Thursday, June 21, 2012

Where Is Linc’s Backpack? (Or: Lessons Learned From Brilliant Editors)



By F.T. Bradley

Editors don’t edit anymore. That’s what I heard more than once before I signed my book contract for Double Vision, my middle-grade series with HarperCollins Children’s. It’s one of those publishing myths that came from some unknown source, and you sort of assume it’s true when you’re a newbie.

Whoever said editors don’t edit is wronger than wrong (is wronger a word?). When I turned in my second (or it may have been third, or fourth…) draft of Double Vision, I thought the heavy lifting had to be done soon. Just a few minor edits, right?FB Double Vision front cover

Wrong (again). My editors—I have two: the brilliant Barbara Lalicki and awesome Andrew Harwell—sent me yet another copy of my manuscript, littered with notes and questions, like: What time is it here? Where is Linc’s (my main character) backpack? Why does he do this—oh, and shouldn’t he be wearing a coat in December? I would thumb through the pages thinking: this is going to be, like, a lot of work.

And it was—for all parties involved. If anyone can dispel this myth that editors don’t edit, it would be me. I have a stack of marked-up manuscripts, and emails well past office hours from my amazing editors at Harper to prove it. And I haven’t even told you about the copyediting and proofreading yet…

All this work might sound kind of depressing if you’re still waiting for that book contract—but guess what happened once I sat down to write the sequel to Double Vision? I started asking questions like: where’s Linc’s backpack? And it led to an unexpected plot twist.

Editors really do edit. And they’ll make you a stronger writer—at least, I’d like to think so.

Fleur Bradley-photoBIO:

F.T. Bradley is the author of Double Vision (Harper Children's, Oct. 2012), the first in the middle-grade adventure series featuring Lincoln Baker. Her husband's Air Force career has F.T. and their two daughters moving all around the world, but for the moment the family lives on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. To find out more about F.T. and Double Vision, visit, or find F.T. Bradley on Twitter @FTBradleyAuthor.


Undercover spies, codes and ciphers, a secret painting with unimaginable powers... It's all in a day's work when you're one of the world's top kid agents. But Linc Baker isn't a kid agent at all. He just happens to look exactly like one of them. And when this lookalike goes missing, Linc will have to impersonate him on a mission that plunges him into a world of intrigue, danger, and great pastries. 
No pressure, right?


Unknown said...

Fleur, thanks so much for sharing your story. That was funny and so true. My editors fact check every thing and I'm so over being embarrassed about the things they find that I miss. I'm thankful for them.

YA Sleuth said...

You're right--there is that bit of embarrassment... :-) It's amazing to me how sharp their editing eye is.

jenny milchman said...

Fleur, I could not agree more (or less, as my nine year daughter has the expression :)

I've been thinking a lot about who tends to say that traditional publishing offers nothing, editors don't edit, and all the etc.'s. Most of the people who seem to speak aren't with a traditional house. I don't think they really know what is or isn't done.

I've never met a single author who didn't feel their editor made the book significantly better, and at significant work for all involved.

It's the kind of work you're always so glad to have done once you've done it. I have been dazzled by the vision and passion I've found at my publisher. Humbled by it, too. I couldn't do this on my own--and I hope I never have to.

Glad you found the backpack.

YA Sleuth said...

It's amazing how much you learn with each edit... I hope your nine year-old gives Double Vision a chance when it comes out--I'd love to hear what she thinks.

Unknown said...

Jenny, I agree.

My editor worked with me one Friday night late in the night well after business hours just so that we could present the best book possible before it went to print. It is such a comfort to have people in your corner who are invested in your book, too. This is a lonely work. I need all the hands I can get.

Cathy Perkins said...

Editors are wonderful for seeing both the details (hmm, didn't he have a backpack when he entered this scene?) and the bigger motivation and structural issues. Authors are usually so immersed in the story it can be hard to step back & realize, oh, I need to sprinkle in why the protag is making that choice or taking that action.

You can find terrific editors at smaller houses and digital presses in addition to the large traditional publishers. With free-lancers (do the same due diligaince given to the agent or publisher search!), every author has access to the experience and ‘eye’ that can improve a story.

YA Sleuth said...

I know what you mean, Miranda. Often it's the kind words as much as the editorial feedback to get me through.

Cathy: so true! I know some great freelance editors who do exactly what mine do.

Jodie Renner said...

Great post, Fleur! As a freelance editor, I get tons of emails from grateful novelist clients for catching "bloopers" and other logistical impossibilities, as well as sudden POV shifts, time sequence problems, etc. Then there's the help with streamlining wordy passages and questioning odd or lackluster word choices, etc., and on down to final copyediting and proofreading. Even editors need editors! Several of my clients are editors themselves, and many have PhDs, and I find other trusted readers find good ways to trim down my writing or make it sparkle a bit more.

YA Sleuth said...

It's that other perspective, isn't it? My editors ask the questions readers would ask--the whys and hows. You're right: everyone needs an editor.

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