So last week I talked about how being an editor has helped me as an author. But the benefits of having a double life can work the other way around, too. I learned plenty of things about book editing from my own experience as an author and from the brilliant people who worked on I’m Not the New Me, The Princess and the Peanut Allergy, and The Wilder Life. Here are a few:
Be both the coach and the cheerleader. In other words, be tough, but always be positive, too. The first few times I read emails from my first editor that said things like, “I’m so excited to work on your book!” I figured she was just awfully perky. But the enthusiasm and positive energy was infectious, and it helped my confidence even when she sent me a twenty-page editorial letter full of nitpicks and cruel cuts.
Be a bother, and botherable, too. First-time authors can be meek creatures, afraid to ask reasonable questions about the editorial process for fear of “bugging” the editor. It wasn’t until I fielded a million tiny questions from my own editor that I felt comfortable bugging her back, and now I try to keep the lines of communication as open as possible for my authors.
Break down the work into manageable bits. I tricked myself into writing a whole book by writing 500 words a night. From this experience I learned that just because an author has a 300 page manuscript, it doesn’t mean that they’re ready to deal with all 300 pages at once. And it helped me realize that, as an editor, I didn’t have to work that way either. My job is to see the big picture and help the author understand it—but sometimes that has to happen one chapter at a time.
Next week: Things I thought I would NEVER do once I became an author.