Writer and Editor

When I got my first round of edits from my editor, an overwhelming sense of dread weighed my body down as I read her comments. Two words stuck out. Wholesale. Rewrite. Yes, I’d have to rewrite my very complex story because changing events in the first part (at the advice of my editor) meant a change in the second part.

My editor applauded me for taking on such a huge story. She summarized the plot to me, and I was amazed that she “got it.” But she was right. My story would be easier to explain if it was made into a movie, where the good and bad guys could be easily recognized as just that.

As I tackled the rewrite, I realized it was an enormous task. No wonder my editor gave me three weeks (with more time if I need it) and pushed back my release date. Timelines in my book had to be changed as well as character motivation. Soon, my initial story, the one I sold to my publisher, didn’t read the same anymore − this story was better.

The characters’ goals, conflicts and motivations were clearer, more compelling. I just needed an editor’s eyes − fresh eyes− to point out the simplicity in the complexity of my story. So we narrowed the complex plot into a simpler story line for readers to easily follow. We also made the themes of good versus bad, betrayal versus justice more black and white rather than shades of gray.

The first few pages are important. Confuse the reader too much and that individual will stop reading. That’s not what an author wants. Neither does the publisher. Readers also have short attention spans. I know I do. Too many f-bombs? Too much graphic sex scenes? Not enough chemistry between the hero and heroine? Cheesy dialogue? I’ll put that book down and call it a DNF (did not finish). Why? Because the above is a turn-off, especially when I have so little time to spare.

An editor’s job is to help the author make his or her story the best it can be for the reader. Yes, I took my editor’s suggestions. Did I use all of them? No. For those, I provided a solution. Writing is hard. I’m sure I’ve said it many times. Accepting constructive criticism is harder. But when there is respect and professionalism from both sides, the resultant compromise could only spell success.