The Accidental Editor
It all started with Holly’s email on July 26, with this subject line: “SERIES price increase delay… yowls of pain noted” for her ‘How to Write a Series’ course. It was a training I’d known about for a few years, and one I desperately needed. I knew that the middle-grade fantasy-mystery series clamoring to get out of my brain must have the training Holly provides in HTWAS…before I started messing about with it alone. (Make that with Me, Myself and my Muse.) I’m not getting any younger and this series has the potential to be my magnum opus, but only if I can get it right the first time.
The first thing I did was to read the sales page. Understand, I don’t need to be sold on anything Holly produces. I’ve worked on projects with her and have nothing but the utmost respect and, yes, affection for her. (Those of you who have been around for some time know what I mean.) Not only that, but I already own a number of her classes, both paid and free.
When I got to the sales page, I didn’t just read it. I ended up devouring it.
The scope of the course is now so much broader and richer than her original version, which was already a quality Holly Lisle course. The newer version, however, mentally blew me away. So, I fired off a reply to her email. Here’s an edited version of our ongoing conversation.
Asking the Wrong Question at the Right Time
July 26 – Me: Holly, since the sales page says the class opened in April, is it safe to assume that this is NOT the “splinters” version? Wondering. Deb
July 27 – Holly: It’s still so VERY much still the Splinters version…. And then it’ll still be the Splinters version for a year or two after that.
July 27 – Me: I don’t suppose you’d consider letting me take a whack at the splinters…?
August 3 – Holly: Hey, Deb, I’m still just doing the first draft on HTWAS, and the rule on first drafts is “Get all the way to the end before you go back to revise.”
This was certainly an embarrassing “duh” moment. I’ve taken her classes, so I know “Finish before rewriting” is an immutable Holly Law–one that I embrace and preach myself! But instead of calling me out on my error, she went on to say this:
Holly: I’d love to have you in the Canary group when I go through this the second time. However, I’m in a different kind of fix at the moment, and am desperate for some help…. I need an editor for the HWC blog. If you’d be interested in taking on the editor position, I’ll set you up as editor in the blog.
Well, if I’d thought Holly’s sales page was mind-blowing, that was nothing compared to this offer. When I called out to my partner, I was barely coherent, and she thought something was wrong. All I could do was point to the email. When she finished reading she said, “You’re saying yes, aren’t you?” So, I quickly sent this reply.
Me: I could do that.
All right, I must confess that isn’t all that I said. Here’s my whole response:
Me: YES!!!!! *calming down* I mean, that would be fine. I could do that.
Holly: That’s fantastic, Deb. Thank you…. I’ll add you to the blog tomorrow.
Over the next few weeks, given Holly’s already overloaded schedule, she was slowly able to get me trained and up to speed on the mechanics of the blog, integrated into the forums and “finding my feet.” And then it was time to stand on them. That’s when she suggested I write an article here introducing myself.
More than an Author Box Has Space For
My path to becoming editor of this blog was not a straight line. I grew up in rural Central Ohio, but have lived in seven other states, two foreign countries, and Puerto Rico; I obtained degrees in vocal music and music education, and 10 years later in computer programming; I did a stint in the Army where I co-ran, and performed at, a dinner theatre, and for a time was working toward a Master’s in education. As you can see, editing as a “career path” didn’t even register as a blip on my radar.
And yet, I’ve been editing for other people almost as long as I’ve been writing, from newsletters and articles, to book manuscripts, and naturally my own fiction as well. There was also my former blog, but more on that in a later article, all about how it became ‘former’ and how you can guard against the same thing happening with your own blog.
Editing, though, is something we writers are expected to do, however unenthusiastic we feel about it. We’re also not always crazy about the next stage, that of having our work edited by others. Yet we all need another pair of eyes. The celebrated and prolific author Isaac Asimov freely admitted editors always made his work better. That’s quite a declaration from a man with a colossal (and well-deserved) ego. An editor brings objectivity to cut through that intense protectiveness most of us feel about our words.
Which is why Stephen King wrote: “Kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.” He didn’t come up with this idea on his own, but was paraphrasing a William Faulkner admonition: “In writing, you must kill all your darlings.”
The truth is, we writers tend to fall in love with our words–yes, even King and Faulkner. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have known to warn us. Painful or not, many (but not necessarily all) of the phrases and scenes and details we lovingly labor over, as mothers birthing our children, must come under the ax (or the red pencil) for the good of the story. It makes me wince just from the memory.
The trick, I’ve learned the hard way, is to recognize what words are necessary and what aren’t. And it is learnable. Here’s how one author’s “killing spree” cut an impressive 100 pages from her novel. Kill All Your Darlings
Difficult as self-editing can be, I find it preferable to having an editor do it for me. You could say it’s the same principal as why I prefer to remove an adhesive bandage myself, rather than to have someone else rip it off before I’m ready.
Why am I telling you this? Because I don’t like being the bad guy. I’m just another set of eyes looking at your work with the goal of showcasing it in the best possible light. I want your writing to look good and read well as much as you do. So, be at ease. I will treat your literary offspring with the same care and respect I want my own work to be given by an editor.
Together we’ll work out a submission deadline that will allow time for you to make alterations, if needed, before your article is published. In fact, that same collaborative effort is the cornerstone of all dealings on our blog. It’s how Holly managed it up until now, and I have no intention of changing that. Our goal is to make the blog a platform that will not only serve all the participants on HWC, but will bring in new course members and, as we slowly grow our sphere of influence, attract outside writers who are excited to write guest articles.
Some Kudos Are in Order
Firstly, enormous thanks go out to all who have welcomed me so warmly. I’m awed by your congenial reception. Now I’m sorry I didn’t participate in the forum sooner. I was never all that fond of forums in the past. This group, however, has changed my mind for the better. Holly’s tribe is a dazzling gem.
Secondly, it goes without saying, but I will say it (again), “Thank you, Holly, for this opportunity to work with you and the fabulous group of writers you’ve attracted to yourself and to your courses. May your muse never desert you when you need her most.”
I’ve enjoyed meeting so many of you on the forums and I’m eager to meet even more. The diversity of genres, accomplishment levels and the overall quality of writers with whom I’ve interacted is remarkable. Even more, however, I’ve appreciated the genuine concern over the safety of everyone in the path of Irma, and with particular uneasiness, of course, over how Holly was faring.
Writers are special people to begin with, in part because we are readers first and foremost. Writing talent undeveloped is just potential. But, as with diamonds, that raw talent becomes multi-faceted when we’ve been cut and polished by our experiences, and in particular through Holly’s classes. It takes the master’s touch to bring out a diamond’s facets and inner beauty. And Holly is the master we all look to.