A Look At Editors
Volume XXII, Issue Three | Sept 2022
For years, I thought of the editor as the enemy. It’s not that I considered my writing to be perfect. God knows it isn’t, and so do I. It’s just that I thought of working with an editor as an adversarial process. I hated it when an editor at Business Week rewrote my lede or jettisoned a sentence I thought was almost too clever for words or sent back a story to be rewritten. There were times I thought, If you’ve so good, why didn’t you write the story yourself. Of course, there were a few editors who were guilty of “compulsive editing”—rewriting because they could.
Then the time came when I was an editor. All of a sudden, the process fell into place. The editor wasn’t there to screw up my story. An editor was a partner, a fresh pair of eyes, someone who worked with the writer to make the story better. She questioned facts and caught errors. I remember Jane Cutaia, one of BW’s legendary editors, telling me about catching an error in a story submitted to her. The reporter had written that someone “was waiting for the shoe to fall.” Jane told the writer, “Shoes don’t fall. Other shoes fall.”
After my editing stint at BW, then, I was aware the editor was there to help me. Of course, that didn’t make it less painful when she sent something back to be rewritten, but at least I could accept that it was being done in good faith. What was most annoying, of course, was that she was usually right.
Danielle Egan-Miller, my agent, is my first-line editor. She won’t submit a manuscript until it meets her standards, and that can mean months of recasting a novel. But I know that once she approves it, the manuscript is as good as accepted. The first manuscript of mine that she handled was New Mercies. She had just taken over the agency, and I was a little skeptical. I made many of the changes she wanted, but I refused to budge when she said there was too much dialogue in chapter three. She sold the manuscript to my editor at St. Martin’s, who told me one of the editing changes she wanted was to take out some of the dialogue in chapter three. I never questioned Danielle after that.
I’ve been blessed with some superb editors, who’ve gone on to better things. My first fiction editor was Susan Kamel at Random House. She was one of the best in the business. My manuscript was raw, and she talked me through sentence after sentence. I remember her saying, “This baby dies too fast. Let us grieve.”
Two of my editors were so good that they’ve become publishing heavyweights. Regan Arthur, one of my first editors at St. Martin’s Press, is now publisher at Little, Brown. Jennifer Enderlin, who saw me through several novels, is now publisher at SMP. Elisabeth Dyssegaard, my current SMP editor, has a sharp eye for when to cut and when to leave things alone. I like working with her because we can see each other’s point of view and discuss how to resolve something we disagree on. Then there’s Barb McNally at Sleeping Bear Press, my midgrade publisher. She’s patiently led me through the intricacies of writing for young people and ought to be listed as co-editor on the novels.
One of the complaints of my writer friends is that they don’t get edited enough. (We’ve all read such books and wondered where in the world was the editor?) Not every writer feels that way, however. A writer friend told me once, “I won’t let an editor touch a word of my manuscript.” Really? God grant I’ll never work with an editor who isn’t hands on.
This is a little bit long. I wish somebody had edited it.
End Of A Tradition
Nearly 50 years ago, when I was Denver bureau chief for Business Week Magazine, I began having parties for the “foreign press” corps at our miner’s cottage in Breckenridge. The national press is long gone, and over the years, the party moved to the Bride’s House in Georgetown, and the guest list expanded to include writers, reporters, photographers, artists, and others. We’ve loved throwing these annual gatherings, but age has crept up on us. So in August, with Povy’s help, Bob and I gave our final writer party. It was a bittersweet moment when the guests left for the last time, but we have so many happy memories.
“Redeeming Love.,” The movie.
I usually review books in this space, but I loved this movie about a prostitute in California who cannot accept that she is worthy of a decent man. So I’m recommending it.
I ordered the movie on Netflicks. It arrived when Dana was visiting, and I suggested we watch it.
Dana read the description. “Really, Mom, a romance?” And a Christian romance at that!
Bob wisely kept his mouth shut.
“It’s based on a book by Francine Rivers. She’s a friend,” I said.
Dana rolled her eyes, but being a dutiful daughter, she acquiesced.
I was right, of course. We agreed that the acting was great, the story moving, and the setting splendid. The religious element was subtle and tasteful. Although I’m not a romance fan, I’m going to read the book again.