Editing for the Editor

I recently came into a bit of good fortune when a friend of a friend was searching for an artist to provide some images for her upcoming novel. She’d been looking for someone to do 25-35 small illustrations and the estimates she’d received were stratospheric. She also happens to be a first-rate editor-for-hire. My friend suggested she call me to see if I might be interested in working with her on the art. She did and asked me what I might charge for the work.

I suggested she edit my novel.

A good old fashioned trade, right? I mean, making a little money for some drawings is okay, but art isn’t my day job. I’m not doing it for the money. Well, she agreed immediately and I don’t think either of us could be happier. She values something I can do and I value something she has exceptional skill for. I’m doing her art and she’s doing a close edit on my book.

Now I have to un-shit it.

I’ve observed in my prior posts that the more I write, the better I get at seeing my writing for what it is: uneven.  It’s improving consistently, but has a ways to go. And obviously, the better work I turn over to this editor, the more she’ll be able to do for the manuscript.

I told her I’d like to have a query-able piece by the Fall. That’s ambitious. Especially since I’m only  one-third of the way through my own hard edit. I’d like to finish that before turning it over to her. I promised I’d have it to her in two weeks so she could begin. Ambitious, yes. Doable, probably?

But then my wife finished her read. This brought good news and bad news. The good news is that she genuinely likes the story…even loves aspects of it. I have no concern that she’s feigning excitement over garbage as she’s not much of a candy-coater when it comes to the general subject of “me.” She identified some areas where I’d glossed over some murk in the story that I’d perhaps subconsciously hoped wasn’t such a big deal. She asked me some basic questions about this story that I didn’t have answers for. In some cases, it wasn’t just a case of a fuzzy or hard to follow storyline. Elements of the very story simply needed to be better. There were parts that, when pointed out to me, clearly needed to be connected but weren’t.  That’s tough to realize after working for well over a year, but she was right. She was exactly right. I’d seen the trees to the exclusion of the forest. Hmm, there should be a saying about that.

I didn’t bellyache over this. I’ve remarked in previous posts that the bigger the problem, the more incredible the solution, and I embrace that. We spent several hours going over the issues and taking notes. As I went through the next day, I dreamed about various solutions and improvements. We spoke again and together came up with some brilliant changes that bring the story together almost perfectly. Almost as well as the Dude’s rug tied his room together. I’m sure I’ll find problems down the line, but it’s just amazing what can happen when you put two heads to work instead of just the one.

I’d given my wife a Rubics cube with a few squares out of place–a solid, but flawed, effort, and she helped to get those colors onto the correct sides.

I’m now doing some significant substantive edits. There’s no way I turn this around in two weeks, and I’m okay with that. So is my editor-to-be. She’ll get it when it’s ready. And I’ll query it when it’s ready, and not a moment before.

Cliff’s notes: Novels hard.


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