Friday, February 24, 2012

The Author Editor Relationship

Last night I put on a clinic. I always wanted to say that. It has implications of awesomeness that even in my wildest imagination I have trouble living up to. It’s like that scene from The Office where Dwight is telling Jim about his wildest fantasy and Jim’s like, “Let me get this straight: in your wildest dreams, you are in hell, you make $80,000 a year, and you’re the assistant to the devil,” or some such hilarity. I’m just saying, you’d think my wildest dreams would include a base level of competence, y’know?

But I digress. Where was I?

Oh yes. Writers and authors need editors. Cue rimshot.

I was curious to know what kind of responses I would get to a few questions. I like the Socratic method of instruction; more of a guided discussion or round table if you will. So I try to get the audience participating. To that end, I asked the following questions, and got the following responses.

Editors have what function?
“Tough love.” –With which I agree wholeheartedly. So many times an author, especially a greenhorn, rides in on a high horse and needs to be relieved of it if the journey is to continue.
“Edit as a reader.” –This is great. I think a good editor can see the story being told like a movie, just like the reader will. A great editor will catch little inconsistencies and offer suggestions so that the story’s technical bits are never a distraction.

What is the purpose of a book?
“Getting your story out, entertainment.” –Word up. And many other things besides.
“Torturing my middle school students.” –On this, I got nothin. But I think it’s an example of poetic justice for those of us whose ship of youth has sailed.

On this point, I have something to add. A book can be entertainment, art, story, the passing along of knowledge, a record of history, a way to kill time, a way to earn money, part of the social construct, highbrow, lowbrow, offensive, profane, hilarious, funny, wrenchingly sad and tragic, salient, prophetic, idiotic, beautiful, ugly, and the worst of these… average.

Why are you a writer and why are you writing what you’re writing right now?
“Passion for the English language; both writing and reading.” –I can relate. I think all authors should.
“I can’t not be.” –This, I love. In the end doing what we were made to do is an addiction in some ways. We write because we must. Our voice must be heard.

What makes a good book?
While I did not record any answers from the peanut gallery on this question, I came prepared with something to say (you know how I roll): What makes a good book? Is it plot? Character? Lack of errors/perfection? Originality? Commercial success? A dashing cover? Sheer size? The label on the jacket? Whether it goes to print or not?

My answer? Yes.

I hope sincerely that some of these insights helped illuminate what makes editors and authors tick together as a whole. For more on this kind of stuff, just type in “How to be a good writer” in the search bar to the right. And thanks for reading what I write.