Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Well, Dirty Word

Several months after starting my second novel, The Anonymous Blog of Mrs. Jones, I hired an editor. Time to vanquish one of the many Fear Demons.

Certain expectations (demons) rise up when a writer ceases to be edited by friends to work with a person who edits for a living. And if you're like me, you're blinded with assumptions that don't color the world rosy or black. They seem clear.

After finding a direct, honest editor I could trust, I knew I'd be challenged on every thematic squiggle. I'd be told I'm too in love with my writing, cut the superfluous flowers. Or my story is too thin. Or I can't write. (Strong Enough is my first baby and I will love her forever, but readers have pointed out certain issues. Plus, I had over a decade to find every continuity issue and to rework every word. Twice.)

Armored for the blows, I emailed my manuscript for my editor to attack with a magnifying glass and whip. With pages so bloody I couldn't find their original words, I would spend hours covered in sweat and tears. This is how it's done.

Early on I received praise and the edits were ... too easy. (Of course, I like editing.) I was pleased but knew my first chapters were well honed. It couldn't last. 

More chapters returned with usual marks. (I can't use a comma to save my life.) I cleaned up each chapter and sometimes attacked weak spots I noticed before sending it back. More marks and silence. Marks and silence. Where were the piercing questions asking me to dig so deep I bled?

I stammer typed an email about how much I loved this book (help me make it worthy was my unspoken request). I received a simple, supportive "you go, girl." 

Obviously this meant we were either doing one run through and we'd dig deeper next time, or my book was merely cute and couldn't be taken seriously. My editor would never shove sunshine up my arse so the lack of blood meant I wasn't worthy. (huh?)

Yeah, I cut reality to fit my expectations. 

Oh I see how stupid it is now, but I didn't expect a Fear Demon to possess me. I was armed to the teeth with positive words penned by others. I've encouraged writers to believe in themselves, but deep down I didn't. Not in me. Not without years of struggle. There must be struggle.

So I asked Becky what she thought (hating each needy word). Her response humbled me. Not by taking me down from lofty beliefs but by lifting me up from lowly doubt.

"I think it's utterly fantastic. Rich, descriptive and beautifully penned. If it's shit, I'll be the first to tell you."

She wrote that. On Facebook. In front of other writers. 

Well, fuck.