Thursday, September 28, 2017

Watching an Editor at Work

... I asked Scott why he had been so rough on me the previous winter. “Sometimes my job is to be an asshole,” he explained with equanimity. I wasn’t startled at this. At one point on an earlier book, when I told him how stressed I was feeling, he had replied, a bit airily, I thought, “Oh, every good book has at least one nervous breakdown in it.”
Near the end of our lunch, Scott offered one more wise observation about the writing process: “The first draft is for the writer. The second draft is for the editor. The last draft is for the reader.”
At that lunch, he knew how grateful I was to him. Churchill and Orwell: The Fight for Freedom is a much better book for his powerful intervention. In retrospect, that first draft was herky-jerky and sometimes portentous. It also frequently was hard to read without rewarding the reader for making the effort. The final version, published in May of this year, pops right along.

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