I’ve been going back and listening to a bunch of old Writing Excuses podcasts. For those who have been intentionally avoiding all things related to writing in the last several years, Writing Excuses is a brilliant podcast with Brandon Sanderson, Howard Tayler, Dan Wells, and Mary Robinette Kowal where they talk about writing, publishing, cartooning, graphic novels, etc. in a short, easy-to-digest format. It’s updated weekly and is only 15 minutes long because we’re in a hurry and Americans have a short attention span. This podcast has really given me a bunch of blog ideas, but the one I have most strongly latched onto is the idea of working with an editor or and editing agent.
A lot of writers operate under the guise that editors are the enemy of purity in literature and seek to destroy all that is holy and worth cherishing in their works. I used to be one of these people. I think this feeling stems from an insecurity about the value of their written words, and a simultaneous belief that what they have written is the best thing to ever grace a page. I may be revealing too much about myself here, but I have both of these thoughts almost constantly battling in my cerebrum. Part of me wants for people to read it and love it, and the rest of me is overwhelmed with terror that they will laugh me out of the room.
‘This story is perfect! No one is going to like it.‘
What I have grown to learn, though, is that people in the industry, particularly agents and editors, want your book to succeed, and the things they will tell you in the editing process are intended to improve the manuscript. They will not tell you something they do not believe will make your story better. Agents don’t make money if you don’t get a publishing deal. Editors don’t make money if that deal doesn’t make them money. Agents and editors like to make money.
If we then rationally consider those points, we come to the logical conclusion that an agent who knows their stuff will only help make our books better, and an editor who knows their stuff will only serve to make that better book even better. Better + Better = Good As It Gets
In that case, I can’t wait to get an editing agent to grab hold of my manuscripts and tell me what’s wrong with them. I can’t wait for an email with an attachment saying ‘I’ve found these 42,659 places you can improve this’. I can’t wait for this because I know when all that is done, when I’m all through being pissed off about how much of my blood I’m having to sap from these pages and replace with someone else’s brain spatterings, I will have a stronger story and a better book. In the end, that’s what we’re doing this for. We’re writing stories for people to read and enjoy.
My Ideal Editor/Author Relationship is the one where he/she knows what I’m trying to say, can find a better way to say it, and can then convince me that the better way is really better. I want to publish my stories, but I want them to be better than I can make them on my own.
Because the readers deserve the best story we can give them.