I’ve just finished reworking my first novel with an editor/mentor named Maryan Pelland who, to put it mildly, brought the whip down on me. It was quite the eye-opening experience and, like a whip coming down, painful at times.
I love to write and had always been told I write well. But these opinions came from friends and family who have to deal with me on a regular basis. Not that I didn’t give them merit, but I was always a bit suspicious of their sentiments. I do have a temper, after all, and few of my acquaintances want to be on the receiving end of that temper.
I came into this editing/mentoring process thinking it would be a breeze. She’ll probably correct some typos, maybe fix some grammatical errors, and ZOOM we’ll be done and I can re-publish.
No so freakin’ fast.
I electronically handed her my manuscript, already painstakingly reworked. What I got back sent a physical jolt into my solar plexus.
My first reaction was to snarl and slam my laptop lid shut (remember the temper thing?). Then I stalked outside, lit a cigarette, and blew a few choice words into the sky along with a cloud of noxious smoke. After a while, as the nicotine seeped into my blood and calmed me down a bit, I was able to go back and look at the corrections more objectively.
Yeah, that sentence did work better when she moved it. And, yeah, I do tend to write in a passive voice. Alright, okay, she had a point about run-on sentences. And, of course the reader would have no idea what the hell I was talking about there unless they all lived inside my head. I am grateful they don’t.
I swallowed my bile and got to work.
One night, half-way through the project, I found myself in tears doubting my ability as a writer, wondering why I even bothered with this nonsense, ready to throw it all away and give up the idea of calling myself an author. My heroine, meanwhile, sat on the sidelines, her hands in her lap, eyeing me reproachfully. She’s the reason I soldiered on. She needed her story told and I was the only one who could tell it, with a little — er, no — with a LOT of help from Maryan.
Three months, hundreds of emails, one phone call, and lots of angst, cigarettes, and blue words later, we have a polished story that flows much better, reveals my heroine’s motivation, and makes me feel proud (remember the run-on sentences?). I think it made my heroine proud, too. I hope it makes Maryan proud, because she’s going to have to deal with me again…