Soon after I signed my contract with WiDo Publishing, I recieved my first email from my editor, introducing herself and explaining how she wanted my manuscript formatted for her first read-through. I'd heard horror stories about the editing process, and my short-lived experience as a writer in the political arena had instilled in me a sort of PTSD in regards to all red ink. But I was determined to soldier on and be brave about what she might say (or slash and burn.) When I emailed her, I told her not to hold back, and that the only thing I liked sugarcoated was my cereal. Or something to that affect. And then she explained to me what her role in this was: a partner, a side-kick, a sounding board. One edit turned into four, emails shot back and forth at all hours, and we became exactly that.
This is how I know best to explain the partnership between a writer and his/her editor. The process is more like a biology lab and not at all like a biology lecture. Lecture: the teacher stands in front of the class and yammers on for an hour, writing in chicken scratch on a dry erase board. Lab: you and your partner disect things, blow things up, create chemical compounds, mess with DNA, make fruitfly babies (gew.) You get the idea. You get your hands dirty. You get a little sweaty. And you REALLY learn.
My editor disected parts of my manuscript and we blew up other parts together. I started recognizing some of my own bad habits as a writer: my word addictions, redundancies, my reliance on metaphors, my odd way of breaking up dialogue and speaker, my obsession with having characters nod instead of say something. I was also forced to confront the weak spots in my plot and/or writing that I'd mentally swept underneath the stronger parts around it. She made me learn how to fight for my manuscript, and, more importantly, what to fight.
Ten minutes ago, I emailed my final line changes to my editor. So few, were they, that she insisted I send a "clean" copy (no mark-up bubbles, red text, etc.) so she could forward it directly to the copy editor. Five weeks, a big overview edit, and three line edits later, my manuscript is finally ready to move forward on this journey. The lessons I learned from my editor thoughout this process will affect the way I write forever. And as I write this little blog diddy, I can't help but wonder if she knows that, if she recognizes her lasting impact.
I knew my editor would change my manuscript. I had no idea she'd change me.