Everything about the experience of having a book deal is new to me, and I have greeted all of it eagerly, including the editing process.
My first extensive experience with editing was with my first novel, Breakfast At Tuli’s. After writing it during NaNoWriMo in November of 2011, and then spending months revising and expanding it, I spent a reasonable sum for the services of Jacob Shaver, a friend I met at Lux, the coffeehouse I frequented most at that. He was, as I said, reasonably priced and talented, and did a good job helping me make it better. He also introduced me to the Central Phoenix Writer’s Workshop, which has been indispensable to my development as a writer.
Now, having been paid for a couple of books, one of which I have not yet written, I found myself waiting to hear what my editor didn’t quite like about the first draft, with the arrival of the editorial letter.
Working with Jacob, I could take or leave any suggestion he made freely: I was paying him, and while he made a lot of useful suggestions, when I rejected an idea I did so without fear.
But having a book deal, having sold the rights to the book being edited, what did it mean when my editor had a suggestion I didn’t agree with?
Since I had lunch with my editor, along with my agent and the editorial director back in October, I knew that there would not be a lot of cutting. They said that it was refreshing to work with someone whom they would not be asking to subtract 20,000 words. Instead, they said they would be asking me to add a few thousand.
When the first editorial letter arrived in early November, it looked like this: a couple of pages of narrative describing desired changes in broad strokes, accompanied by the manuscript with sections of the text highlighted, notes in the left margin.
It took a little while for me to understand my editor’s thinking. Rydr, my thirteen year-old protagonist, is a reluctant, unreliable narrator, but I needed for her to spill her story a little more completely without being untrue to her nature and her character. My editor has also helped me elicit a greater depth of feeling in places. I probably would not have believed that I could add 25% to the length without detracting from its economy of words, but I think that is what has happened. She has helped me to make a story that I believe will be ultimately a better, more satisfying version of what they found appealing when they green-lighted it. And that, as I have come to realize, is really what a talented editor can do: Like a producer for a piece of music, a director for a film, a conductor for an orchestra, the editor’s talent lies in her ability to make a story the best story it can be, and to bring out the best version of the writer the writer can express.
What I have learned through the process so far, through the work and through speaking with my agent and my editor, is this:
We are all on the same team, wanting to make Train I Ride the best book it can be.
At the end of the day I am the author, and nobody is going to make me write something I hate.
I have an enormous amount of respect and trust for my editor and the editorial group she is a part of. I am in the best hands, with the writers they have worked with and the books they have put forth, including the 2015 National Book Award winner in the category of Literature for Young People.
There are times when I have changed something I was happy with because I trust my editor. And there are times when she has let something I love stay as it is because she trusts me.
I think that she and I are working well together, and I hope that we can make lots of great books together.