The thought of completing a full-length story was daunting. Keeping track of the threads, developing the narrative flow – these were foreign skills. I had managed to write 360 pages on my own, but needed serious help slashing and burning the chaff. Not to mention reworking the shape of it. This much I knew.
In my search for an editor, I turned to one of my oldest and closest friends. Nancy Unsworth graciously agreed to work on the manuscript with me, but hijacked the whole thing, really. She insisted on our taking about 80 pages from my manuscript for this first of what she claimed needed to be two books.
I had been looking to simply cut 125 pages from what I’d written (and had a major publisher interested in) when I solicited her help. Because Nancy knew me so well, she balked at what had been left out of my story. Emboldened by her classical training and by the agreement of several literary types, she forced many detailed stories out of me and lent her great thoughtfulness and skill to the work.
We shaped the subsequent chapters together. Whenever I wanted to slip into lazy writing, her teacherly retort compelled me to back up my assertions with anecdotes that showed what I would have been content to “tell.” I was a reluctant convert to the idea that readers need to know who they’re following into unknown places. A diverse number of readers have conspired to agree with her perspective.
It occurred to me that choosing humility – not an attribute I come by naturally – would mean a book that profited from our very different strengths. I recommend collaboration heartily, especially for those who need an objective overview of their work or who know they don’t possess all that it takes to create something wonderful.
It is easy to admit that, with her help, Poking Chocolates is a far superior read. Partnering with someone who is strong in those areas in which you feel weak, though inevitably challenging, is quite rewarding. I found the other half of my brain in Nancy, and I hope you’ll find yourselves pulled along by the fruit of our synergy.