Monday, July 23, 2007


The rocks and coral underwater support a massive invertebrate community. The substrate is splotched with brilliant color and it's hard to pick out any one creature.
How is this like a novel? You ask.
I will tell you.

12:11 am 82 degrees.
Last Friday I raved about my agent.
Today I'm going to rave about my editor.
It's no secret who an editor is for a particular book. It's listed in PM & PW deals and usually (if the author has manners) at the back of the book in the acknowledgement page.
My editor from Putnam happens to be Peternelle Van Arsdale. You are a fortunate writer if she loves your book and acquires it for Putnam. Very fortunate.
Having an editor who shares your vision is important but trusting that an editor will make suggestions that can make your book stronger is even more important. Periodically I read about authors ranting about how they're so invested in their work that each word is critical.
They say they don't need editing.
PHOOEY! I say. PISH TOSH! I cry.
EVERYBODY NEEDS EDITING. And lots of it. Think of it as a giant pill that has to be swallowed.
Now don't you feel better?
Peternelle wrote me wonderful editorial letters with marvelous insights that made me sit back and reexamine my intensions as a writer and clarify my prose.
"Would Perry say that?"
"What is the point of this chapter?"
"Why does this character do this? Can they do that instead?"
After each pass, I could feel my novel become stronger and stronger.
She made it clear that it was my book, ultimately it was my decision, but also said that she found if a writer made at least 75% of suggested changes, it usually was sufficient. (I think I made all of them! In fact, I'm sure of it.)
And it made LOTTERY a much better book.
So, when you are polishing your novel for submission and you hear suggestions about changes, or cutting excessive length, or expanding characterization. Consider them. Get used to the fact that fresh outside eyes can enhance your work.
And realize, as in the coral reef, there's more to a book than meets the eye. It takes a myriad of people to bring a novel out into the world.
There is much of me in Lottery but there is much of Peternelle, too.
I said it in my acknowledgement page, and I'll say it again here.
In Perry speak
You are totally cool, Peternelle.
Totally cool.


Bernita said...

Editors are pure gold - and their input should be sought after with the same lust.
Don't understand why some resent/ignore their advice.

KS says said...

The top writers do seem to acknowledge their editors in their acknowledgments - Janet Evanovich refers to hers as "SuperJen." Do you have a nickname for Peternelle?? SuperPet just doesn't seem to work, does it? Sounds like a new Japanese toy. Peterrific? Thanks for sharing a big insight - edits HELP your book succeed.

Demon Hunter said...

Editors are great, Pat. Informative post. Tells me what I have to look forward to! :*)

Josephine Damian said...

Pat & Bernita: If only the nitwits in my critique group would learn to appreciate the benefits of editorial comments.

Ok.... finished Lottery last night. Won't post review till Tues. PM. Definitely the kind of book you ruminate on....

The Anti-Wife said...

You have a wonderful appreciation of the people in your life. That's one of the reasons you are SO COOL!!!!!!!

The counter is in the single digits now!

Manic Mom said...

What a nice post. I bet everyone loved working with you, and with Perry as well!

M. G. Tarquini said...

Beat me! Bite me! Edit me!

jennifergg said...

Yes, yes! I too had a terrific editor, Tracy Bernstein (also at Penguin, but the NAL imprint). She asked all the right questions, which like you, made me think about my intentions and then realize them more fully.

I love the imagery of the coral reef. It's true. It takes a whole lot of support, and work, and engergy from a whole bunch of people to make a book...

Lisa R said...

You are right. Fresh eyes, fresh perspective. Great insight.

Lisa said...

It's interesting that writing is one of the few areas I can think of that blinds people to being open to input from people who know better. I'd kill for the attention of an editor!

Gay said...

Omigosh! Single digits? Woohoo! (And I'd better start speedreading on HP now, because if its not done, it's going to take second place to Lottery, but it's so darn riveting!) What a great time to be alive, eh? A new HP and Lottery. Though Rowling needed a Peternelle, or at least a decent copy editor. The grammar police were off when hers came out.

Cath said...

I have Lottery on request at my library and agree with the need for a good (emph. Good) editor. I enjoy your thanking all those who usually are left for insiders to know and care about.

ORION said...

cath makes a great point. writers often times don't know all the people it takes to get a book on the shelf. They all deserve chocolate and (in my case) macadamia nuts!

Holly Kennedy said...

Peternelle has such a unique name, doesn't she? I remember running across her name 4-5 years ago when reading an article, and then again when she bought rights to Cecilia Ahern's P.S. I LOVE YOU. I'm so glad you two found each other!!

Heidi the Hick said...

I used to be horrified by the thought of other people hacking up my work.

Now I welcome it.

I look back and think that my reticence was a clue that I was not ready at that point to really be a writer.

writtenwyrdd said...

An editor who shares your vision can only help. Anyone who declares that their writing is perfect without an edit either needs to grow up or to have their hubris balloon deflated. :)

Katie Alender said...

I can't believe there are authors who don't thank their editors and agents in the acknowledgements. I mean, seriously!