On working with an editor

www.inkthinkerblog.com — I really enjoyed this blog entry from Simon Haynes about the process of working with an editor to revise his manuscript.

This process is always dear to my heart, but it’s a bit more relevant for me this week. I just finished the first round of edits on an awesome memoir that will be coming out later this year, and the marked up manuscript is now in the author’s hands. I was a bit nervous sending it back to him because, quite frankly, he’s a first timer, and I was afraid he’d freak out when he saw how many changes there were. I didn’t rewrite the book or anything, but there were a lot of little things, and a couple of big things, too.

One suggestion that was of particular concern was that several very short chapters be combined into longer chapters in multiple places. I was expecting resistance on this one, but I was (and still am, if it comes down to it) prepared to fight for this one. “If you have trouble, or if this suggestion absolutely horrifies you,” I said in my cover letter, “let me know.”

So yeah, there were a lot of changes. But it’s an amazing book, and needing edits doesn’t make it any less awesome. I might even embrace the cliche and call it life changing. I love it. I’m proud to be associated with it. There were several parts I had to read over and over because I kept getting wrapped up in the story and forgot I was supposed to be editing instead of just reading.

The thing is, as Haynes alluded to in his post, a lot of authors panic when they get back “fourteen pages of notes and comments” from their respective editors. It shakes their confidence. They think that because there are changes required, the book must suck, and they must be terrible writers. That’s not the case. Well, okay, scratch that–sometimes, it’s the case. But not always.

The editor’s job is to make good things even better, and to keep you from getting in your story’s way. Your editor is drawing out the best parts of your story and helping you to better support them. So when you get those notes and changes back from any editor, remember that this is now the exciting part of the process. This is the part where your manuscript really starts turning into a book. Celebrate.
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Contents Copyright © 2006-2014 Kristen King

8 comments… add one
  • Aug 16, 2006

    I’ve found that it eases my authors’ anxiety when, early on in the manuscript, I place a note sincerely praising some aspect of the writing. This lets them know that I’m their ally and trying to help—rather than emotionally lash—them.

  • Aug 16, 2006

    i would love having you as an editor…
    oh wait…


  • Aug 17, 2006

    Thanks, Kristen. I wrote the article from a writer’s perspective (obviously) without thinking how it might sound from an editor’s viewpoint. Now I’m glad I didn’t make editors sound like lash-wielding psychopaths.
    As you can tell, I see the editing process as a collaborative effort to make a book as good as possible, not a struggle for supremacy between two egomaniacs.
    By the way, I recently expanded the article considerably – including writing the missing first half – and it should be appearing on the writers world website (writersworld.com.au) either next month or during October. I’ll post an announcement on my blog when it comes up.

  • Aug 17, 2006

    Kristen, I’m still waiting for the day that this is my problem. :D

    I think I’d probably freak out a bit first. Totally lose all remaining shreds of self-confidence and dignity. Have a good cry-fest. Then, a few hours later, or maybe a day or two, look at it again and get to work. I think for some of us, it’s only natural to tie up our egos in these things.

    Ah well, but it’s a business, too. So, get over the emotions, dig in, and get to work on making your baby even better than it was. That’s the whole point, after all…

  • Aug 17, 2006

    This is a great post. It’s good to hear an author’s thoughts about the editing process and to be reminded that we’re (usually) making good things better.

  • Aug 17, 2006

    I love working with good editors. One of my most frustrating things is that, for several publications, while the editors allow me to write whatever I want, they also don’t believe I need editing.

    I am well aware of my own weaknesses,and one thing I need is a strong editor. Not one to rewrite the book FOR me, but to show me where I’ve gotten off track and help guide me back.

  • Aug 17, 2006

    Thanks for all of your excellent comments, everyone.

    Katharine, your technique of reassuring the author early in the process is a great one. I’m sure your clients love that! :] There was one spot in particular that sticks out for me in the project I mentioned in my post, where I commented something like, “Whoa! I didn’t see that coming AT ALL! Awesome!” It’s always fun when you can get into it and let the author know what’s working.

    Simon, thanks for swinging by and for linking back to me. Can’t wait to see the article at WW! I’ll keep my eyes open for your announcement so I can link to it.

    Laurie, freaking out is okay as long as you ultimately stop freaking out and get back to work. :] You’re so smart to recognize that it is a business as much as it’s an art, and that editing isn’t something personal–it’s improving a product as well as refining your craft.

    Spring, glad you enjoyed the post. :]

    Devon, I hate when I submit stuff and there are no editing suggestions on acceptance. I get nervous. I say this constantly and I’m sure everyone’s sick of hearing it, but EVERY WRITER NEEDS AN EDITOR–even editors.


  • Aug 17, 2006

    Kristen and Kristen, together at last. :]


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