We all need writing help. In my last writing retreat, Deb Cavanaugh mentioned something that I didn’t know (not the first time). She said that Harper Lee was essentially not alone in writing To Kill a Mockingbird. Based on my own experience, I can believe it. Lee did write the first draft, then titled Go Set a Watchman, and it was purchased by J.B. Lippincott & Co. However, it was in need of a lot of work.
Therese von Hohoff Torrey, known as Tay Hohoff and a literary editor for Lippincott, was assigned as Lee’s editor. Over a period of nearly three years (yes three), Hohoff and Lee worked together to finish the book which Lee eventually re-titled To Kill a Mockingbird. Lee didn’t expect much, but after Reader’s Digest printed a condensed version, the book took off. It won a Pulitzer Prize and is still in print today, over fifty years after it was published in 1960.
The lesson I took from Deb and this story reminds me that there is a lot of work in writing a book and a lot of help is required. My editor, Tammy Salyer, has been my Tay Hohoff. I don’t expect my work to reach the heights of Harper Lee, but Tammy’s help is just as important. If you decide to write that book that has been banging around in your head, go ahead. But get the right help along the way. Find an editor like Tay or Tammy and make your work shine. Don’t imagine that you can do it all alone. And it will take some time. Be patient, remember Harper Lee.