I’ve worked with a
variety of editors and publishers, but my primary editor has worked with me on
twenty of my books. I actually had to email her to ask since there have been so
many. She first worked with me on Admission,
my college mystery novel that was published in 2006. Since then, she’s
journeyed to the Amazon with me, worked on my Jerry Maguire of publishing, been scared of what’s going through my
mind, and waded the mysterious waters of Solitary with me. I’m grateful for her
talents and abilities.
Just yesterday I
received her editing notes on Glory, the
fourth book in my Books of Marvella series. In my mind, it’s one of the best
and most important novels I’ve written. It concludes a series so there are a
variety of things I was hoping and attempting to do. Just like Hurt, the fourth book in my Solitary
Tales, I knew this would be the most important book in the series.
Last year, my
editor had emailed me back quickly after I handed in book three, Awe. I had rushed to finish it and felt
unsure about it, but I got this initial response from her.
“Travis, this is just that first quick note
to say I’ve read through Awe and I’m pretty much, well, awed. Do I dare
say best YA yet? So many plot
turns I wasn’t anticipating.”
She’s a pro and an
editor at heart, so she doesn’t send praise out that she doesn’t believe in.
The great thing was that she knew where the story was headed, so I’m glad to
have still provided a few surprises for her.
Since I didn’t get
something like this from her about Glory,
and since I hadn’t heard from her in a while after giving it to her, I started
to get worried. But when I reached out to her to ask, she said to not worry.
She also said to not get freaked out by the three single-spaced pages of notes
I was pleasantly
surprised to read her thoughts.
After so many
stories we’ve worked on together, we have a great rhythm and routine. So much
so that when I’m writing, I can hear her in my head.
She’ll do this
when she thinks I’ve gone overboard (which I do a lot). She always shares her
thoughts in a safe way, but the longer time has gone by and we’ve gotten to
know each other, the more trust has been developed, allowing for levity in the
process of shaping a novel.
“I know these are teenagers but REALLY?”
I can deal with underground tunnels, but dead horses???”
“What is up with you and kitchen utensils,
Travis? Is there something you need to share with me?”
I often laugh at
comments like these.
In the case of Glory, I knew that there were about four
or five parts that I was unsure about. A few of them were written solely for
me. I’ll do this often, for better or worse. Sometimes she calls me out, saying
a chapter or a bit doesn’t fit or wondering what I was thinking. But sometimes
she doesn’t say anything, or even better she says she loves what I did.
As the saying
goes, it’s hard to see the forest for the trees when you’re immersed in a book
of your own.
After four books
in this series, the story of Brandon and Marvel comes to a close. I try tying
up the stories and providing a moving ending. I had some doubts about a few
scenes, as I mentioned, but I didn’t tell her about those doubts before handing
the story in. In some cases, she really liked what I did. In others, she gave
me reasons why something should change.
We will talk
through her comments. Usually we both agree to the end results. Sometimes I’ll
fight to keep something in, other times I’ll hear her point and totally agree.
I’ll even have to admit to her “Yeah, I knew that wouldn’t make it, but I SO
For now, I’ll let
her comments marinate in my mind so I can see clearly what needs to be done. In
the end, the story is not for me. It’s for those reading it. So despite the
things I’m wanting to do and needing to do for myself, I ultimately have to
think of the reader. The ending is everything. Everything. So I want to make it
work in the best way possible.
thanked my editor yesterday and she said that’s why she loves her job. “Iron
sharpens iron,” she said.
not sure how sharp of an iron I bring to the table, but I’m grateful I have an
iron blade that helps sharpen my edges.
James Thurber said this great quote about the editing process:
be, especially in the case of old writers, a counseling rather than a
collaborating task. The tendency of the writer-editor to collaborate is
natural, but he should say to himself, ‘How can I help this writer to say it
better in his own style?’ and avoid ‘How can I show him how I would write it,
if it were my piece?’”
I’m grateful I have an editor who has always
been helping me say things in my own ever-changing and always-growing style.
Labels: Editing, Process, The Books Of Marvella, The Solitary Tales, works in progress