Editors

Hooray! My Boxcar Children revision is done! It wasn’t a difficult revision…I knew what I needed to do at every step of the way. And I understood WHY I needed to do it. There was just more to do this time around than there usually is. There was only section that gave me any trouble at all, and that was the section where I needed to figure out a whole new plot turn. But I found one. And I think it works.

A good friend of mine got a rejection on her novel yesterday. I felt for her because the editor who rejected her novel is an editor I used to say was my “pen pal.” This editor and I went back and forth on several different stories (both easy readers and novels) for YEARS. We got into this pattern where I’d send her something new and she’d write me back this long letter that began something like “you really do (whatever) well, BUT…” And the BUT went on for like three or four single spaced pages. But then the letter always ended with an invitation to revise and resubmit. So I’d revise and resubmit, and then I’d get another letter. Round and round and round we went. There were some stories I revised and sent back four or five times.

I was so sure I would get a contract from this editor eventually. In fact, she and I met at one point. When I was an SCBWI Regional Advisor, I invited her to one of our conferences. And she came out a day early, so a small group of us took her (and the other editor we invited to that conference) over to the Amana Colonies and we had a really nice day. That editor told me that weekend, “don’t worry. You and I will work together on something someday. We just have to find the right manuscript.”

I believed her then…and I still believe she genuinely wanted to work with me, and she genuinely believed we would work together one day. But we never have…and I don’t think we ever will. I don’t think it has anything to do with finding the “right manuscript.” Even though we clicked personally, I don’t think we click professionally.

She’s a wonderful editor…I know that for sure because I know several people who have been lucky enough to get contracts from her. And THEY say she’s a wonderful editor. Plus a lot of the books she’s edited have gone on to win awards. But I don’t think I can give her what she’s looking for in a manuscript (I haven’t actually submitted anything to her in several years now). And I don’t think she can communicate what she’s looking for to me in a way that I can understand… but she clearly communicates with other writers quite well. (i.e. she and I don’t click professionally)

This is something I didn’t understand when I was starting out. I thought I just needed to find an editor who liked my work and the rest would take care of itself. But what a writer really needs is an editor he/she can COMMUNICATE with. An editor who can tell you what he/she wants in a way that you can understand.

Like with this Boxcar book. My manuscript was marked up all over the place. Plus I got a 6-page single-spaced letter laying out everything that was wrong. A letter like that could have been overwhelming and depressing…it probably would’ve been if it had come from that other editor. But I saw exactly what I needed to do on this manuscript…and I did it. It took some time, but the revision itself was almost…dare I say, easy. Well, it was easy for me…maybe not so much for the editor who had to write all that out for me? Revision is fun when you know what to do! It’s when you don’t know what to do (or where to begin) that it’s not so much fun…

I hope my friend can take comfort from the fact that this was not the right editor for her project and realize that eventually she WILL find the right editor for it. The one who sees what she’s trying to do and can help her get there.


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