Monday, August 15, 2011

The Writer, the Editor and the Art of Collaboration

When I was 17, I was very shy and had lots of writing I had hardly shown anyone. I applied to six colleges with an undeclared major and then NYU film school. My decision was that if I got into NYU's film program, that it was "meant to be." And, if not, I'd go elsewhere and pursue another major (English, most likely).

I got into NYU and I loved the 4 years I spent there. But there were three lessons I learned almost right away at film school:

1) I wanted to be a writer, not a director.
2) I needed to get a thick skin...and fast. Not only was I showing my work to people, I was showing my work to some of the most talented and creative kids and professors in the country. Taking constructive criticism well was a must for survival.
3) Filmmaking is an extremely collaborative art. All you have to do is to sit through the credits of a major motion picture to see that for yourself.

Like I said, I loved film school and I loved screenwriting. When I decided to branch out and try my hand at novels, one of the thoughts I had was that prose writing was much less collaborative and required many less personalities to contend with.

In some ways, that's true. But in other ways that I did not expect, it's actually not.

Although my name will be on the cover of The Mapmaker and the Ghost, there is still a team of people that have made those pages happen. The most important of which is my editor.

The editor is not just the person who corrects your grammar and helps you weed out your awkward phrasing. The most important job of the editor is to help shape the story with an objective eye into the best that it can be.

And a really great editor (and I truly believe mine is top-notch) does that in an extraordinary way. When I received my editorial letters from Stacy, I was surprised with how broad the suggestions were. Of course there were line edits, too, but with the actual story, her notes never said, this is what should happen: a, b, and then c. Her notes said things like, the ending isn't as satisfying as it could be. Can the book be leading to something bigger?

At first, notes like that can be incredibly daunting. But, slowly, as I let them sink in, I found my mind opening up to new story possibilities I hadn't thought of before. It was like she removed some boulders which then rerouted the stream and made the book that much more flowing and dynamic.

For me, it's a wonderful feeling. The book is still my story, but it is also SO much better because of the collaboration.

In fact, I think Stacy deserves her own "title card."

So, thank you:

Stacy Cantor Abrams

If you have an editor, what has the process been like for you? And, if not, do you have any questions about the process?


  1. I have not worked with a publishing editor… but I have worked with people who edit manuscripts. And let me tell you, you need that external opinion to make us see the point our story shifts, or lack momentum or has a weak point, or places where it could be better and do more.

    I love you story, and thankful you shared it.

    I can’t wait to read your book.