From Editor to Author
“The willingness to explore is what forms the core relationship of author and editor.”
The act of writing is ineffable. When certain words chosen by an author are sometimes revealed to obscure rather than convey the author’s intended meaning, I have found it a good practice to then explore the spaces between the words. The willingness to explore is what forms the core relationship of author and editor.
What did you mean by this? Is this intentional?—are questions I often ask in an edit. In an author’s revision, I’ve witnessed how the answers to those questions and others, relative to a book’s narrative elements, eventually result in or come close to the author’s initial intentions. Almost imperceptibly, seemingly simple questions influence several other aspects of how the author approaches a story. A few words are revised or excised, a sentence is altered, an entirely new paragraph is written, a chapter is cut—this process leads to revelation. A fresh awareness forms. Something has deepened, and paradoxically, has been excavated for the author.
Behind the scenes, connections between various narrative elements create bridges. Characters, tension, plot, dialogue, conflict, and more—begin to flow; tributaries that eventually lead to a layered, fully realized story. Sometimes the revision process takes place over several drafts, sometimes as a result of the first developmental edit. Either way, I know my work is done when an author says, “This is the book I wanted to write. I don’t know how I did it, I don’t know how you did it, but somehow we got there.”
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Stacey Donovan is a consultant for Book Editing Associates,
a small, carefully vetted group of elite editors.