Why use a metaphor?
Editing is not a roller coaster. It is a cold straight forward process, whereby someone reads your text and makes comments, suggests cuts and changes.
From an outsiders point of view it does not seem so terrible.
Not so terrible. This is what I thought.
I had heard my tutor, Catherine Fox, say that one of her book had been edited by 25%. A that time, I was shocked, because having a quarter of the pages you have written thrown down the gutter sounded terribly brutal. But I sort of discarded that because I knew in the end she had a great book out.
My first bite at editing came with the Timelines anthology.
We had the chance to submit a historical short story for this anthology. I wrote one. Worked on it, and sent it. The answer was one I had not expected. They said my story had potential but could I just cut the time travelling and concentrate on the kitchen events.
“Just cut the time travelling”. Nice way to ask to rewrite a whole story as the time travelling was the focus of this draft.
Though I liked my story as it was, I decided to trust their judgment. And concentrated the focus of my story on what happened in the kitchen. Now, without giving too much away, the things that happen in the kitchen, though historically accurate, are quite gory and frightening. When you read the story you’ll understand.
So I thought, they want gore, I’ll give them gore. Of course keeping in mind I was writing for a ten years old audience.
I sent my story. The edit came back very positive. There were only minor cuts and changes to be made. Then another edit came. One I did not expect. The editors had a change of heart and felt that, though they had asked me to concentrate on the kitchen, it might be in the end too frightening. So they asked me to slightly shift my focus and talk about the kitchen but without having my hero being in it or describing what was literally happening.
One of the editor said I would probably be cursing my characters for having to make changes again. I must confess and be honest, that it was not my character that I cursed when I got that edit.
But I decided to work on it. I had come that far, trusting their judgment, I thought it was not the time to stop. So I did what they asked me to do. The editors were very supportive and gave me as much advice as I needed. So, like a dancer, I worked on my piece how the choreographer wanted me to, making it my own in the end. It was tough, it was hard, yet I truly believe my story is all the better for that. At least I hope.
And this got me thinking in a very Carrie Bradshaw kind of way:
How far can you trust your editor?
Well up to the end would be my answer.
Which in turns comes to that thought. An agent will be your first editor and the closest you will have. So one should chose, if that is possible, an agent really carefully. Because, with editing, your story will go one way or the other.
So my advice, and I shall apply this one to myself, is to truly research before sending out your story to agents. Look at the other authors they represents. Do you like their books? Do you know anyone who knows that particular agent?
Because, once you sign a contract, you must understand that your story is no longer just yours. And the journey into editing should be done with someone you trust and respect, because it is a hell of a journey I promise you.