November is National Novel Writing Month. I’ve used that excuse in the past to shut myself in, sit down, and write, write, write. Fifty five thousand words later I had a good start on a novel and I love the idea that novel writing has it’s own special month. As I was thinking about that this morning, and all the other special months on the calendar, Black History Month, American Heart Month, Celebration of Life Month, etc., I came to the conclusion that there should be an Editor Appreciation Month.
As a writer, I believe a good editor is worth their weight in gold and I have the privilege of knowing and working with some wonderful editors. I self edit as best I can but having someone else go through a manuscript with the focus on making the writing better, clearer, and sharper is priceless.
In police work, we use a term “tunnel vision,” something that can happen in a high stress situation like a pursuit or a shooting, where you lose focus on the world around you and zero in on the car you’re chasing or the man with the gun. Tunnel vision can be dangerous for the officer if he misses a threat outside the tunnel, or for bystanders caught in the crossfire. The officer needs the whole picture to ensure that the bad guy is caught and no innocent people are harmed.
Sometimes as I’m writing I can develop a kind of tunnel vision and not see the whole picture when I struggle with a difficult passage. I may inadvertently kill a good plot twist or miss a threat set up by bad prose. I can also miss how the various parts of my book can fit together better to make an outstanding whole. I need to be pulled back, out, to a place where I do see the story as a whole, not bits and pieces. I’ve found it immensely helpful to have an editor, through comments or corrections, pull me out of the tunnel and widen my focus. I then find I can go back in with a clearer picture in my mind of what I want and what will make the story stronger.
So speaking for myself, writing a novel is a solitary job, but making that novel something people will buy and have a hard time putting down until they finish, and then pass the book on to a friend, is a team effort, I need and appreciate editors.