I’ve been going over the edits from my copyeditor. Most of them are routine, but the first 10,000 words contain a fascinating lesson.
Some background: to start I commissioned only 10,000 words as a test, so I could get a sample of his work and so he could give me an accurate quote. He edited the first few scenes, and since I liked what I saw, I paid him to do the full thing. I didn’t have the time to implement all the suggestions he had for the first 10,000 words though, so I sent him the full manuscript unedited, and said he could skip those first 10,000 to avoid doing them again.
He did them again anyway, and therein lies a fascinating comparison.
I now have two edits done by the same person on the same story, and they’re not the same. Seems obvious upon saying it, but the devil is in the details. Sometimes there are perfectly understandable reasons for editing it one way this time and another way the next, differences introduced in the surrounding text that necessitate a different tact.
But usually not. Usually it seems almost like a whim, like one time he felt this was right, and the next time something else was.
And that’s great! It reminds me of something we all “know”, but sometimes forget: writing is not a science. It’s an art. There is no objective best. It’s all subjective, and what sounds right this time may not sound right the next. Sometimes there are multiple best answers.
That’s enormously freeing. It means I don’t have to worry about being perfect, because there are multiple ways to be perfect. I just have to worry about doing the work as best I can, and finishing the book so I can start the next one.
There are multiple ways to be right. It’s not a black-and-white world. That’s huge.
When there’s no perfect to chase after, you don’t have to worry about it anymore. And when you stop worrying about being perfect, you can focus on being brilliant.
Another interesting fact: in plenty of cases, the two edits are identical. When faced with the same situation two times, my editor often made the same decision. That tells me he’s good at what he does, and I should listen to him. Rather than freeing, that’s reassuring.