Saturday, February 28, 2015

No Screaming - I'm Your Editor

Authors and editors should be partners, possess open discussions with civility and professionalism. Yet so many times we hear about authors who simply don’t want to change anything from their manuscript because ‘it’s good to go’, or editors who try to change an author’s voice because ‘that’s how the editor would have written it.’

Thankfully, these circumstances are few. Most of the authors and editors I know welcome the partnership to make sure the manuscript is as tight as tight can be.

That first round of edits is the hardest because the manuscript may be riddled with highlights, comments, red markings. It’s hard to see this, I know. But remember an editor is suggesting, not forcing changes. You, the author, need to keep an open mind and look at the criticism offered to you by stepping back as the author and now looking at the edits through the eyes of a reader, or better yet, an editor. Truly look at your editor’s comments and edits, trying to understand the reason behind their requests. If you don’t agree, then tell them why so they can understand. Work together. You may be thinking of a book 2 and that’s why you purposely omitted finalizing a few foreshadows. Your editor needs to know this. Editors are…well, editors, not crystal ball fortune tellers.

What does an editor look for?

They make sure there’s consistency in names/places/settings, plot holes, timelines are in check, POV, repetition of words/phrases, characters are fully developed, dialogue patterns, removal of nonessential phrases/words, and more.  With this long list it’s a certainty that they’ll find something to edit and ask for you to revisit and change. 

Some editors are more diplomatic than others, true, but what’s more important is the detailed edits they are suggesting. Look at them carefully, analyze them from a reader’s POV because your editor is your reader. Remember that editors are there to help you present your best work, right the first time.

For a writer, long character descriptive details may seem important, but readers nowadays want to get to the nitty gritty. If you’ve described your character once there’s no need to continue talking about their brown hair, or baby blue eyes constantly. It’s repetitive, nearing to the point of drowning a scene with, yes, I’ll say it, boring details not crucial to move the book forward.

But let me backtrack for a sec…just because your editor requested a scene deletion or partial deletion, you need to explain to them why you put it in there: to set up the next book, a tie-in at the end, etc. Don’t just hit delete then get all fired up that you didn’t want to remove that scene. Talk to your editor. As I began this post, your editor is your partner. It must be a two-way street of back and forth discussion to better understand both sides of the coin, yours and your editor’s.  

One thing to remember is this: the world wide net is vast, posts remain there indefinitely, so the discussions and disagreements between you and your editor should be at the highest professional platform and not badmouthed on social networks. And this goes for editors as well as for authors. If you have a severe enough problem with your editor, not only a disagreement because your editor is requesting changes you don’t agree with but haven’t told them yet, first make sure to try and solve it with your editor. But if the two of you are a wrong match, then contact your publisher or head editor, let them know what the situation is, and they’ll be there to help you out, or at least, they should.

So I’ll end with these 2 notes:

1- editors and authors are partners
3- Editors & authors--keep an open communication, professional standard at all times.


JoanCurtis said...

Great tips, Lea. I tweeted, FB'ed, etc. This would make a very good LinkedIn post. Meantime, I'll repost to my network several times.

Marie Laval said...

You are right, Lea. A successful relationship between an editor and an author cannot exist without dialogue and trust. I had a wonderful experience with all my editors at MuseitUp and can only praise their support, advice and professionalism.

Susan Bernhardt said...

Consistency in a series is important. If an author liked and had the same content editor for the first couple of books in a series, I think it is important that they have the same content editor for the following novels. The content editor gets and understands the author's voice, the way the author wants to come across to the reader. They will support the above on future books.

I enjoyed my content editor that I had for my first two books.

Barbara Ehrentreu said...

I agree with everything you said here. Having been on both sides as both an editor and an author being edited I appreciate the idea of an editor not slashing your work. All of the the editors with whom I have worked at Muse have been careful to suggest and never to push their idea at me. I loved my first editor and though I have only met the line editor of my last book I know that he "got" me. Being an editor means that you have to take your author's feelings into account. I always edit with that in mind and put my suggestions in the comments. All of the authors with whom I have worked definitely appreciated that! it's like anything else you do in life. The last two notes really sum up what this relationship is all about.

anne stenhouse said...

Wise words, Lea. The editors I've worked with in MuseItUp have been fantastic. anne stenhouse

jean hart stewart said...

Correct on all counts...

Anonymous said...

Lea - I agree with your points. I've loved all of my editing experiences with the MIU editors and authors.

And it did feel like a partnership and I know my story was stronger because of their wisdom:)

I also have been on both sides - editor and author...and I've totally loved the editing process wearing both hats:)