Terrifying Editors: They Eat Authors (and Their Babies) For Breakfast!

All of us who are aspiring writers must (or know that we will one day have to) face the traumatizing experience of submitting a manuscript and awaiting a response from the terrible creature known as The Editor.

Innocent tower or... lair of The Editor?

The Editor sits behind a massive desk in a tall, intimidating tower (possibly a black tower with a glowing red eye… or maybe I’m getting confused with something else) and awaits the pile of [delicious] manuscripts each morning.  The manuscripts that do not pass the test are cast into a burning inferno… and one might suggest that the authors of those texts are the lucky ones.

Because if your manuscript is selected for possible publication, you are suddenly drawn into The Editor’s web… and your book will Never Be The Same.

(It’s the second day of classes in a new semester for me, meaning I am a bit prone to dramatic overstatements, paranoia, and possibly hallucinations.  So forgive the spastic post.)

But it does occur to me that having a book published is an experience that we either overcomplicate or oversimplify.  I don’t know much about it myself (which is possibly a bad thing since I am technically the Head Fantasy Editor for Lantern Hollow Press and, therefore, one of the terrible creatures in the dark tower) beyond that some books make it and some books don’t and that the ones which do make it still need a lot of work before they are ready for publication.

But what I think many people don’t consider is how different your book could be by the time it is through being oh so tenderly, carefully, and thoroughly chomped upon by The Editor.  We imagine that our manuscripts are pristine, perhaps with those few typos, and that The Editor will be ever so impressed with our witty and beautiful mental offspring.  So when The Editor essentially chews up and spits out our literary babies, we are shocked, horrified, and maybe more than a little offended.  We cuddle the battered remains of our carefully composed Greatest Novel This World Will Ever See and we know that someday, The Editor will realize how very very wrong s/he was.  Someday. [Cue slightly maniacal laugh…]

Editors do have a lot of power.  They could conceivably change something fairly important without an author even realizing it, although that is not the way of a good Editor.  A good author-editor relationship means communication, a shared vision for an outcome, and a product that thrills both members involved.

Also literary offspring that is still alive and healthy, as it were.

So what am I saying here?  I don’t really know.  It’s the second day of classes, I am attempting to uncover the mystery of irregular primary and secondary Gaelic verb forms (in the past, future, and conditional tense, mind you), so sense is not something that I feel I am required to make, presently (except in Gaelic, though I doubt I make much sense in that language either).

I do feel that when our manuscript is reaching that finishing line and we are beginning to peer into the fog as we seek out those tall, dark towers that represent our possible Editors, we should keep in mind that things are About To Change, hopefully for the better, so long as we are both willing to submit to the experience of The Editor and keep a close eye on our literary child in case The Editor starts looking a bit peckish.

The Writer's Museum in Edinburgh: A tribute to famous authors... or where they keep the ones who DIDN'T SURVIVE? Okay, clearly, I need more sleep."