Yes, I know most authors tend to think every keystroke they execute is Perfect, Carved in Stone, Beyond Reproach, just Downright Great. Not…
I have two editors, and I have no doubt they are making me be a better writer.
One of them I DO get to have dinner with all the time: That’s because we live together and happen to be married. Nancy is my first “editor.”
As I’ve mentioned before, she is my go-to person when I’m agonizing about some plot situation or some character aspect in what I’m currently writing. She patiently listens to my “well maybe this, but on the other hand that” dithering. Sometimes just by talking it out to her I will have an “aha moment” and it’ll become clear which direction I want to go. But just as often she has to smack me up alongside of the head: “No, no, no… Ro would never do that because…” And I have to admit that most of the time she’s right.
She is also my first reader. She will go through my drafts and, of course, find all those left out words – which I KNOW were there; the computer must have eaten them! – to say nothing of pulling me up short when I start to overwrite – I mean, after all, if two descriptive words and good, how come four or five aren’t better?
My second editor is Maxine Ringenberg, who works for World Castle, my publisher. I don’t get to have dinner with her, in fact, have never met her. World Castle is based in Pensacola, Florida, but in today’s digital age that means very little; Maxime could just as easily live in Perth, Australia, or Paris, France − hmm, dinner at a sidewalk café in Paris doesn’t seem like too bad an idea.
Maxine is my grammar and punctuation Nazi, which I intend as a compliment. In case you haven’t noticed, I tend to overuse the em dash, this wonderfully versatile little punctuation mark: −. That’s the problem, though: Too much “dash matter” tends to make for overly convoluted paragraphs – like trying to cram ten pounds of stuff into a five-pound bag. And while I may be enamored with the em dash, I also tend to be comma averse, that is, I leave out commas where they are, in fact, needed.
So, I will get my manuscripts back from Maxine with various phrases or whole paragraphs underlined in various colors – thank heaven she doesn’t use red; remember how we hated getting our school papers back with the teacher’s red scribbles all over them? − that says, “I think you need some punctuation here,” or, “Hey, Dave, you may want to take another look at this turgid paragraph.”
The title for this post is taken from a quote about the role of editors by the novelist Bobbi Romans: “A good editor is like tinsel to a Christmas Tree…they add the perfect amount of sparkle without being gaudy.”