The Truth About the Editor/Writer Relationship

August 28th, 2007

Not five minutes after I posted my last blog entry, my adult editor emailed me to say she was very sorry, but she had revisions for me for my next adult book. I could not stop laughing (through my tears).

Many thanks to reader Johanna for pointing out that one of my favorite writers, Laurie R. King, is also going through revision (or copy-edit) hell. I love Laurie R. King’s Mary Russell books, and it’s comforting to know they don’t come as easily to her as they seem to (because they read so beautifully).

At least my adult editor didn’t send four single spaced pages of revisions in eight point font like my YA editor just gave me! But still. It was cruel irony that just as I was seeing the light at the end of the tunnel for my last set of revisions, a new set came in.

I realize this is entirely my own fault for writing so much, and I have only myself to blame. The only answer, obviously, is to stop writing so much. And believe me, I’ve tried….

But every time I try to take a break, I get some new idea for a book or a series, and I’m like, “Dang, that would be so cool,” and I have to get out of the pool and start writing it. It’s an addiction, and there doesn’t appear to be a cure (and better to be addicted to that than to other things).

But maybe I’ll try to clear everything through my editors before I start writing it from now on, so there won’t be so much REVISING in the future (although truthfully telling people what you’re going to write before you start writing it takes all the fun out of the first draft process for me). Which reminds me:

THE TRUTH ABOUT THE EDITOR/WRITER RELATIONSHIP (at least for me, Meg Cabot):

I get a lot of letters from aspiring authors asking if you HAVE to do what your editor tells you, and the answer is, yes, if you have a good editor, you pretty much do. Not only that, but if you have a good editor, you should WANT to.

Because the editor is the sheriff, and writers are the cowboys, and it is almost always in the cowboy’s best interest to do what the sheriff says, or else there’d just be lawlessness on the range.

It’s true: Writers are COWBOYS. We ride around having a yeehaw good time making stuff up (ie, smashing things up and lassoing the saloon girls and whatnot—this is how I equate the fun first draft stage, where we’re just trying to be as outlandish as possible—at least if you’re me, maybe not Salman Rushdie, but whatever). It’s freaking FUN to be a cowboy.

Editors (at least the good ones) are the SHERIFF. The sheriff comes in and tells the cowboys to put the gun down and let the saloon girls go and stop pouring whiskey into the piano and get back to the range and herd the cattle (or, in my case, to stop trying to have shirtless guys pop up everywhere, especially where it doesn’t even make sense to have a shirtless guy pop up, like out from under the ground where I keep trying have whole communities of shirtless teen guys living ever since I read The Mole People in 1995).

See? Cowboys need the sheriff to keep them in line or they will never get the job done. Because otherwise they will just ride around looting the town, not knowing what they’re supposed to be doing (well, maybe some writers would know, but if they are like me, without editors they’d just be out of control all the time, going, “And then the MOLE people come up from out of the ground, see, only they’re really HOT mole people, see, and they’re wearing GLASS PANTS, see….”).

Author’s note: Laurie R. King probably does not have the same problem that I do with hot mole people continuously cropping up in her novels.

(Okay, I’m kidding about the mole people. I’ve never actually tried to put mole people in any of my novels, just into a pitch for a story line for All My Children once. But it would be awesome if there WERE mole people in one of my books. Only guess how long THAT revision letter would be???? “I understand how much you love the Mole People, Meg. But seriously…where do they bathe? I know that Mole People probably do bathe somewhere, but where? He must brush his teeth or his breath would be stinky when he kisses her, but where does he do this? You see? This complicates the plot in ways I fear we don’t want to get into….” See what I mean by how editors are the sheriff? Better not even to risk it….)

But a good editor DOES take an already excellent book and suggest ways to make it even better—usually ways the author herself never even dreamed of, and wants to kick herself for not having thought of first (and this is why I’m usually so crabby about doing the revisions at all–because I’m so mad I didn’t think of them in the first place).

So you see? You don’t just NEED to do what your editor says. You usually WANT to, as it almost always makes your book that much better.

And those are my editor/writer thoughts for the day. I’m tired now, and must go rest with my head in the saddle before wrestling with my next round of revisions.

Have an excellent rest of your week.

More later.

Much love,

Meg