“ALL MY BEST SCENES ENDED UP ON THE CUTTING ROOM FLOOR”: EDITORS
As I wait to be assigned an editor for my new novel, GRAVES OF HIS PERSONAL LIKING, I realize that the most complaints I get from other writers are about editors. If you have ever written, you realize that the writer goes over each sentence repeatedly, maybe changing it a dozen times to make the sentence perfect. The writer is sure by the time he/she is finished, that the sentence will be studied by students in honor English classes at major universities for decades to come. The editor will then send a note suggesting that the sentence be changed or—horror of horrors—eliminated completely. Doesn’t this miserable excuse for a human being know the time and mental anguish that has been put into crafting this sentence? Would they make Dickens change, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…”because it has to be one of the other so it can’t be both?
I’ve often said that when I had my first novel, IN THE STICKS, accepted for publication, I didn’t run out and buy a new suit to wear when they gave me my Pulitzer Prize. I still haven’t bought one now that my second novel has been accepted, although I have been looking online—I’m thinking maybe a gray wool three button?
I thought the editor of my first book did a good job. The novel read smoother after her suggestions than it did before she made them. I did have a few disagreements with her. My novel was the first mystery she ever edited. She did it on the fly. At times she would suggest eliminating elements of the story that would be essential later, or she would recommend I explain something in more detail when two paragraphs later it was explained. I got a lot of Emily Litella’s, “Never minds”. Reading the entire manuscript before she started editing would have eliminated that problem. My editor also advised me that the publisher, Wings Epress, had a big problem with “and then”. They would accept “and” or “then”, but not both together. So my editor would recommend the change, and then I would change it.
The senior editor of my first novel suggested just eight changes after the first editor and I were finished with it. Three of them were point of view changes, and I disagreed with every one of them. I changed them anyway. I still believe the story read better when the point of view was changed for those single paragraphs in those three chapters, but sometimes you have to decide which battles are worth fighting.
So here I sit waiting for the editor of my second novel. I will be putty in her/his hands, as long as they don’t suggest I change the sentence where I describe the mountains as a distant fairytale kingdom, then there will be hell to pay.