Kill our darlings, indeed.
Being a firm believer in the value and gifts a book receives from a professional revision, I want to raise the flag (and argument) for collaborative editing. From my first novel, Distractions (1984) through the following (so far) seven Danser novels, I have been graced to work with passionate and creative and professional editors. A second set of eyes; a professional set of eyes with the gift and crafting skills of revision and questioning are invaluable.
As a novelist, I live within each work for months; a daily dance of choices blended with imagination and all that I’ve researched. Therein lays the rub and the siren call for a pro – there are times when I can no longer see the pratfalls of style decisions (or just plain ol’ bad habits).
Part of the delight in writing seven days a week is in the exploration of language and its musical tools: punctuation. Voice is constructed with these, but sometimes the musician is off key, having a grand old time and so immersed in storytelling that the weed field of, say, semicolons or “ands” he or she has developed a jones for are tripping up the readability of the book.
In rides the editor, with a fresh and exacting view, who can take a scythe to that field of word grass, cutting for clarity and focus without nicking the flowers.
And let’s face it, no matter how many drafts a writer works through (I typically do three before a novel leaves the front porch), sometimes we can be blind to the fact that the 9mm Glock has somehow teleported from the kitchen table to the glove box in the sedan out back. Don’t know about you, but I’d much rather have this pointed out by a collaborator than a reader.
The final vital ingredient in the relationship is trust: the belief that both author and editor have the singular focus on readability. Not much else really matters.
Currently, the next Danser novel, View-Master (w.t.) is in the capable (and brilliant) care of Stephanie Jorgensen, quite simply one of the best editors on the planet. I’m looking forward to her ideas and revisions and suggestions.
All the best,
“A very good editor is a collaborator.”
– Ken Follett