Sunday, January 23, 2011

Hate Editors? Writers?

Do you feel at times like pulling your hair out? Does that migraine hit you hard when you get the edits back from your editor? Feel all stressed out?

Now why do you feel like that?

I've been wondering this for a while now and have a few theories I'd like to pass on to you.

CAUTION: This post is not for the faint at heart. If you don't like to hear the truth then skip this post and move on to another blog.

1- There are different writers out there - the serious writers and the wannabe writers. Nothing new in this information. The biggest difference is that the serious writers absorb suggestions from their editors and contemplate them, analyzing the different ways it will improve their manuscripts. In other words, they work as partners, not against each other. They may debate a chapter or scene, but it's a healthy discussion of pros and cons for the over all enhancement of the manuscript. No egos involved. No hurt feelings. If feelings are going to get hurt at this stage, imagine the devastating emotional roller-coaster ride once negative reviews begin to enter the picture. Editors are there to try and avoid the latter.

The wannabes know it all and prefer to email or call their editors to ask them why they dared to suggest a change in a scene when it was working just fine the way it was written. Hmmm...can you say NOT BEING OBJECTIVE? I will add more to this thought in my closing below.

2- But let's give writers some leeway - there are horrible editors out there who have a title and proud of it, but have no clue what industry standards are, what publishers are seeking, or how to bloody begin editing a manuscript, let alone what to look for in the editing stage. This worries me. Why? Because writers are duped into thinking their manuscripts are in good hands, and they trust what these 'editors' have to say. It's like one of my daughter's grade four teacher where parents complained constantly about her poor teaching methods. We trust the educational system to teach our children. Writers trust their editors to improve their manuscripts.

3- Which brings me to my closing and a few more words I'm biting back to be diplomatic about.

The writers who are not objective are like that perhaps of the vast number of publishers out there now who are more interested in getting tons of books in their bookstores than really caring about the quality of the books they are dishing out to the general public. Remember this is only my own theory and not based on fact, so allow me my little rant here.

Where was I...oh yes...getting back to the writers who are not objective. These writers may be published, were told they had a good manuscript, little editing was needed, and voila, they are published authors. But I can't help but wonder:
  • if these authors were given editors who knew to explain to them why they can't headhop from one paragraph to the next
  • if these authors were shown by their editors how to eliminate the passive telling voice
  • if these authors had the opportunity to flesh out their characters and make them memorable to their readers
  • if these authors had editors who understood the elements of a good beginning, eliminating backstory and descriptive details that only bog down the read from the start
  • if these authors had a chance to grow as writers because of their editors
 So I don't fault a writer most of the time because I just assume the editors they may have had in the past just didn't know how to mentor and allow these writers to improve their craft.

What I do despise with a passion, however, is when a writer turns around and says that 'so-and-so does it in her book and her publisher said it was okay, so therefore I'm going to do the same thing' - this annoys me because not every publisher has the same standards. If so-and-so's publisher wants crap just to rob readers and stagnate a writer's ability to perfect their craft, why jump off that same bridge and die? Your present publisher is demanding higher standards, be happy for that.

Writers and editors need to work together, period! Editors should not change a writer's voice. Writers should not eagerly dismiss what their editors suggest. The confusion between a good partnership happens because of past editors and the mishaps writers may have gone through with them.

And the reason some writers get headaches is because of the confused state they are in, listening to contradicting comments and suggestions from one editor to the next. Other than unique writing voices, there are elements in a story that should not be ignored nor overlooked.

The moral of this post? Live and learn.


Jim Hartley said...

Working with Muse, I am learning what a good editing job can do for a book. I don't always agree with what the editor says, but it does always make me think about why I wrote something a particular way, and decide if it does need to be changed. Sometimes the editor is right, sometimes the editor is wrong, but what the editor says should always be listened to and given serious consideration. I definitely want to be considered one of the serious writers!

Roseanne Dowell said...

Great article, Lea. I couldn't agree more. I've had bad editors. One was so bad and I disagreed so vehemently, they cancelled my contract, which was okay with me. I didn't want a story filled with adverbs because the editor thought that was how you showed a story. I like strong verbs, actins, and thoughts to show my story. Of course, I have the best editor Muse has to offer.

Karen Cote said...

This is why I'm so excited that I was accepted at Muse. You were my first choice from the beginning. I LOVE to write. I need someone to help my readers LOVE to read it. Lea's honesty and genuine caring about the big picture (all of us) including readers is the success of Muse. I realize my first edit will be painful but I embrace it for the success it will bring.


Pat McDermott said...

Well said, Lea. Good points. I've been in writing groups whose members argued with critiques and suggestions for their stories. They stated things like "My favorite writer writes this way, and this is how I want it." Clearly, the purpose of belonging to the group was to hear how great their stories were, which they weren't. I couldn't help wondering what would happen when (and if) they worked with an editor.

Barbara Ehrentreu said...

Lea, I totally agree about serious writers and wannabes. My novel went through a lot of readers and I tried to incorporate their suggestions most of the time. With my Muse editor I did have a few times when we didn't see eye to eye but the editor is looking at your writing for the first time. You know your characters and sometimes the writer needs to make changes but they may not be the ones the editor wanted.

I have been on the other side as an editor and have seen authors make changes that I had never thought about and they worked. There is a relationship between editor and writer.

Joe Douglas Trent said...

In our little critique group, we have folks come and go after one or two sessions. Sometimes they defend their work or they sit stiffly while someone talks bad about their baby. We try to stress it's not about the writer, it's about the work and making it better. Let that ego hit the road.

Rosalie Skinner said...

Having an editor look at your work from a different viewpoint might highlight reoccuring or subtle problems. An open mind is always needed when we are learning a craft.
I relish the editing process. The comments and help coming from a skilled editor help me grow as a writer.
I know I still have a lot ot learn. Yesterday I spent a few hours pondering new ways to tighten my writing voice and storytelling skills. It never ends. A second opinion, a helping hand... is just a bonus.
Critique groups are wonderful, but an editor is your final line of defence against the world of discerning readers.
Standing shoulder to shoulder with one of the Muse editors has to be the best possible way forward.

Wendy said...

Forego ego! I couldn't agree more, Lea. Once the story is written, it's the future reader we consider first. When a critiquer takes the time to comment or suggest changes in my work, I know this is a problem spot that might balk a reader, so I re-examine it. Even a little polish brings satisfaction. I can't wait to meet my editor who will help me buff my novel to a high sheen.

Cyrus Keith said...

My goodness, I can't possibly agree more with this. My content editor almost always asked for(never demanded) changes that enhanced and added power and energy to my work. Together, we knocked out about 3,000 words and tightened the work into a slam-bang thriller that will certainly make someone's hot-selling list.

Randall Lang said...

I've seen editors described as gin swilling, fire breathing monsters who chew up pristine maunscripts and generate vanilla. Personally, I've never met an editor who did anything but greatly improve the overly wordy, passive voiced
disasters that I submit. I love my editor, she's there to save me from my own dragon.