What to Expect From Your Editor

I hear you’re interested in hiring an editor. Smart move. So what are you waiting for? Grab your checkbook (do those still exist?), your manuscript, and your realistic expectations and get to it.

What’s that? You don’t know what to expect? Here. I’ll help.

Ten Things Your Editor Can Do

  1. Your editor can see what your novel could be someday, no matter what it looks like today.
  2. Your editor can show you all the little pet phrases and words you repeat to distraction.
  3. Your editor can solve plot problems that would make readers want to throw your book into a woodchipper.
  4. Your editor can point out all the ways your characters are acting out of character, and suggest ways to remedy that.
  5. Your editor can help identify, refine, and celebrate your unique writer’s voice, or explain why you don’t yet have one.
  6. Your editor can tell you when your novel is nowhere near ready to share with the world, then point you toward additional resources that could help you change that reality.
  7. Your editor can make you feel like a gifted writer while simultaneously providing ample evidence you’re a hack.
  8. Your editor can listen patiently to arguments about why you made certain narrative choices, then offer wisdom about why those choices suck.
  9. Your editor can remind you that writing is a long game, and that the hard work of re-writing is worth the pain even if the book never finds a publishing home.
  10. Your editor can comfort you when the hard drive is corrupted and you forgot to save to the cloud.

Ten Things Your Editor Can’t Do

  1. Your editor can’t make your book a bestseller. (Editors aren’t in charge of market conditions, sales trends, or readers’ whims.)
  2. Your editor can’t turn you into a brilliant writer. (That’s a function of hard work and genetics.)
  3. Your editor can’t fix everything. (We try, or at least try to identify all the problems, but we miss some things. And frankly, some things just aren’t fixable.)
  4. Your editor can’t write your book for you. (You’re looking for a ghostwriter.)
  5. Your editor can’t pretend your book is wonderful when it isn’t. Okay, we could, but prefer not to. (There is no benefit to the writer when the editor lies.)
  6. Your editor can’t edit faster. (I’m editing as fast as I can, current clients. Like pretty much every available minute. Except for the few it took to write this post, of course. I know. Sorry. I’ll get back to your book right now. Well, not right now, but in a few minutes.)
  7. Your editor can’t get everything right all the time. (Just most of the time.)
  8. Your editor can’t force you to accept all his/her changes. (But a good one never makes a change or suggestion without careful thought, so you might want to discuss those reasons before clicking “reject change.”)
  9. Your editor can’t explain why great books get rejected and awful ones get published. (I mean, we can try, but let’s face it – we live in a crazy, unpredictable world. I don’t need to elaborate on that, do I?)
  10. Your editor can’t move into your basement so you have access to his/her brilliance 24/7. (Not without a decent salary and benefits, anyway.)

You’re welcome.

Life (Or Something Like It)

I hesitated before deciding to write this post, not because of the words that follow, but because this is a writing blog, and a personal post about my life just seemed a little indulgent. But then I remembered good writing is all about tapping into truth, and what could possibly be truer than the life we’re living?

Well, mine has been…interesting. Some of you know that last May I took on the responsibility of caring full-time for my Granddaughter, Harper. (She turned five in December, three days after Christmas. I know, right? December birthdays. Sigh. think I’ll introduce half-birthdays this year.) The first two months or so, I dedicated my time 24/7 to helping Harper overcome some emotional and psychological challenges that resulted from her previous situation, and also to help her with speech issues that had plagued her since her first word. (No, I won’t go into detail here – but suffice it to say she didn’t have much consistency in her little life in the preceding year.)

(For the record, there will be lots of parenthetical stuff in this post. Think of it as carefully-considered words, not meant to stir up conversation or controversy, but to gently inform. Okay? Thanks.)

Did I mention that I’m on my own? I’m not married, nor do I have a significant other [call me, Kate Beckinsale] who can play a support role in this. (Going on 11 years of singleness and solitude and loneliness in that regard. That’s another story – one for the movies – and one that I won’t share on this blog. Feel free to piece it together from the spaces between the words in my fiction writing. Then cry a tear or two if you’re into that sort of thing.)

Well, I’d already scheduled a full slate of editing projects for the summer, so those had to be delayed, and the ones on the heels of those as well. There’s absolutely no way to “edit faster” if you’re committed to giving both the book and the author your best. All the deadlines went down like dominoes. My meager savings (meant to buy me a month to write my next novel) quickly disappeared, and I was just hanging by a thread there for a while, at least financially. The good news is that when you’re totally consumed with trying to remember how to parent a young child and figure out how to pay the bills without a regular income, there’s little time left to remember you suffer from depression.

Meanwhile (I could do lots of “meanwhiles” here, but I’ll just do this one), I had just released a novel, Stolen Things, which I self-published because I couldn’t find an agent who was willing to take a chance on it (though a few truly wanted to, for what that’s worth). All my clever marketing plans went up in smoke, as did that plan to work on the next book, Beautiful Sky, Beautiful Sky. (It will be worth the wait – I promise.)

I love writing. (And of course, having written.) But writing, along with my income-producing editing work – which I love nearly as much – had been flipped on their heads and all my writerly dreams – of marketing my ass off to get onto the bestseller charts with Stolen Things, of making the next book so good agents would fight over it – evaporated. Yes, I know, the right word is “delayed,” but in the middle of wrestling with the chaos, “evaporated” is what it felt like. Feels like, still, sometimes.

And so here I am, seven months down the road, playing single-parent at 57, not counting on that to change, but still hoping for good things, and still doing my best to keep moving forward. It’s not easy. But what is? (Don’t even get me started on the mess that politicians are making of the country I love and for the people I care about.) That’s probably the only lesson I can give you in the middle of this post. It’s far from original, but it’s about as true as true gets: Life isn’t easy. Writing isn’t easy, either. But if you have to press pause on one, choose writing.

I get mildly upset when I read advice from “successful” writers telling those of us still angsting for that modifier that to be a real writer you have to write every day.

Bullshit.

If you write every day and that’s how you get where you want to be, good for you. But life doesn’t care if you have a dream of selling a million books, or getting a hundred five-star reviews, or being touted by Neil Gaiman as a brilliant, if underrated writer. (Fingers crossed.) Life just does what it does and sometimes it drags you away from your dreams to care for a little girl who needs all of you.

I have written exactly 346 words in my novel since May. Am I still a writer? Damn right I am. And someday you’ll have more evidence of that. Until then, I’ll be raising a young reader-dancer-firefighter-whatever-she-wants-to-be-today while chipping away at all the missed freelance deadlines (many apologies to my long-suffering clients, and many thanks as well for your continued patience) and hoping for an hour here or there to write more of my next book.

And that will have to be good enough.

I’ll leave you with this: Write as much as you can. Be intentional about it. But first, live.

Still Here…

Just stopping by to let you know I haven’t abandoned you. I’m just still super-busy with editing projects, as well as caring for my granddaughter, Harper. I have more things to say, and I’ll say them when I can. Meanwhile, read the archives, write your books, and eat lots of [insert your favorite food here].