One of my favorite contemporary writers is Nelson DeMille. I’ve often discussed UP COUNTRY in my Newsletters and that I consider this a work of Literature, it’s that well written and thought-provoking. I don’t know of a writer who is better at holding a reader’s interest, which is no easy task in a book such as UP COUNTRY, which contains in the neighborhood of 200,000 words. I continue to marvel at how he kept the single most crucial plot element (in my opinion) “cloaked” until the very end. But I have a different reason for discussing Mr. DeMille at this time, and it’s because I picked up a copy of his latest book, RADIANT ANGEL–and while I bought Anthony Doerr’s ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE–I was interested in the acknowledgments in RA, since Mr. DeMille recently switched book agents after being with Nicholas Ellison for as long as I can remember, and I wanted to read his remarks regarding ICM, the agency he’s now with.
As I was scanning the acknowledgments, I started counting the number of different editors he publicly lauded—and there were five. And he spent a year and a half writing and revising the text! There’s a “story” here, and it doesn’t concern RA. It’s that this fellow is a really fine writer, yet he’s willing to admit that his work benefits from other skilled eyes parsing his text. I use a copyeditor for almost everything I line-edit. And I utilize this person’s talents for my Newsletter, always making it clear to subscribers that any errors are almost always the result of my ridiculous tinkering after the copyedited draft has been returned to me.
In the world of fiction, in some quarters there’s a weirdly misguided stigma regarding editors. Or, I should say, needing an editor. It’s crazy, and there’s no other way to put it. Maybe one in a million writers possesses the skill to assess what should or should not be self-edited. But Joyce Carol Oates is the only name fiction writer I’m aware of who claims everything written by her is edited by her. And I put this right up there with Nora Roberts writing all her own books. If I’m wrong I’m wrong, but my experience dictates that none of us sees what we write in the same vein that we can see what someone else writes. It’s the nature of the way our minds work, and there have been all sorts of studies that explain what can be classified as a phenomenon of sorts.