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Working with Writing—Working with Writers | Part 1


by Alice Day

Book Editing Associates



The writer-editor relationship is like no other because your editor is your advocate and is by your side to help you realize your vision, lending a critical eye when your eyes have become misty from spending too much time looking at your own words.

How though, you might wonder, does the editor work with the writer? Let me share with you how I worked with a specific writer on two books. The first novel that this writer hired me to help her with was a historical one that she had been working on for around four years. She had already found a literary agent who had been submitting the manuscript to publishing houses that were passing on it. Anyone could see how alluring the manuscript was—strong characters, heartrending conflict, and it took place during a fascinating historical period. My job as a book editor is to identify the problem—why would such a rich book not be swooped up? Even though it had much going for it, if you want to publish through the traditional route, everything much be “perfect”—the book needed line editing, there were too many characters, and a major relationship needed honing. I identified the issues, line edited the manuscript, wrote a detailed editorial letter, and then sent the material to the writer so that we could discuss her revision. We had a long discussion about the characters and how to develop and clarify relationships, which ones were central to the narrative and why. Sharpening the focus of relationships and tightening language did it (as well as cutting out a character) and the book found a publisher. The author’s next book was a much different experience. More about that soon…

Read Part 2 here.

About the Author

Alice is the author of eight collections of poetry published by Spuyten Duyvil, Copper Canyon Press, Sun & Moon Press (National Poetry Series Award winner), and (Potes & Poets Press. A bilingual collection of her poetry has been published in Germany by Verlag im Waldgut (translator, Hans Jürgen Balmes). She has written the libretto for OVIDIANA, an opera based on Ovid’s METAMORPHOSES (composer, Matthew Greenbaum) that has been performed in New York City and Philadelphia. She has collaborated with David Rosenboom on AH! OPERA NO-OPERA, a pioneering collective work, that’s been co-composed and performed by creators from around the globe.

She has been a recipient of the New York Foundation for the Arts, the Fund for Poetry, and the American Academy of Poets Award. She is a contributing editor of the literary journal CONJUNCTIONS.

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