Thursday, April 10, 2014

The editor is my friend... right?

by Annie Hauxwell        

Remember the scorpion and the frog? The scorpion persuades the frog to give him a ride across the stream, arguing he won’t use his sting because if he did he would also die. 
Halfway across the scorpion stings the frog. The frog asks “why?”, to which the scorpion answers “Because it’s in my nature.” Glug glug glug.
An editor also has a certain inescapable nature. They may like you. You may like them. But if they’re good at what they do they won’t pull their punches when it comes to your work. Your affection may evaporate as you feel the sting.
The debut author may receive a handful of general queries about their manuscript or a full-blown, marked-up re-structure (characterized as ‘suggestions’). In whatever form, your first edit will be scary. It doesn’t necessarily have to be fatal.
My first book was published in 2011 and I didn’t understand any of this; it never occurred to me to ask what approach the editor would take, because I didn’t realise there was more than one. Now I know better.  
My third book is due out in July. I’ve now worked with three editors on two continents; smart, experienced and charming people. Two editors (different publishers) worked on my third book. The notes I received differed substantially in form and content. An embarrassment of riches which at times became a curse of abundance. 
But nevertheless a revelation: not all editors use the same approach. There isn’t one right way and this variation in method can be truly enlightening if you can get them to talk about what they actually do and why.  
What happens when your editors disagree or when you disagree with your editor? First, ask yourself if they’re right; often they are and this is why deep down we love ‘em: they stop you from making a fool of yourself.
But what if you think they’re wrong? Will you deny the many-headed Cerberus employed by the gargantuan publishing house on which your future depends? You have a two-book contract and would love to sign another. Dare you cross them? Do you want to be known as a difficult author?
This is where the egotistical self-belief that sustained you through long, cold nights of solitary labor comes in handy: just say no. It may be hard to believe, but seeing your book in the bookshop will be cold comfort if it is not the book you wrote.
Of course, if it turns out to be a best-seller you may learn to live with the pain. But remember the frog. Glug glug glut.

Annie Hauxwell was born and raised in London. Her family emigrated to Australia when she was a teenager and since then she has divided her time between the two countries. Her working life has included stints as a psychiatric nurse, cleaner, sociologist, taxi driver and lawyer. She abandoned the law to work as an investigator, an occupation she has pursued happily for twenty years. She is a keen sailor, but suffers from seasickness. Visit Annie at
Christmas is looming, and investigator Catherine Berlin is out of a job. Broke, and with a drug habit that's only just under control, she quickly agrees when an old friend offers her work. It's a simple investigation with a generous fee, looking into the dealings of a small-time entrepreneur. The only catch? It's in Russia.
But when Berlin arrives in Moscow, things are not so straightforward. Shadowy figures stalk her through the frozen streets. She's kicked out of her hotel, her all-important medication confiscated by police. Strung out and alone, Berlin turns to her interpreter, an eccentric Brit named Charlie. But Charlie's past is as murky as Berlin's own, and when the subject of the investigation disappears, Berlin realises Charlie may be part of the web. 
The only way out is to hunt down the truth, even if it kills her.


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