by Judy Mollen Walters, guest contributor
One of the hardest things about being an author is the part where you have to get edited. None of us really likes it, even though it always makes our work better. Somehow, though, the idea of the (virtual) red pen going through our book—taking out those carefully crafted sentences, telling us to lose the character we have fallen in love with, telling us that a passage we spent five days on makes no sense and needs to come out—can be hard to hear, painful, in fact.
I think that’s why I was so resistant to getting my own work edited. And by edit, I mean a complete, developmental overhaul. I was nervous when I set out to do this, but I knew it needed to be done. I was being rejected time and again by agents and editors who had started off reading my manuscript enthusiastically enough. But I didn’t know why.
When I finally did hire an editor, I made the best decision of my writing life. First of all, a good editor will make you feel like you’re in this together. He or she is not there to destroy the soul of your book or tell you that you’re an awful writer or otherwise make you feel bad. He or she is there as the most patient and loving helpmate…like someone who might give you chocolate when you’re having a bad day or listen to you cry about your wandering boyfriend for the thousandth time. Lovingly but firmly, the editor will listen and guide you back to the place where you’re in control of your book, hearing your thoughts and concerns but helping you see the picture that you can’t see by yourself.
And yes, there’s a lot you can’t see for yourself. I’m always amazed when my editor finds exactly what’s wrong with my book after I’ve read it through a dozen times and still can’t put my finger on it. I love when she quickly finds solutions to problems I felt were looming large and, ultimately, would be unfixable. For the book my editor just worked on, I was struggling with the relationship between the two main characters. I couldn’t figure out how to make their friendship feel more real. Two quick emails later, my editor had offered several plausible scenes I could use to beef up the friendship—not just ideas, but concrete plans. Of course I wondered how she had done that when I couldn’t. But that is the magic of an editor.
My editor always makes my books better—and not just by a little, but by a lot. I trust her implicitly with my work and know the product will always, always be 100 percent better when she’s done. So if you’re on the fence about hiring an editor, don’t be. You won’t be sorry that you did. I promise.
Judy Mollen Walters is the author of The Place to Say Goodbye (2015), The Opposite of Normal (2014), Child of Mine (2013), and the forthcoming Start at the Beginning. She has also written many essays on life with teenagers, using chocolate as a coping mechanism all the while. She lives in New Jersey with her family. Find out more about her books at www.judymollenwalters.com.