Editors & Endings

I read a great book this weekend that would have been much better with a little help from an editor. As I started to read the novel, I was thinking “This person is so good. Why is s/he not traditionally published? Why isn’t there a movie deal on the table?” Sure, there were a few typos, maybe ten in the entire book. An editor would have caught those, but okay, the story is so good, I just read on.

And then I reached the end. Reader, it wasn’t good. It didn’t give that sense of completion a great ending always strives to achieve. It was like this person just stopped typing. And I felt really bad for that author, because an editor would have helped improve the weak conclusion. My editor at The Wild Rose Press spotted the sloppy ending of Blue Heaven, my soon to be released novel, right away. It was the first comment she offered me. And when she said it, I knew she was right. I scrapped 50 or so pages and got back to work.

As much as I love the indie community, everyone in it should have an editor. I have two degrees in English literature, taught writing to college students for almost two decades and worked as a staff reviewer in  two top trade magazines. I’ve read widely and have given editing advice to thousands of college freshmen. And I still need my editor to get my novel right.

About those college freshman…by far the most common problem I see in their essays is not grammar or usage issues, it’s the conclusion. College students can’t wait for the assignment to be over, so many of them dash off a weak conclusion. Novelists can’t afford to do that. Our endings should wrap up the story, but more, they should offer one last special something for the reader. Brilliant endings are just as important as fabulous openings. Conclusions can make or break a book. If the ending doesn’t work, that’s likely all a reader will remember. If an ending is special in some way, readers will remember that, too. And they’ll buy your next book.

Stand-Alone Sarah

Sarah’s Survival Guide is a free 40 page story right here on my website. Anyone can read it, even attach it to their tablet or reading device. Makes it sound like I wanted to do something nice for my readers. I do, of course, but the real reason Sarah’s Survival Guide stands alone is because my former editor asked me to consider taking it out. I was writing romance at the time, and Sarah’s subplot was stealing the spotlight from the main lovers. Sarah is still very much a part of The Paris Notebook, especially the penultimate scene.

What Sarah does not have in the novel is a point of view. Sarah’s story is not filled out as I meant it to be. That’s okay, I’m a tough old writer and have been edited many times. I also understand the rules of writing romance. So I’m not saying my editor was wrong. She was spot on. The problem was me, I had not written a romance. The wonderful folks at The Wild Rose Press knew I was not a romance writer, and through two novels helped me become one. Then when I proposed a women’s fiction series, they said YES. They said that was where I should be, writing women’s fiction, with more going on than true love. Nothing against true love! I’ll always have a love story or three.

Almost the minute I learned I needed to cut Sarah’s story, I began plotting. I was able to pull it out almost seamlessly. I added a few bits into the book so it made sense and I took all spoilers out of Sarah’s Survival Guide. Then, after paying a friend a shamelessly small amount for a gorgeous cover, I was ready to roll.

I don’t know how many people have read Sarah’s story. I have never, in ten years, quickly going on eleven, looked at my page views. But I love hearing people tell me they wished there was more about Sarah in The Paris Notebook. And that’s happened at least a dozen times. Every time, I say “You’re in luck! Click on Sarah’s Survival Guide on my blog.” I think it’s a sweet love story. It works as a short story, but if you read it first, you might want to know what happens next. Well, that answer is in The Paris Notebook.