As many of you know, I’m writing a memoir of my late sister, her life and her death, and what that had to do with my decision to return to my hometown. I am about an hour away from completing the final chapter of the rough draft. I sent the whole manuscript, minus this last chapter, to my editor at the publishing house before I went to Paris. He will be sending it back to me with all his notes sometime this week, and the revision stage will begin. We talked for half an hour on Friday about his general take on what he’s read, and directions I’ll need to go for the revision.
I found this immensely encouraging, frankly. I did my very best on the rough draft, and if I had published it myself as an e-book, as more people are doing, it would have been a good effort, I think. I might have made some decent money on it, I dunno, cutting out the middleman, and such. But here’s the thing: a good editor always, always, always improves your best work. This book is especially important to me, because it is so close to my heart, given that it’s about my family. I’ve got a lot of hard work ahead of me on the rewrite, but it’s a real gift to be able to work with someone who can draw something exceptional, and maybe even great, out of what was my best initial effort.
I don’t think there are many professional writers who have reason to be so confident in their own skills that they don’t need an editor. I’m certainly not, nor do I have reason to be. A friend of mine who used to work at a magazine that publishes some of the best-known journalists in America said you’d be shocked by how rough their copy was, until experienced editors got hold of it. I’m pretty sure that if I had published my rough draft straight to e-book, it would have been nothing to be ashamed of. But I’m also sure that the final version that will come out from my publisher next year, having been through a careful editing process, will be something I can be proud of.
UPDATE: I should have clarified in the original post that by “e-book publishing,” I mean electronic self-publishing, straight-to-Kindle-style, like what Neal Pollack describes.