Monday, June 9, 2008

Raising an Author

By Julie Wright

I am the proud mother of a new up and coming author. He’s probably my same age or within a few years of me . . . I’m not really certain. While you’re doing the math, let me explain.

I am his editor.

I remember the first draft that came into my inbox. The manuscript was filled with ellipses with too few or too many dots, lots of telling, very little showing, and a lot of dialogue that didn’t fit his characters at all. But his story had potential and—if he chose to be a willing student—I was willing to roll up my sleeves and teach what I knew.

I finished his last draft today and my mouth hurts from grinning so much. I couldn’t be prouder if it were my own manuscript.

Was it probably hard for him to get those first edits? I bet it was. Criticism of your work is painful—always. I bet he made a poster with my name on it and threw darts at it. Or maybe he stuffed a sock with batting and fashioned it to look like a voodoo doll and jammed it full of pins. Okay, he probably didn’t, but I’ll bet he didn’t like me all that much in the beginning.

Second draft was a whole lot closer, but I’m still betting he heaved a long and heavy sigh before plowing into edits.

Once he does the minor edits I gave him for this last draft, he will have a publishable book.

I have no doubts of his ability to get published. He did the work, took the lessons to heart, and I feel like I’m sending one of my children off to college. There is little more I can teach him. There’s likely still a lot he will learn, but he’ll learn it in his own practice, in his own studies, he’ll learn by doing.

The point of me telling you all of this?

He learned because he set his pride aside and did what it took to make his book the best it could be. Are editors always right when they wield their red pens? No. But their opinions are always worth considering, pondering on, and implementing when they are right.

I’m thinking of Annette’s post on writing revisions. Had Lucas stubbornly insisted that the first idea was the right idea--had he been unwilling to adapt and let the story take on an organic life of its own, would he have had the blockbuster hit Star Wars?

I’ll let you decide.


Annette Lyon said...

Yay for your pupil! It's a difficult task to get that thick skin and make the needed changes. Way to be a great teacher, too.

Jon B said...

I study the martial arts and one of the first things I was taught was a parable about a new student and the master. To make a long and graceful parable short and ungraceful, it's essentially this:

A new student asks the sensei how long it will take him to become a master. The sensei says "20 years". The student says "but what if I focus all my energies on becoming a master and work 6 days a week?" The sensei says "then it will take 30 years". But what if I work at becoming a master 7 days a week without stopping?" "then it will take 40 years".

Sensing the student's frustration, the sensei finally tells him "If you have both eyes on your destination, you cannot see the path you need to take to get you there."

It sounds as if your friend already understands the most important lesson of getting published: forget about getting published. If he keeps his ego out of the way, accepts useful help when its offered and is concerned only with making his manuscript the best it can be, he'll succeed.

Good for him. And good for you.

Jon, Children's Book Insider

Ronda Hinrichsen said...

Yes! Well said. In fact, rewriting is my favorite part because that's when what I've written starts to look pretty good. First drafts, not so much.

Heather B. Moore said...

This is so great, Julie. I think that new writers don't realize how proud an editor is when he/she improves with each draft!

Kimberly said...

I think the reason I've put off the revisions of my first draft is because I'm afraid of humbling myself. Owning up to our weaknesses is so very, very difficult.

Love how you expressed this!

Celsie said...

When I got the critique back for my third book, I wanted to fall to the floor in the fetal position and whimper for a few hours. She told me that I need to get rid of the first chapter. It was like being sucker-punched. Sort of.

When I was shopping this story around to agents (I've since decided to self-publish), one agent told me that I needed to cut at least 5,000 words. I'm pretty sure getting rid of Chapter One took care of that. LOL. But once I got over the shock, I dug in. I documented Revision Hell on my blog, but it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. Although it was just a critique, I'm ready to send it to an editor now for the second set of "red marks". LOL

Sue said...

I'm almost finished with the first draft of a novel and now I'm starting to think about finding an editor.

I know I'm going to cry like a baby when I get it back the first time. I have the thinnest skin in the world, especially about my writing.

Just the thought of it makes me want to throw up a little.

Heather B. Moore said...

Sue, every writer here knows exactly how you feel! When I wrote my first novel, all I wanted to know is if I measured up in any way to other writers. Then if I did, I was willing to "show" my whole baby.

Annette Lyon said...

Sue, We've all been there! The fact that you're aware of the need for honest feedback and are bracing yourself for it shows that you're well on your way. Good luck with the book! Keep us updated.