Thursday, December 18, 2008

Mysterious Art

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?"

My reaction?

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.


Kathleen Popa said...

Is your editor the Nicci who edited my book? If so, then you are blessed.

Latayne C Scott said...

We have to trust editors simply BECAUSE they tell us to do what we wouldn't have thought of-- that's why they are editors and we are writers. But I can't imagine how much trust you must have put in what I call an editor's "internal gyroscope" to be able to sacrifice that much of a sequel to the good of your very first novel. I admire you and respect you for that, and I am sure God will honor you for it. Lovingly, Latayne C. Scott

The Koala Bear Writer said...

It's so neat to hear you talk about your editor and the editing experience. Too many times we authors view the editor as the "bad guy" so it's great to see the positive. :)

Steve G said...

"Art is about the mysterious." Women in general are mysterious. Women writers??? Goodness! As I watch you in this process I see the mystery of the craft. We see some people that think their thoughts are grand, and so on paper it should be like printing money. But it's not. There is an understanding between the writer and the words that come from some mysterious place in the writer if that skill is sought. That is when writing becomes a craft. It is not the same spot for everyone, and it may move about in one person depending on the book, etc. It is mysterious to watch how you relate to Kate and then how you relate to Gabby and Carol... it's also a lot of fun.

Bonnie Grove said...

Katy: Yes, dear friend, the one and only Nicci Jordan Hubert who edited your fantastic book The Feast of Saint Bertie which I read and LOVED.

Latayne: Thank you, sweetie. It's all about the reader - what will be her best expereince with this book? Not unlike ministry - it isn't about me, rather about what God wants through me. I know you understand that concept perfectly.

Hey Koala, I'm glad I can offer a positive glimpse (for so many reasons!) and I'm glad you were encouraged!

Steve: I like relating to you best.

lynnrush said...

Great post, Bonnie.

Avily Jerome said...

That's great that you have such a good rapport built up with her.

Hope it continues to go well!

Nicci said...

I love this post. You are precious to me.