Alexie Aaron is currently typing away at her latest story, so I will be filling in for this week’s blog post. I’m Alexie’s editor, the “Red Pen.” I’m the one who takes Alexie’s precious characters and makes sure that they are appropriately punctuated and their adventures are typo free. Well, in a perfect world that would be the case. A few rogue errors have gotten by me. This post is just a brief sketch of how I became Alexie’s editor.
I remember the first time I was asked to read and evaluate a piece of writing for a friend. The story was good, but it needed a little work on punctuation, subject-verb agreement, the usual proofreading stuff. This friend asked for honesty, and I delivered. She cried and yelled, and our friendship deteriorated quickly after that day. Maybe I was tactless? Maybe she didn't really want criticism, just support? I never wanted to be in that situation again, so being an editor was never something I would have considered doing in the future.
When I went to England for graduate school, I met many bright and interesting international students who were not native English speakers. So I’d look over a paper or two, read dissertation chapters, and explain weird grammar rules and slang. But it was all academic stuff, not fiction.
Years later, Alexie asked me to edit her mystery novels. I most definitely did not want to do that, but I did. I worked in a constant state of anxiety and discomfort, and when I handed her the changes, I was prepared for the worst. The worst did not happen.
She listens to my suggestions, stands strong but civil when she disagrees, and she pays attention to each grammar or punctuation change that I make. With every new novel draft, there is less and less for me to correct. She’s an editor’s dream.
Alexie’s imagination is seemingly boundless and her characters are always active and evolving in her mind. I love her characters, and I beg her not to give me any spoilers before I’m given the new draft. Before I put my editing cap on, I like to be a reader too.
Because of this partnership, I no longer hate editing. I have found it to be a skill that offers a means of support for writers, not one that diminishes their words. I’m a happy editor now.