Ode to My Editor

For a long time, I hated editing. I don’t mean that I just thought of it as an enemy or even a nemesis. I mean, it vexed me and stood like an inexorable sentinel between me and my dreams. Most of my journey as an author has been overshadowed by it.

I wrote a dozen books before I got one published. The first few were awful, and they improved slowly. I should have written half that many and then applied myself to editing them. Why didn’t I? Because I had no confidence in my editing abilities and it was just more rewarding to write another novel than edit a past one. Oh, I went through them and made changes after the fact. I just didn’t have the skill, nor did I know how to acquire it. Eventually, I read a lot of books about editing and grammar and went to enough classes at writers conferences that I knew I had to just buckle down and do the hard work. However, no matter how hard I tried, I was never happy with it.

When I finally managed to get a book published, I vowed to edit like a mad man. Same with subsequent books. I was thrilled when each of my books came out. Then, my heart was broken as my publisher told me they had to be rewritten and rereleased. I worked so hard on one of them that the suggestion to do another edition caused me real distress. But none depressed me as much as The Actuator.

After I did a full edit myself, they sent it to Cait Spivey. As she talked to me about what I needed and expected for this round of edits, I told her, “Don’t hold back. Don’t sugar coat it. Tell me every suggestion, no matter how harsh or trivial.” When it came back and I saw the sheer number of edits and depth of changes in them, I had to put it away for a few days and try not to curl up into a fetal position and cry. At the same time, I contacted my publisher and told them, “I don’t ever want another editor besides her again.”

When I finally sat down to dig into the edits, I quickly realized how amazing these notes were. I laughed and cringed as I slowly worked through the comments and suggestions. Recently, I got back the edits for Actuator 2. Once again I find myself grinning, sometimes at myself. For the first time in my life, editing is a communication. For the first time, I feel like I’m getting suggestions from somebody who really understands me as a writer and my work as something more than a string of sentences needing grammar and style changes.

I found myself transformed. I started looking forward to edits, instead of dreading the slow grind through box after box of comments. I can’t wait to start each new chapter.

Alas, that such an ideal editor should continue on til death. It would be too simple and perfect to be real. So, of course, fate calls her away. I support her goals and the places she hopes to go. I only wish it did not have to be so soon. Still I can’t complain. I’ve learned to love editing… and that will be a gift that stays with me, wherever our separate writing paths lead.

author headshot - edited small

Thanks, Cait! I can’t tell you how much it has meant to me.

Check out her website and her books on Amazon.

Even though she’s no longer with my publisher, she’s still editing. You can find her at Bear and Black Dog Editing. Naturally, it gets my highest recommendation.

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4 thoughts on “Ode to My Editor

  1. Thank you, James! We’ll always have the Actuator 😉 And I’m positive we’ll have opportunities to work together in the future.

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