This blog post is about a very talented lady named Helen. Helen is an editor and, being new to this writing gig, I had no idea how effective these people can be. She was so effective that I named a character after her.
If you’ve read my other posts, you know I’m not a writing professional. I’m an architect with an interest in writing. I knew it was important to involve an editor, so I did so because I wanted to put out the best product I could possibly produce. Helen was the very fortunate result. Even in familiar architectural work, I would want an “extra pair of eyes”, as we say. In the context of a writing project, I had no idea of specifically what they do, and I was especially unaware of the terrific insights they can provide, especially if you are fortunate enough to wind up with one as good as Helen.
Copy editing involves looking at the big picture; characterization, tone, point of view, plot development and organization of the work. I know now that it is incredibly easy for a writer to put on blinders and totally miss an aspect of the story that really should have been obvious. In my case, it was Helen, Eric’s ex-wife, mother to Eric’s daughter Krissie and grandmother to Dottie. Real life Helen pointed out it was necessary say something about fictional Helen. It was a big hole in the characterization of the book.
I hope real life Helen reads this some day. As a result of her insight, I had to think about the back story of Eric and Helen. The result added a lot of color to the existing characters, an interesting new character and a satisfying resolution to why they are now apart. As I developed the back story of Helen and Eric, it tied nicely into Vietnam, which is already a big part of the story. It led to seeding various new bits and pieces throughout the novel that helped round it out.
Now, if you have read Tunnel Rat, knowing what you now know, I’d like to ask you a question. Did you have any inkling that the bits about Helen were added late in the process? I worked hard to try and add them seamlessly. But, thanks to Helen, I’ve learned that I have a very nice set of tight fitting blinders!