A magician with words


When you finish writing a book you think the work is mostly done, but in the last few years I’ve learned this is far from  true – most of the work is still there for you to do it, as your editor tells you to rewrite and rewrite again. And finally, when he is satisfied and he works on the pages you have sent him, and you see the final result, you wonder at how your story can be told in such an elegant, swift way, with less words but so much more meaning. And you see him as a magician, because what he does to your text is just that – pure magic. You may have a good story, but without a good editor, you’ll never have a great book.


I’ve known this for some time and I’m truly privileged to work with my editor – he has done so much more than editing my book; he has dared me to go beyond my limits, has patiently taught me many things about writing that I ignored; he has transformed my first draft, a sort of autobiography no one would be interested in reading – one of the reasons being that I’m not famous enough to write one – into a lively story that I believe our readers will find funny, romantic, crazy at times and serious at others, but above all entertaining.


Over this editing process we have become friends. We enjoy working together and have real fun. I believe we will look back to these years and miss those long hours of our videoconferences (we live in different cities), during which we discuss details of the story, research places and events, and close yet another chapter. And laugh together, too. I would be so sad to finish this book, if not for the fact that we have the draft of volume 2 waiting for us. And so many other projects.


Curiously, I have recently found this unique writer-editor relationship is not uncommon; or at least I have read a book where the author talks of his editor as someone really, really special in his life.


The book is by bestselling author Joel Dicker, who first became famous with “The Truth about the Harry Quebert Affair”, followed by “The Baltimore Boys”, and more recently “The Disappearance of Stephanie Mailer”, all of them unputdownable thrillers written with a very peculiar sense of humour. None to be missed.


Only a few days ago I saw his latest book in a bookshop “The Enigma of Room 622”. I had to buy it; I am a true Dicker fan and I immediately began reading the book. It is said to be the author’s “most personal book”, as he is, in fact, one of the characters. He dedicates it to his editor, who has passed away recently,  whom he calls “his friend and mentor”, adding that “may all the writers in the world know an editor as exceptional as he was”.


Along the book’s pages he remembers his editor and the lessons he has learnt from him. At a certain point he writes about the relationship between author and editor being like love. He says you can only truly love once, and he is adamant that after his editor there will be no one else. At least no one else like him.


I tend to agree with Joel Dicker. My book is no longer mine; it is ours, mine and my editor’s. It has become a common project, a common goal, it will be a common achievement. Hopefully – a common triumph. My story has become his, his words mine, each sentence, each chapter, indissoluble from either of us. Only the other day I told him, “I don’t know what I would have done without you,” and he modestly replied, “You’d have found someone else to help you,” but it’s not true. This book would never be the same without him. It would not happen without him, his genius and tireless work, and, why not, his friendship.


Joel Dicker’s words about his editor sounded so true, touching me deeply. As for the story, don’t lose it – again he builds a plot so compelling that you cannot take your eyes off the book’s pages. You want to, but you can’t. The scenery is beautiful, the rhythm amazing and the story clearly shows how small misunderstandings and lost opportunities may change your life – forever. With love and ambition at the centre of it all.


Back to editors – I believe they truly weave words into magic. At least some of them. Mine certainly does, as I believe Joel Dicker’s did. And when, as authors, we are privileged to have someone so special in our lives, we should definitely stop using the word editor and call them magicians with words, instead.


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