Editors and Marine Corps drill instructors have at least two things in common: they both want you to be the best you can be and they both absolutely must have a great sense of humor to do what they do. New recruits and new authors both feel certain that the above-mentioned professionals are going to whip them into the best shape of their lives, while stumbling blindly with naivete and complaining loudly as they navigate through their tumultuous journeys. Still, my success in either endeavor was due to my willingness to taste the whip and learn to appreciate the bite of correction and revision.
After spending the past six years writing the first draft of my manuscript, making revisions and sending the fifth draft to my first professional editor, I received a report and an invoice. I’m not sure which one was more painful…yes I am – it was the report. Your world-building is strong, filled with fantastic details that will make readers want to live in this land and characters they will both identify with and love. However, your plot really sucks! Ok, she wasn’t that brutal, but you get the idea. I need to begin at the beginning and start over with a whole new plot structure. WHAT? Reminded me briefly of being back in boot camp as my hard-charging A platoon filled sandbags with speed and precision that garnered us a record only to have the slacker B platoon come out and empty them for us to refill the next day. REALLY?
Ok, so both tasks serve a purpose to instill discipline and to improve teamwork, but I still think that filling, dumping and refilling the sandbags was a dumb exercise. Rewriting my manuscript from a tighter plotline with more tension and suspense, however painful at scrapping years of work, is much more obviously going to improve my book. Both editors and drill instructors are masters at eliciting the best performances of their newbies and mine were (and are) superstars in their respective fields. I graduated boot camp top of the class with honors for, among other things, shooting the highest score in the entire fleet on the rifle range. I will take the report from the editor and turn this fun and fast-paced fantasy adventure into a masterpiece that will rival the runaway successes that preceded it.
I didn’t always agree with my drill instructors or like them laughing at us behind closed doors (they weren’t good about being discreet when debriefing each other on the dumb stuff we did or said) but I appreciated one of them so much that she’s a featured character in my book. This one’s for you, SSgt. Rohr! Lauren Sweet, my brilliant editor has become my newest hero in a line of supporters, resources and friends whose contributions and rigorous standards for improvement has earned my undying gratitude (even as I grumble off to start my rewrites.) Oohrah!