My 2017 novel, Career Day, is like nothing I’ve ever written. It’s a tapestry of a book, interweaving a lot (yes, a lot) of voices, story lines, parts of the world, even chronologies. Getting the pacing right is going to be incredibly tricky, especially considering that any writer who has lived with something for months and months has gone blind to what the book actually is, as opposed to what the book has been in past drafts, and particularly what she thinks the book ought to be.
An editor is a person who makes her living seeing to the heart of a novel. Because she makes her living that way, obviously she’s keeping an eye on the commercial potential of any project. But if a writer is lucky, the editor—who got into the job in the first place through a love of books—hasn’t lost that love, that excitement, that yearning to be a part of something that matters.
I am one of those lucky writers. Very lucky. My editor at Random House has done this for thirty years, and though yes, jaded is the fall-back position for any job, particularly one as inherently thankless as nurturing a book into the hands of readers, she retains her passion for stories.
My editor is my primary reader, the first eye to be laid upon an often-unformed story. She spots problems I have only been dimly aware of, she articulates strengths and themes, she suggests ways around walls I’ve been bashing my head against.
She helps me understand what I’m trying to do.
More than that, she makes me believe, even briefly, that I can do it.