Monday, July 14, 2014

What Doors Have to Do with the Author/Editor Relationship

Here’s what I think about clothes closet doors. 

Unless you are looking into a closet, poised to go into a closet, or are already in a closet (but not playing hide and seek or hiding from an intruder), the close-y thing called a door should be closed
Are these doors closed?
Latched; not bi-folded open; fitted tightly and entirely inside the door frame.

None of your closeted belongings need viewing access, and no one in your house needs to see items currently unnecessary to behold. 

Why am I telling you this? Because I think that belief makes me, if not on the edge of OCD, a pretty good line editor. I like details covered, every question answered, and all the dots connected. That’s why especially for fiction, but sometimes nonfiction as well, I go through more than one editing phase, ending in a close-that-closet-door "ta-da!" . . . when I also fix my mistakes.

Yes, mistakes. Did you think editors I don’t make them? Of course we I do. And sometimes, I don’t see I have made a mistake until the author points it out in all its tracked-changes glory. Just as I am grateful that my husband wouldn’t yell at me if I closed a closet door when he had only gone outside with his jacket on for a minute (not that this scenario has in any way ever happened), however, I'm grateful that no author has ever yelled at me for making a mistake.

For instance, I know point of view is important, and one of my tasks is to point out if the author has inadvertently done any "head hopping" in a scene so that the reader is seeing inside the head of two characters when the reader should be only seeing what one of them is thinking or experiencing (though an author like John Grisham mixes and matches anyway he wants—see Sycamore Row, the current novel messing with my own head). Yet I once suggested some added dialogue, which I thought was so clever and would add so much to the story, that resulted in a painful head hop. You guessed it. It was the author who pointed that mistake out to me with a kind note and clear strike through. Ouch.

The author/editor relationship is a partnership, with the author, of course, the senior partner. Authors’ books are theirs, not mine. Yet authors are most often not only grateful when I suggest changes to catch details missing, answer questions unanswered, and connect dots unconnected; they are also incredibly gracious when I make a mistake, and that makes this job all the more rewarding and me not as *face is red* as I could be.

I just hope they keep their clothes closet doors closed.

For readers, have you ever read a book with a left-in mistake that affected your reading experience?

For writers, are you embarrassed when someone finds fixes to be made in your writing? Or have you learned to foster a beneficial partnership with those who evaluate your work?

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