After an author hits the last keystroke on the first draft of a new book, the real work begins. During the drafting stage, it’s just the author and the characters as a new world is built—word by word, page by page. Even as I breathe a sigh of relief when the story is finished, I know that it will go through many more drafts, revisions, iterations, and additions before it is truly ready for the public. The final book that the reader holds in her hands – my latest being THE LAST MRS. PARRISH – goes through many other capable hands before it’s shared with readers.
I’m very fortunate to have a writing partner—my sister. We brainstorm our ideas, read and edit each other’s chapters, and work together to get that first draft into the best possible shape before we hand it over to our editor. We typically go through two more full drafts before we’re ready to deliver it to her. A nascent manuscript is like new wine—it needs time. Time to develop into the full-bodied story waiting to emerge from the bones of those first imaginings. As the authors, we’re able to get the story part of the way there, but we need the editor to get us all the way to the finish line. We become too close to it to see all of its flaws and shortcomings. And because we know things about our characters that never make it into the story, we easily forget that the reader might need us to put some of those on the page for the story to make sense.
Enter the editor. We are blessed with a brilliant editor who has a keen eye and remarkable ability to point out exactly where we’ve fallen short. As any writer will tell you, the first reaction to getting your manuscript back full of tracked changes on every page can be rage. Our editor has the wisdom to send us her edits at the end of the day when it’s too late for us to call her. By the next day, we’ve cooled off and are able to grudgingly admit that her edits are spot on. This goes on for another round or two, and we all joke that by the end of the editing process we’re lucky still to be on speaking terms. But by the time all the revisions are complete, we owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to her for polishing a rough stone into a gleaming diamond. We couldn’t do it without her.
The relationship between an author and editor, like any good partnership, brings out the best in both parties, and our differences sharpen each other. And as in any collaboration, there are differences of opinion and concessions to be made. But when all parties are united in the desire to produce the best possible work, disagreements are easily resolved, and the result is something better than either could have accomplished alone.