Part of Debra Ginsberg's editorial service is a telephone conference after the writer has received and had a chance to digest the editorial report, and last night was mine. I don't know if other editors do the same; I'm not sure they can be entirely effective if they don't. The English language is, at best, an imperfect means of communicating ideas from one person to another, and despite the clarity of phrase her report maintained, there were still parts of it where I crinkled my forehead and emitted an intellectual-sounding expression of confusion that sounded kinda like "Huh?"
It was a good call. I have a complex book--hard to imagine 80K words not comprising something a bit complex. There were things she didn't know, couldn't know, about the story and about what I have planned for future novels. There are, after all, a few levels of omniscience working. Matt, certainly, is a god, and has been around for hundreds of millions of years, so he knows a whole lot of a lot. Gods in my world aren't omniscient, though. It's simple, really; you can't have omniscient gods in a polytheistic system or else they'll be in each others' lanes the whole time. Then there's the narrator, who isn't omniscient at all. In fact, the story is normally told through Crystal's eyes, and she's really rather clueless. Finally there's the omniscient writer, but if you go back through some of the blogs you'll note that I'm really not completely omniscient either. I'm good at making crap up, and I survive as a writer by adding to that a fair level of omnipotence. If I realize that there's a kitty in a scene, poof! There's a kitty (dragons, after all, like kitties a great deal, especially with catsup).
Bottom line for part of the call, though, was that she, a fairly high level reader, hadn't "gotten" some of the story that I'd intended to be there. It's easy to point out where she'd missed the artifacts in the prose, making it her fault, but that wouldn't have been intellectually honest. She missed it. Readers miss stuff, in general. Whose job is it to make sure readers "get" the important points? Yeah, it's not the readers' job, is it? Each time, then--and there were only a few--it was clear indication that I need to go back to that point and buff it out a little, make it sparkle out of the story so that the reader does, unfailingly, "get" it.
That conclusion isn't a natural one, now. The natural one is what I mentioned at first: blame it on her. But I did that with my beta readers. One guy in particular brought up something about the timing of the cataclysm that he'd clearly missed in the text. Silly man, he should read more closely, right? Thus, I ignored the comment. Had I fixed it then, I wouldn't have seen the same comment in the report I actually paid for. Silly man, he should write more clearly, right?
To clarify, probably eighty to ninety percent of the report was spot on and easy to understand. Much of the call, meanwhile, centered around topics where she hadn't missed anything at all, but instead I needed further discourse either on her comment or on how best to fix it.
In addition, we also discussed a couple of things that aren't working so much with the plot. I like that she's an idea person. For example: at one point, Aphrodite gets the kids into danger by leading them to a forbidden room. What, are they stupid? Granted, the word she used in the report was naive. I mean, yeah, all kids are a little naive, but these aren't that much. They're pretty bright kids. But, Debra said, break out of the mindset, oh writer, and see things for what could be. What if it were something else? Maybe Aphrodite can lure them there some other way--gods can shape change, right? Sure...ding! Here, kitty kitty. Matt wouldn't keep cats at the estate because dragons like to eat them and because the storyteller isn't a fan of felines, but the girls don't know that. This will be good....
I left the call with a crystal-clear view of what I need to do to get this book published and on the market. Now all I have to do is--well, the work. There's a fair amount ahead of me, adding to several scenes and rewriting parts of others. Still, it's exciting work, and I'm actually looking forward to doing more.
For now, though, it's time to head off to work. My day job sort of work, that is. Happy writing today!