Editorial love

I just had an hour-long conversation with my editor that reminded me why I write—and more, why I partner with a publishing house rather than go Indie.notes

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.

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  1. Merrily Taylor on June 23, 2016 at 1:05 pm

    Plus, editing is a real skill, which I think isn’t often recognized. Some folks are unable to do it without trying to impose their own style on the author, or otherwise alter the author’s voice. Over the years I was working and producing newsletters, etc for the organization I came to value our really good editors! So great that you have a fulfilling partnership with yours!

  2. Terra Hangen on June 23, 2016 at 1:58 pm

    Sweet and valid tribute to your editor, and to dedicated editors everywhere. I am looking for a traditional publisher for my next book (new subject for me of gardening with Bible plants), as I had great experiences with my first two books and traditional publishing.

  3. Leslie Budewitz on June 23, 2016 at 3:01 pm

    Oh, I love this! Thank you, Laurie, for reminding writers AND readers of the very key role editors play in making book.

  4. Glee on June 23, 2016 at 3:14 pm

    I think the compliments to your editor are well-deserved but an editor is not defined by whether or not s/he is affiliated with a publisher. There are many excellent editors who also are independent.

    • Laurie King on June 24, 2016 at 10:50 am

      Yes, but when a writer hires an editor, s/he is working for the writer, and the balance of authority shifts. It can be perfectly fine, but since a boss is more inclined to override an employee….

  5. Sandra Brewster on June 23, 2016 at 3:27 pm

    Will you write about how you found your editor?

    • Laurie on June 23, 2016 at 7:50 pm

      She bought the paperback rights to my books back in 1995, and hardback /paperback beginning a few years later. So, she found me.

  6. Margaret Laing on June 23, 2016 at 4:52 pm

    Mrs. King, thank you for expressing beautifully what I have felt from both sides. I have been a professional editor; now I’m an amateur one, working on my own blog and detective story. (Never fear, it’s set in 1983.) Your writing inspires me. Thank you for reminding me that your editor’s editing inspires me, too.

  7. Thomas Zappe on June 24, 2016 at 9:41 am

    Are we permitted to know your editor’s name, or is that a closely guarded secret?

    • Laurie King on June 24, 2016 at 10:49 am

      It’s Kate Miciak, at Bantam.

  8. Linda Hay on June 24, 2016 at 8:06 pm

    Now and then one stumbles across a book which seems to have escaped without editing or even proof reading, and my dissatisfaction usually ends with never reading anything by that author again. I’m reassured to read that a really great writer appreciates the role of the editor, and I wish the attitude was more common.

    “When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.” (Lewis Carroll)

    Having served on committees writing policies, reports, etc. the Humpty Dumptiys I have encountered can drive me over the edge by insisting that “we” use words they can not define without long roundabout explanations. They usually roll their eyes and mutter something about people who majored in English, so I guess the feeling is mutual. Hard to imagine being an editor full time.

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