Editors and You

I've recently been paging through a book called The Fiction Editor, the Novel, and the Novelist by Thomas McCormack, a retired CEO and Editorial Director from St. Martin's Press. I keep trying to find a good passage in it for blog fodder, but each paragraph seems to spill into the next and I'm too lazy to copy down an entire page or two here. It's an unusual book in the sense that it deals more with the editor's POV in editing than the writer's but still seems directed more broadly at writers, editors, and literary scholars, like buckshot spraying out from a shotgun. Honestly, I don't know if reading books on writing helps or hurts or just plain confuses me these days, though I did like reading them back in the day when I was just starting out. I'll just throw this passage from the book up and hope something sticks for you, good reader. The bracketed notes are mine:

The usual process [for novelists] is to think and feel their way from trigger [whatever gets you starting to write in the first place] through to their master-effect, the monitor from above [the critical part of a writer's mind?] that then starts, or reorganizes, the march of prelibations [???-I think I must have missed the explanation of this word] on the ground. These in their turn select the characters, circuitry, setting, and goads of the situation, the accidents, and the point and voice of view-the substance and tone of narrative. Thus is a novel conceived, gestated, and born.

See? It's just that simple, people. As for me, my own experience with my editor at St. Martin's was pretty easy going and felt very laid back. My editor was good at sort of vaguely suggesting parts of each novel that could use improvement and then I just ran with those suggestions. Editors are very busy and overloaded these days and probably take on very few novels (especially first novels or novels from small fry names like David Oppegaard) that they don't feel are mostly polished and ready to go already. I've personally done a lot more editing work with my agent (who's more invested in my entire career than one individual book and willing to take a hands on approach to his clients) than I've done with an actual editor.


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