Finding Alan Rinzler — My Developmental Editor

I needed professional help, and got way more than I bargained for.

I’m my own worst editor. As a writer, I know what I mean; I know how I want it to sound; I remember what I’ve cut long after I’ve removed it, and I know what I want to add before I add it. The creative process gets jumbled with layers of memory and intent, mixed with recent changes, pervaded throughout by me—alone—knowing that devil I’m trying to say.

It takes another person, with no previous familiarity with the manuscript, to figure out what I’ve actually written, and identify the shortcomings, omissions, and other problems. I’m often shocked by what those editors find, but fear of embarrassment is a terrible reason to abstain from the process.

So…I embrace it.

I found my first two editors for “Hash 207” through the Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance. I edited their full-length manuscripts, and they edited mine. I learned a lot, and sent the sixth draft to yet another editor: someone intimately familiar with the settings and struggles in “Hash 207.”

But it was still too long. Too ambitious. Too…much. So I sought Jedi-level professional help.

Google searches for the editors and agents behind several of my favorite authors, at least those who write for similar audiences as I do, kept turning up the name Alan Rinzler.

As a developmental editor, he’s worked in New York at Simon and Schuster, Macmillan, Holt, the Grove Press, and was the editor-in-chief of the Rolling Stone’s Straight Arrow Books. He’d edited and published Toni Morrison, and my heroes Hunter S. Thompson, Clive Cussler, and Tom Robbins, and miraculously, wrote back to me.

We formed a plan for “Hash 207”: scrap it, and rewrite the best parts of the central story.

We spent a year outlining that story and telling it from a clean, fresh page, to the final period 87,500 words later.

I learned a lot. The story coalesced in a marvelous way. I’m glad I had the courage to reach for an editor of Alan’s caliber. Though the process was brutally humbling, I’m much better off for engaging with it…and so is “Hash 207.”