Help! I Need an Editor! [Nicola Morgan interview]
The relationship between an author and editor is a crucial one. If you get it right, it can help the whole publishing process. Here Becky Hearne interviews Nicola Morgan, author of around 90 books, to find out more.
As an author, do you feel that editing really does make your writing better?
Yes, but only if the editing is good, of course. A good editor is one who can see what I meant to do and notice any bits where I may not have achieved my intention as well as I thought I had. I have had mostly great editors. They mediate in the space between my head and my readers’ heads and help me produce the best books I can.
Do you view writing as a collaborative process between you and the editor?
No! I write. She makes suggestions. I choose to ignore or revise. The only way in which I see it as collaborative is that we have to trust each other. I once had an editor who said there was nothing wrong with a piece of work. I couldn’t trust her judgement after that: I felt she couldn’t have either known enough or cared enough.
Have you ever had a big disagreement about a change your editor wanted to make?
No. We’ve sometimes disagreed on small points but in the end she knows it’s my writing; I’m the one with the name on the cover, the one who’ll get the reviews, so in the end it’s my decision.
Has anything about the editing process ever surprised you?
The only thing that surprises me, to be honest, is that any writer would not welcome an editor’s eye. I love being edited but then I love revising!
You’ve written books for many ages, from developing readers to YA readers and grown-ups. Has your experience of those genres been different from an editing point of view?
I don’t believe so. You might think that editing books for younger readers would need to be more ruthless, but if the writer fully understands the readers and the medium, the editing is no different.
As someone who also writes a blog for aspiring authors, what do you tell them about editing?
First, I tell them how much I abhor the “oh, but editing destroys the creative integrity” rubbish. If you want to be read and enjoyed, if you want your words to have as much power as possible, and certainly if you want to be published, welcome editing. Then, I tell them that putting your work out there unedited is like going out of the house half-dressed, having not looked in the mirror to check that you don’t have porridge on your face, or washed to make sure you don’t smell. And if you would do those things, remind me neither to buy your book nor sit close to you on a train. Finally, if you want someone to tell you your writing is perfect, ask your mother; if you want to know what’s wrong with it, ask an editor.
What’s the one thing every editor must understand?
The rhythm of an individual writer’s words.
—Nicola Morgan is the author of around ninety books: her latest young adult novel, WASTED, was nominated for the Carnegie Medal as well as winning or being short-listed for many other awards. Thanks to the grumpily honest advice on her renowned blog, Help! I Need a Publisher!, she dominates the Google rankings for the phrase Crabbit Old Bat. She has been Chair of the Society of Authors in Scotland, an English teacher, dyslexia specialist, entrepreneur, professional cook, pillow-case repairer and trainee turkey plucker (failed). She lives in Edinburgh and on chocolate.