As a blog writer with a few books behind me, I get numerous questions about how to find an agent or a publisher or how to promote books. As to the latter, I haven’t a clue. Why some writers get attention and others don’t is a mystery to me. But I do know queries about finding a publisher or an agent are usually premature — like someone buying an electric razor for a boy who isn’t old enough to shave. What I should be asked of writers and never am is, “Where do I find a good editor?” Too many seek the thrill of seeing their books in print before they’ve earned the right.
Tennessee Williams swore he’d have been nothing without his editor. T. S. Elliot allowed Ezra Pound to slash lines from The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock which resulted in a classic. And dollars to donuts, William Shakespeare had a little feedback on his plays.
An editor does more than correct spelling and grammar. An editor helps a writer develop nuances that can turn a so-so piece into a good one. Here’s an example from a play I’m writing which I recently turned over to an editor. The line in the original version reads:
Don’t say that, Ruby. I admit I do think about it, often.
Here’s what the editor suggested.
Don’t say that, Ruby. I think about it in the night.
The difference between the two lines is obvious. My version suggests nothing. “Often” is unspecific and evokes no image. “In the night” speaks volumes. The audience is given the image of a woman so distressed that she tosses and turns without sleep. The number of words in each sentence is almost the same; the difference in quality is enormous.
Authors shouldn’t expect editors to write for them. But a good editor can suggest improvements that make finding an agent or a publisher easier when the time comes.
(Courtesy of hawksbaytoday.co.nz)