When putting the final touches on my memoir, my editor was ruthless.
He said, “Angela, this book must be clean. The subject matter is so tough that it is unacceptable to have any typos or dropped words, or anything that leaves the reader floundering; these things must be excised.”
After getting proof copies of the book, we went through it again. I say we when what I mean is Tom. I couldn’t bear to read it yet again.
No problem, he said, he would find any issues, then we would address those one by one, sitting together. I sighed, reluctantly agreeing.
When the day came to do that, I put on a smile, and made myself available.
Tom zeroed in on a certain sentence that, when I had to justify why I wrote it that way, or listen to his arguments as to why it should change, the emotions contained in the memory that sentence described became overwhelming.
I broke down and cried. My body shook. My wails were loud and keening.
Tom simply patted me on the back, let me get it out, then went to the next bothersome sentence.
At that moment I hated him.
Could he not see I couldn’t do this again? That the painful flashbacks were destroying me? And for what?
But here’s the thing I knew. I knew he was right to make me do this and the book was better for it.
Editors aren’t there to hold your hand or boost your ego. They are there to help you turn out a better product.
Editors know every book competes against others. Put out one with problems, it won’t do what it needs to do.
Rarely do editors rewrite an author’s book because they aren’t the writer.
They are the sandblaster.
They are the polisher.
They are the front line questioner and validator of your words.
I don’t need a babysitter or psychotherapist. I do need sandblasting of the rough edges and a polish for the whole.
Let real editors do their job.