right now, they amble slowly off the pages and maybe get a hold of your jacket pocket before they manage to get their arms around your legs and drag you to the ground.
This is part of what it means to be an author. A Shift in the Water was wildly successful. Still is. I hope it will be for years to come. And because of that, it deserves a wildly successful and kick ass sequel. This isn’t the time to phone shit in. This is the time to put on my glasses, get a big ass glass of wine, roll up my sleeves (kidding, it’s seventy degrees here today), and get to work.
Because I am so friggin’ excited about this book that if I hadn’t run a twelve kilometer race today (7.5 miles), I’d probably start dancing around my living room. As it is, I can barely manage a shuffle and it’s accompanied by various noises of the I’m-not-twenty-five-anymore variety.
This is exactly why editors are important. Sure, you need someone to make sure your commas are in the right place and you don’t misspell your character’s name halfway through. But a really good editor does more than that. They see the holes in your story because they aren’t as close to it as you are. They see the story for what it could be, and not only what it is. They see your potential.
Ally and I podcast regularly over at her website, Upgrade Your Story. In fact, we’re recording again on Tuesday. And one thing I can’t wait to talk about is how editing isn’t just crossing your Ts and dotting your Is. Editing is being part cheerleader, part coach, part therapist, and part handywoman. But it’s done best when it’s done in cooperation. Because while it was hard to hear some of the things that needed to be fixed in my story, when we got past that and started talking about solutions, that is what made me want to dance around my living room.
So now, I’m going to go finish one last project and then get that glass of wine. And start fixing the issues with A Shift in the Air. This is going to be one hell of a book, and hopefully the best book I’ve written so far. Because I won’t settle for anything less.