The book-making process is, crucially, a conversation between author and editor, and openness and honesty at all stages of that conversation is essential to doing justice to your work. Hold fast to your convictions around what your book can be, of course; it’s important to work with an agent and an editor who make you feel heard on that score. I’ll say, too, that the authors of the books I’m most proud of are also equally receptive to unexpected reactions, and willing to engage with them meaningfully. Honesty with yourself is a prerequisite.
I love working with writers of narrative nonfiction because that sense of conversation and collaboration is very much alive from the start. Your vision is taking shape in real time. Between the proposal and manuscript-delivery stages, there’s a lot of opportunity to toss ideas around, to mold the narrative like a ball of clay, to think critically about what serves the narrative and what detracts from it. The more you embrace that developmental process, and bring radical transparency and vulnerability to it even before your delivery date, the stronger your book will be—and the more confidently you’ll be able to stand by it. Writing (and editing!) can be an isolating experience, but it doesn’t have to be.
—Ivy Givens, associate editor, Mariner Books