I’m often asked by writers just starting out whether or not to they should hire an editor or what do they need to do with their book next. First, I tell them it’s still a manuscript and not a book, and it deserves all the love you can give it until it’s turned into that final product with the magical word all writers want to say: book. Then I say, you should talk to Kate.
Here is why I say talk to Kate.
That’s going in a book.
Ah, yes. I’ve become quite familiar with those words in the ten years I’ve known and worked with Jessie Clever. At one point in time they had been phrased as a question, but that fell away quickly enough, leaving behind the working assumption that my words are fair game as long as she doesn’t name the relevant character Kate Homan.
The frequent recitation of said quote is hardly due to my profound wit and, hence, the need to immortalize my wisdom in narrative form. Those words crop up so often as a natural by-product of the professional relationship that exists between Jessie and myself. The key word in there is relationship, because that’s exactly what an author and editor should have. So if this whole post begins to sound like couples therapy, go with it.
A healthy relationship grows over time. It might originate with exciting literature-at-first-sight, destined-to-edit-together magic. Or it could stem from a subtler, sensible would-you-like-to-discuss-nonrestrictive-appositives-sometime approach. In any case, developing a partnership with an editor nurtures a writer’s work much longer than the span of a single project. If one has the good fortune to find their storymate, the flash and sparkle of new narrative love can wear into the enduring glow of partnership and respect.
Too sappy? I’ll tone it down. A little.
Editing is my business, but it’s also monumentally personal. As Jessie’s editor, I’m connected with her work as closely as anyone could be (besides Jessie herself, of course). I know her strengths, her pitfalls, what stories she wants to write, which plots she got caught up in, and which ones might never see the light of day again. I know which words her muscle memory always mistypes. I’ve seen the moment when inspiration strikes, and I receive the exasperated text message telling me that she’s barely written 900 words that day. She’s trusted me with the thing she loves doing most, which is incredibly humbling. In return, I strive to be a sounding board while she constructs her initial outline, an empathetic critic when she sends me a draft, a travel companion for the slogging hours on the winding road of revision, and even more.
Yes, I can definitely provide a second pair of eyes for an author who isn’t interested in a consultation let alone continuing the conversation beyond a single project. However, my intention is the same regardless of a contract’s duration. I’m here to empower and equip writers to produce the best work of which they are capable. To do that, I must be willing to put in as much effort and interest as an author does throughout the best and worst moments of the writing process.
And Then There Were Three
All this partner-talk conjures an image of author and editor as some kind of power couple, but truth is, the editorial relationship has three participants. The third is, arguably, the most important of all.
1. The Author: storyteller, parent, and mastermind
2. The Editor: mechanic, counselor, and lifeline
3. The Story: artwork, patient, and child
It’s a literary love triangle where each member is equally beholden to the other two.
The author has given birth to the story, pulling it piece by agonizing piece out of his/her head and into the dangerous world. However, in addition to protecting it, the author must prepare his/her baby for life outside the mind and, therefore, must trust the guidance of the editor.
The editor is employed by the story’s author/guardian to assist in its upbringing, establishing a partnership that relies on the respect and responsibility each have for the other. However, the editor also answers to the story itself and must be a source of honest evaluation and ideas.
The story shares a bond with its author stronger than any it might have with anyone else in the history of ever. However, the story also relies on the intrusion of the editor to strengthen it for life in the great world beyond.
The story might not seem to contribute in an active, identifiable way, but it’s simultaneously the most vulnerable and most powerful constituent of the trio. It’s the unifying element that drives the working relationship of author and editor. Given the right environment, the infant story’s blooming potential has the opportunity, upon reaching maturity, to impact countless lives.
More About Kate
Kate Homan has worn many hats: program coordinator, submissions reader, copy editor, actor, and communications director. She has gained unique insight into editing through her work with and through story in a variety of disciplines. By approaching every story as an editor, reader, writer, and performer, Kate’s ultimate goal is always to provide a comprehensive reflection and compassionate evaluation of an author’s content and presentation.
Kate lives in Indiana with a family biped (husband and son) to quadruped ratio of 1:1.
Find out more at hownovelediting.com.