The Bible talks about the mystery of marriage - the blending of two souls into one. Goes so far as to akin this mystery with humanity's connection to God - complete, living, breathing, strange, beautiful.
One of my favorite things about being married to my husband, Steve, is the partnership we have. We're rowing in the same direction - and if one of us needs to turn the boat around for some reason, the other is there to help rudder the changes needed. We're on the same team, even if we don't always know what we're doing.
The partnership that comes with editing a book with a professional editor has, believe it or not, parallels to the mysterious connecting of two people working together as one. While not nearly as significant as connecting to God or to a spouse, the connection between two artists at work on the same project is nothing if not mysterious, strange, and beautiful.
My agent recently expressed her admiration for the editor I'm currently working with - "A gem" she said. "I trust her completely." Trust is that critical component in partnership. And when it comes to taking a literary blade to your book, nothing comes before it. Through the experience of working with an editor for the first time, I've come to trust her. And with trust comes mutual respect for each other and the project.
In an early conversation, Nicci brought up adding a large chunk of material to the book (it was sitting at around 80,000 words at that point). She gave me the reasons for the addition of about 20,000 words. Then she said, "I think we need to nix the sequel - tie everything up in this one book." I had already written 40,000 words on the sequel. It had a title and a cover (a deeply cool cover created by the same brilliant mind that created Talking to the Dead's fab cover). And here the dear woman was saying, "Let's scrap it, shall we?"
I smiled and said, "Absolutely, yes."
Why? Because of the mystery of partnership. I'd talked to Nicci enough before we began work on the book to know we shared a common passion: Making books that provide the best possible experience for the reader. Yes, I'm the writer, but the book isn't about me. It's about you, the reader. If fiddling with 60,000 words is what it takes to make the book a great read, I'm excited to do it. If it means abandoning a half-finished manuscript, so be it. And my editor feels the same way; it's not about her, it's about the reader. If that means she has double her work load, she will.
It makes no sense for the two of us to be so excited about creating so much work for ourselves. It makes no sense for us to want to spend weeks neck deep in changes, staring at words until our eyes blur and we can't remember what happened in the last sentence never mind the last chapter. But the mystery of partnership makes it possible. I'm no longer trodding the path alone, relying solely on my own resources for direction. I have this trusted friend who expertly leads and follows at the same time.
This week it got bad for us. Storm clouds, driving rain, the path washed away. I fell in the mud, and pulled her down with me. I felt responsible for the weather - still think I was - but within the mystery of our partnership, Nicci and I were able face the deluge, and even smile, then laugh. Two people giggling at the mess they'd made, certain the outcome would be worth the effort, and even more committed to creating the best reading experience possible.
And the sense that because she and I have been able to forge this mysterious connection, it will spill over to the reader and connect them as well - to me, to her, to each other.
Art is about the mysterious.
I bid you good writing.