In a way, editing is not unlike the movies. The best books, just like the best movies, are a collaboration. They’re only as good as the compromise made between the artists involved.
— Viggo Mortensen
Last Monday, I sent a copy of my manuscript (first draft) to a friend who happens to be an editor.
She doesn’t live in the same city as I do, but at one time, she did. I know there are perfectly good editors who live here and are capable of editing my novel. However, I know my friend and I know how she is when she is in copy editing mode. She’s great. I have a ton of respect for her skills and experience.
When I got to a point where I had to consider finding a person to story edit and line edit the manuscript, my friend was at the top of the list. Honestly, she was the only one on the list.
What would I have done if she wasn’t available to do the job, you ask? Simple. I would have looked for someone in the city. My writing mentor would have helped me locate a good editor. But handing over the manuscript to a complete stranger would have been nerve-wracking. I would have feared his or her personal biases, proclivities or bug-a-boos would have derailed the essence of the story and I would have ended up overhauling the manuscript in order to appease one person’s idea of a good or great story. That would have guaranteed a shouting match and sugar in the gas tank, courtesy of yours truly.
I am open to discourse and a different point of view with regards to my writing. It’s a learning process and I want to learn. I want to be better. I want to make the story (and subsequent stories) better. There are things where I absolutely need a second pair of eyes to make sure the novel is offering its best foot forward. Grammar, writing style, continuity, etc. If I can’t develop a more than stellar relationship with the person who is editing my manuscript, I’m hitting the road and looking for another one.
Luckily, I didn’t have to go through that. I have great relationship with my editor which is based on respect and friendship. I’m comfortable with her questioning anything related to the manuscript and making me think twice about the way I’ve approached a scene or developed a character. So far, based on the discussions we’ve had regarding the manuscript, I know the ability to write a good piece of fiction is in my wheelhouse. And that is pretty fucking exciting to me.
When Mortensen says the best books, like the best films, are a collaboration and only as good as the compromises made by the artists involved, I completely agree. I believe in collaboration when and where it is necessary. By putting the manuscript into the editing process, I am collaborating with my editor, my friend, to shape it, fine-tune it and hopefully, make people sit up and notice it.
She looks at this process as a collaboration, too, and I couldn’t have picked a better person with whom I could share the journey of becoming a published writer. It’s great to hear her perspective. We’ve discussed what my plans are for the novel. She’s made constructive remarks and has an interesting atmospheric description for the novel. She used the words “film noir” which blew me away because I never gave a lot of thought about the ambient feel of the novel and for her to describe it that way was so cool. It is cool.
Through her eyes and sensibilities, I get an opportunity to develop a better sense of who I am as a writer. She’s making me think about the storytelling choices I’ve made for the characters (sometimes the storytelling choices have been made by my characters and not necessarily me… yeah, it sounds strange and flaky, but it’s true).
I could not be more excited about working through this next step in becoming a published author.