Writers know how important it is to have a good editor. When you get an excellent editor, you consider yourself EXTREMELY lucky!
I've worked with Carina Press editor extraordinaire, Alissa Davis, on 12 books now, and I am beyond fortunate for her incredible insight, wisdom and intuitive sense of story. A few years ago she interviewed me for my publisher. I thought it would be fun to share our interview. It's just a little peek into what goes in to the editor-author relationship!
Alissa: Julie, you were already a published author when we started working together. Did you have any expectations or concerns when we started edits on Book 1?
Julie: I really didn’t have any expectations or concerns at the start. I knew you liked the books and the characters (a lot!), based on how quickly you acquired it, so I felt comfortable with the idea that we could work out any needed edits together. You were actually like my fourth or fifth editor at that point in my career, so I’d been around the block starting fresh with an editor. Nothing scared me by then. Ha! Luckily, we were very compatible. In fact, I can honestly say you are my favorite editor ever. It is an honor to work with you!
Alissa: What aspects of editing have gotten easier the longer we’ve worked together? Harder?
Julie: A lot has gotten easier. First, I trust you implicitly. We’ve been together since the inception of Lexi and the gang. You know her and the supporting characters almost as well as I do. Sometimes better! It’s scary. J So, when you say something isn’t working, I don’t even think twice. I trust your gut. It gets a rewrite. Also, I think that after eight books together, you don’t have to explain in as much detail what you want me to do. I get you and you get me. It’s pretty simple and totally wonderful! That’s not to say there aren’t times when you need to boink me over the head about something—there are. However, usually one comment will suffice to help me get things back on track. I call it a quiet confidence in our ability to work together to get the book pulled together exactly right. Now, I’m going to clarify and say none of this applies to the start of the book. I think I’ve had to totally rewrite the intro to each book in the series at least once. It’s just a killer for me each time. Hahaha! But after I rewrite the start based on your suggestions or comments, I always like it ten times better—so you are spot on. I appreciate the pushback and the fact that you won’t let me sneak by when you know I can do better. Ha!
Alissa: Although we’ve worked together for many books, edits do vary from book to book, right?
Julie: Absolutely true! Interestingly enough, some books require more attention to the plot and others a greater need a focus on the character arcs. Sometimes things are working and sometimes they aren’t. In my particular case that typically happens when the characters do things I didn’t expect or the story shifts in a way that is logical when I’m writing, but that I didn’t see coming in advance. Flexibility is key and taking a step back to decide what’s working and what isn’t. Occasionally things like copyright infringement (No, Julie, you can’t use Star Trek quotes even as a cultural reference) can cause a major rewrite. J
Alissa: Do you have a specific routine for attacking edits? Does it vary each time?
Julie: I have no routine when editing, probably because I squeeze in edits when I can. Luckily I work from home, and my day job is writing as well. I usually tackle one writing assignment at a time so I don’t get things mixed up in my head. When it’s time to edit a book, I turn my full focus on it. But it’s hard to predict when I’ll find time for edits, so there is no special routine I fall into. I’m definitely aware of my deadline and I try to make sure it gets done before then. Depending on the day job, that time may come in the wee hours of the night or morning. I wish I could give a glamorous answer and say I pour myself a glass of wine, listen to a relaxing soundtrack and wear a special nightie while feeling the breeze off the ocean from my open balcony, but that’s all fantasy. The reality is I’m wearing no make up and have on yoga pants and a sweatshirt, my hair is in a ponytail, I’m eating a power bar because I missed lunch, and (in the summer) my soundtrack is “Mom, he touched my stuff,” followed by “That’s because he breathed on my arm,” ending up with “Help! I think there’s a bee in my shorts. MOM!” J
Alissa: Any advice on building a good working relationship with your editor?
Julie: Absolutely. I have a few cardinal rules:
1.) Be Professional. That doesn’t mean your relationship can’t blossom into a friendship because when two people work really well together, that’s often what usually happens. But you both have a job to do and you are required to do it together. You must get the novel into shape so it sells oodles of copies. You need each other to do that, so build on your strengths to do it. Manners and positive interaction are always key. I always think humor helps a lot, too, especially in those critical days before a deadline.
2.) Communicate. I know several authors who live in terror of their editor. That’s not the way it works. You are a team working together to whip a manuscript into the next blockbuster. Believe that for each and every book. If you have questions about your editor’s comments, ask. If you don’t agree, say so. Miscommunication, or no communication, is counterproductive and serves no one. Don’t be timid or scared, but don’t be overbearing or insufferable either. Go back to tip #1 and be professional. This is a business pairing and like any relationship, you need to communicate for it to work properly. The book is your product, so treat it as such.
3.) Do Your Best Work Every Time. It’s not your editor’s job to write the book. That’s yours. Send in your finest, polished effort each time. Editing is a darn hard job. Even with what you think is a totally polished effort, there will be a lot of editing required to take it to the next level. Someone once told me that if you compare your manuscript to a car and you give your editor a two-door Fiat then you’d better understand that you are NOT coming home in a Mercedes. You’ll come home in a polished up two-door Fiat. If you want a Mercedes, then you’d better turn one in.
4.) Learn From Your Editor. Writers should be constantly learning and working on their craft. Your editor can help enormously with that. Stay open to suggestions and challenges. I almost never start edits right away, especially developmental edits. I carefully read everything my editor says and then I think about it. Usually for a day or so. I cannot stress the importance of perspective and reflection during edits. Don’t be hasty or defensive. Make it a rule to take at least one full day to reflect.
5.) Thank Your Editor. Their job is to make you look good. Appreciate them for that! Since their work is done behind the scenes, they do not often get the recognition they deserve. Remember that behind every successful book is a fantastic editor. If you find a good one, make sure they know it!
Julie Moffett is the best-selling author of the Lexi Carmichael mystery series, the YA mystery/spy series, White Knights, and other books. For more information on Julie or her books, check out her website at www.juliemoffett.com.