A humble writer
The editor, as I’m sure I’ve said before, is the writer’s first reader. She (well, yes, there are a few guys in editorial chairs) is more than that, of course: the editor is generally the person who buys the book for the publishing house, negotiates the contract, knocks the book into shape, and oversees the myriad of steps to publication and beyond, from author photos and cover art to showing her enthusiasm to the sales force and deciding how much money the company is going to spend in promoting the book.
The editor is the writer’s main point of contact with the publishing business.
But before all that, she is the writer’s first point of contact with the reading public. No matter who the writer gives a manuscript to—family, friends, writing tutor, UPS delivery guy—it’s the editor’s read that matters. Editors can be wrong, but it’s the editor’s trained eye for the written word that has put her into her job, and that keeps her there.
Many people outside the writing world don’t see this. I’ve heard indignation, that someone would tell a writer what to do, force the writer to shape a story in a direction not her own. And certainly, there are cases where the editor’s vision of a book is at far remove from that of the author. Wars are fought over less.
I, however, am a fairly humble writer (with much to be humble about, I know.) So when my own editor said that the middle of The Language of Bees seemed to need some taste of peril for the main character, Mary Russell, I listened. And spent the past week adding 8500 words of hands-on encounter between Russell and the villain—or perhaps one of his henchmen, you’ll have to wait and see (if you’re taking notes, it’s the part in the house.) And my editor was right: a sharp up-tick in focus wakes up the middle of the book, since before that, much of the villainy was off-screen.
My first reader has made it a better book.
Of course, this means that the character I had to introduce has thrown the remainder of the book completely out of whack. So I now have to rewrite 100 pages down to their bones. In three weeks.