Friday, August 20, 2010

You Want Me to What? Working With an Editor

Writing a book is one of the most enjoyable experiences I've had. But, as with most things, there are aspects of completing the work that are less enjoyable. For example, I enjoy my work as a social worker. The paperwork, however, makes me want to scream at times. As writers, getting the story onto paper (or into the computer) is only the beginning. We then enter into the process of critiquing, rewriting, editing, rewriting....

When my first book was published, I looked forward to the editing process with anticipation. It was one more step toward becoming a 'real' writer, one of the benchmarks I'd set for myself. I received my manuscript with a note from the editor--she liked my story, but... Then I scanned all the red notations in my book. It looked as though she'd slit a major artery! She had noted that these were 'suggestions' and that it was up to me to decide what I wanted to change and what I left as I'd originally written.

I did the math on this one. I was a first-time author--green. She was a seasoned editor. I seriously considered every suggestion and accepted all but one. And it paid off.

An editor gives your manuscript a fresh, first look. She or he has not been immersed in your story for months ad nauseum. The editor can give your book a completely objective review and not only find the little nits you've missed, but will view your story in its entirety, assess its readability, plot consistency, and your characters' likability.

A good editor will improve your already perfect (in your mind, at least) manuscript. A seasoned, talented, professional editor is worth his or her weight in gold. She will oft times save you from yourself.

I've been asked what you do if you don't feel you can work with the editor assigned to you or if you don't feel the editor is doing justice to your book. I don’t think this happens often, but it can happen. The first thing I would do is dialogue with the editor about my concerns. If the problem can't be resolved, take your concern to the next level, be that a senior editor or the publisher. But be reasonable and professional. Sometimes a change can be made that will create a better fit with you and for your manuscript. When we treat one another with respect and as professionals, most things can be resolved by talking it through.

My advice: When you have a good editor, give her suggestions serious consideration. Read the text from her perspective. And don't be defensive. If you don't like a particular suggestion or choose not to change something, simply say so and clarify your reason for leaving things as they are. An editor is a valuable tool, but she's also a human being. Treat her as such and nurture the relationship. If she's good at what she does, she will make your manuscript shine!

Happy writing!

Linda Rettstatt
http://www.lindarettstatt.com/

12 comments:

Big Mike said...

Couldn't agree more, Linda. I feel the same with my editor (Cindy Davis). I think in five novels, I've only dug my heels in once. Amazing how fresh eyes with talent can make such a difference. And the quantity of blood has decreased with each book, not because I wear her out, but because I learned so much from her with the other stories.

Michael Davis (Davisstories.com)
Author of the Year, (2008 and 2009)

Linda Kage said...

Amen! Good editors are worth their weight in gold. Actually, I've yet to have an editor that's actually given me bad advice. But I've had some that I wish would've been just a little more critical on me. I just love a good challenge from an editor!

Ellen said...

I'll remember you said that, Linda K!

Allison Knight said...

My editors have usually been great. I add the usually because with my very first book she wanted the beginning shortened, the middle lengthened and the ending changed. I refused to change the ending.(grinning) But she was one hundred percent on the beginning and the middle. But you are the author and the final decision must be yours. (I still like the ending of that first book)

Ciara Gold said...

I've had two of the best editors and usually incorporate all of their suggestions. And I really like the process. First round edits for me involve just a general overview with plot problems. Next comes the line edits and anything else of concern. And last, the ARC which allows me one more time to fix problems I find.

With my upcoming release, I'm getting a new editor but I've heard great things about her so I'm looking forward to the experience.

linda_rettstatt said...

I subbed once to a different publishing house and the editor requested the ms and responded that she loved the book--then gave me suggestions for totally rewriting the story to make it 'fit' better with the books they published. Uh-huh. Then it was her story. I graciously declined and took the book elsewhere. I've been very fortunate with the editors I've worked with at three publishing houses. Real gems.

Julie Eberhart Painter said...

I agree that editors are an essential part of the publishing stew. They know how to take out the lumps and work the story into a cohesive presentation.

I seldom disagree with what they want to change or rearrange.

Julie Eberhart Painter

Harvey said...

Editing is part of the writing process. I've worked with four editors from four publishers, and found that all of them are looking for the best in what they are working on. I tried editing and discovered that diplomatic and straightforward critism is an art. As an author you can always disagree, but you should always listen.

Victoria Roder said...

I could have cried, or maybe I did when I saw all those comments on my first edit. I wondered if she liked anything! But, there were positive comments mixed in there, too. I took what I learned and applied it to my second book BEFORE I sent it in and that made the second edit much less painful. Never stop learning.

linda_rettstatt said...

The three editors with whom I've worked have all been great about making both positive comments and suggesting changes. And they usually give a reason for any significant changes. That's a true learning process that gives me info to store for future writing.

Ashley Barnard said...

I've learned so much too, and it's humbling seeing how a phrase or passage can be transformed when you thought it was good before. I really enjoyed the learning process on becoming a better writer, even if my manuscript did need a tourniquet...

Rhobin said...

Your advice is sound. I have been so lucky to be blessed with three really great editors. I've heard horror stories about other authors' experiences.