Daniel Boone and Book Edits

        Right now my book is being reviewed by potential editors.  My agent is very particular about this choice.  He knows all authors have to have a good editor.  The trick is to find one who the author can work with.  (We writers can be a prickly sort, you know)  He wants someone to nudge it in the right direction without taking away the book’s unique voice.  (He says he’s never met anyone like me!)

        The process brought to mind a discussion at the Southern Writer’s Conference in Chattanooga.  Robert Morgan and his editor Shannon Ravenel were on the stage together to talk about the process of editing a book.  It was clear to me the two had the chemistry to work together to take  the project to the highest level possible before publication.  I listened closely.  If a world class writer like Robert Morgan needs some help, I knew I was gonna need a lot.

        I was quite moved by Dr. Morgan’s discussion of Daniel Boone.  Afterwards I bought his book.  I haven’t finished it yet, but I think it is safe to say he knows more about Daniel Boone then any man alive.  I also enjoyed his discussion of the relationship of Boone and Native Americans.  Contrary to pop culture legend, Boone was a great friend to the native people.  Morgan said with the possible exception of Sam Houston, Boone was closer to Native Americans than any other white man in American history.

          Morgan was very careful to depict the lives of Native Americans  (and everything else in his book) with great accuracy.  I felt a bit of bond with him on this.  My friend Indie was part Native American.  He once told me he was very proud there was some Choctaw on his mama’s side.  But he was afraid  folks would think he was trying to exploit his heritage, and he didn’t talk about it much.

        Shannon Ravenel is the big time N.Y.C. editor who worked with Dr. Morgan on ‘Boone.’  I was fascinated.  This man is a scholar.  He spent many years in research.  He is the world’s number one authority on Daniel Boone.  And yet even a man of this stature worked together with a tireless editor to get his project into shape for print.  No man (or woman) is an island in this book world.

        At one point she acknowledged his strength was at times also his weakness.  She said something like “for a man like Robert Morgan every detail is important.  It was hard to edit the manuscript to make it work for the general reader and still honor the integrity of his mission to show the full story of Daniel Boone.”  (paraphrased)

        My agent looked over at me with a wry grin.  I knew what he was thinking.  When I send him my first draft, he sent it back with the note:  “Has potential, but every farmer knows the hard work begins when you start to chop the cotton.”

        I drew a picture of a cotton boll and passed it his way.

        He sent back a note.  “Chop, Chop.”

        I figure if Robert Morgan needs an editor Lord knows I do.  I guess what Ms. Ravenel was saying is a book is like a good mandolin piece.  Just cause you know a note doesn’t mean you have to use every one in your solo.  Doc Watson is my favorite flat pick guitar man, and I have always said his genius is from not only the notes he plays but also the ones he has the wisdom to leave out. 

        After the talk, I saw Dr. Morgan sitting on a bench outside the auditorium.  I introduced myself and asked him if he would sign my copy of his book.  I told him how much I liked what he had to say, and he was almost shy in his response.  “Well, thank you so much,  I hope you enjoy the book.”

        “Yes, sir.  I’m sure I will.”

        I am certain everyone at the conference would love to have Ms. Ravenel as an editor.  She has been at it fifty years (she must have started to work in kindergarten) and only does a few projects a year.  I think Ms. Ravenel drew the best out of Dr. Morgan like a good producer can do on a recording project.   (Good example:  ask Dale Ann Bradley about working with Alison Brown at Compass Records)

        Y’all know me well enough to know like Dr. Morgan I’m a bit shy too.  (Ha!)   I know I can’t draw Ms. Ravenel, but I do hope I get one like her.  I’m not a bit afraid of criticism.  If a writer like Dr. Morgan has to be collaborative to get his book to press, then I know for a fact Tom Bibey better be the same way.

        I will keep you posted on the progress of my story.  It might be baby steps, but it continues to move in the right direction.  When it finally comes out I want it to be the best this old country boy can do.  After all, you wouldn’t want your Doc to be any other way, huh?

Dr. B

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12 Comments on “Daniel Boone and Book Edits”

  1. Karen Says:

    Dr B., your attitude is fantastic and I agree with you wholeheartedly. There are people around with more expertise in their field than you or I could ever hope to have. If we allow them to be brutally honest with us, they will help our words sparkle. Even though I’m very new to this business and my first publishing project fell over due to external forces, what I did learn was to trust my editor/publisher. The illustrator they selected would not have been my choice, but she was absolutely brilliant and brought more depth to my story than I could have possibly imagined. I too am more than happy to follow the lead of those more experienced than I. Isn’t this learning process fun?! Can’t wait to hear what happens for you and your Mandolin Case next.

  2. drtombibey Says:

    Ms. Karen,

    Your timing is great. I saw on FaceBook you were back on-line and I was gonna give you a shout-out today to say I’m glad you are well and thriving. I read your post.

    Yeah, the whole journey has been fun, and I am learning as I go. ‘The Mandolin Case’ is a microcosm of my life; one big collaboration.

    Dr. B


  3. Dr. B, I have to agree with Karen – you’ve got a great attitude towards this whole process and it makes me smile with envy to see the ease and modesty with which you admit to needing help and accepting criticism if it comes your way.
    I hope you’re blessed with an editor who manages to help make your book the best it can be while still being compatible to what you want and what you mean it to be. Editors are probably not the easiest creatures to work with, and yet with the attitude you have, I think you’re going to be every editors dream. Baby steps are steps nonetheless, and they’re the first steps you take so they’re pretty darned important.

  4. drtombibey Says:

    msslightly,

    When I hear from young people like you, it makes me realize a very important thing about this whole process. Learning something new makes me feel young, even if chronology says otherwise.

    I figure I’ll find the right editor. Perhaps it will be a young person who wants to help me like my kids did with technology. What I learned about computers came from them. When I was in High School we used a slide rule.

    You go burn ‘em up in college young lady.

    Dr. B

  5. drtombibey Says:

    Jeff,

    Hey thanks for the visit. I am at the stage where I have a manuscript completed. We had it read in a small test market and the responses were good. I have an agent and he has started to talk to Publishers.

    We are looking for the right editor, as either with a Publisher or self-published it will still need to go through that process before it is ready for print.

    I plan to have it out there sometime in 2010. I started to write in 2000, and on this MS in 2002, so it has been a long but fun journey.

    The book is titled ‘The Mandolin Case.’ The story is a bit of a complicated saga, but it is about the truth in medicine as discovered via the arts and the bluegrass music community, rather than by science.

    Dr. B

  6. twoblueday Says:

    I come via mrschili’s blog, you may have seen my comments there.

    Yesterday, I went into Home Depot, it was pouring rain, and the joint was empty. A guy was there flogging air conditioners, and he had a mandolin in a little stand on top of one. So, naturally, I stopped to speak.

    It was a “Flatiron” mandolin he said he’d picked up at auction for, I think, $2000. We discussed music, and I thought of you, and mentioned your name. He asked if you were related to another Bibey of bluegrass music note. Since I didn’t know, I’m asking you.

    I play guitar myself, occasionally in public, but not bluegrass, more fingerstyle.

    • drtombibey Says:

      TwoBlue,

      Hey thanks for the visit. Your friend was likely referring to Alan Bibey. I know Alan well, and he is a great player. We don’t think we are related, although I always kid him he is my 6th cousin on my mama’s side. Sometimes you will see him call me ‘cuz.’ Alan was World Champion at the Knoxville World’s Fair in 1982, so he has been a fine player a long time. These day he plays with a crowd called Grasstowne. Visit his website and tell him Dr. B said hello.

      Flatiron is a very fine mandolin. They made these in Montana in the 80s and 90s. Two guys, Steve Carlson, and then Bruce Weber, were the luthiers. When Gibson bought the Flatiron line they moved that part of the operation to Nashville. Bruce Weber stayed behind in Montana and continued to build under the name of Weber mandolin. (or Sound to Earth) They are very fine instruments.

      Now there is a Flatiron made in China. These are also good, but I am partial to the Montana era ones.

      I bet your friend did good at auction. If he got a Montana era F5 Flatiron for 2000.00, esp if an Artist model, he did extra good.

      Dr. B

  7. Danny Fulks Says:

    I turned in a manuscript one time to an editor, a sports story. I bragged I had not used the word “fan” one time. He said, “Don’t worry, we’ll find a place to add it once or twice.” My kind of editor. Common to editors: they like their magazine or potential of the book more than they do the writer.

    • drtombibey Says:

      Dr. Fulks,

      Ah Lawd, I reckon the editor saga will be another chapter in my journey.

      Hope all is well with you. Saw the Bensons last week and they are all fine.

      Dr. B

  8. Felix Miller Says:

    Yes, I think editors are very necessary to successful writers. There was an Asheville writer who had a famous author-editor partnership, Thomas Wolfe. The great editor Maxwell Perkins of Scribners worked with Wolfe reducing the huge manuscripts of Look Homeward, Angel and Of Time and the River into (slightly) smaller and better organized works.

    I sometimes go back and read some things that seemed very fine, when first written, and cringe. God knows what an editor would make of those things. *sigh*

    Hope you find an editor who works well with you,

    Regards,
    Felix Miller

    • drtombibey Says:

      Felix,

      Books are so much like recording projects. It takes a lot of good input to get them right. When you go back and listen to the early takes, it can be hard to imagine how you thought it was O.K.

      It will take a little more time, but I am confident it’ll get there.

      Dr. B


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