What an editor does …

I love getting up close and personal to other people’s writing — but what I love the most is seeing how suggestions and comments are put into practice and when the final version comes back it is so much better. I feel then that my role is justified.

New writers often ask  what to expect from an editor. Do they change your work? What if you don’t agree? Can you keep it your way?

In simple terms, an editor doesn’t just change your work and write a whole other story the way they’d do it! If they do — sack them! They do offer constructive and useful comments. I would change grammar errors where there is a hard and fast rule ,and I would remove run-on or words I feel are redundant but ONLY in track changes so the author can reverse the change if they disagree. And occasionally, if I think it’s the best way to show it, I will change a sentence to demonstrate  a point — see how this sharpens it, for example — a more hands on approach if I think the writer needs that and more often for a critique than a copy-edit. I tend to favour making suggestions — this is overwritten, consider sharpening — and I might suggest what could be better but leave it to them.

By marking your MS and highlighting the weaknesses it really is the best and fastest way to identify weaknesses in style, plot, narrative etc. I had read a great many books on writing but just reading that you need to show not tell and even with examples you can not always see how that applies to your own writing. So you have to let an editor into that personal creative space.

There are various tell-tale signs of the new writer, and we all do this  when we start to write — head hopping mid scene (often because the writer hasn’t even thought about it), telling rather than showing, overwriting using ‘awkward’ or ‘clunky’ phrasing, adding too much back-story and lifting the reader out of the story, overly long descriptive passages that slow the story, too many adverbs especially after dialogue (it’s telling), telling what’s already shown and use of other forms of repetition to drum home a point (tell the reader only once) and using as any different words for said as they can find!

Now these will all be ironed out as you learn and get feedback and new writers who invest in a professional critique will most certainly find this is a short cut to identifying key weaknesses so by the time they start sending work out it’s good.

If it’s good enough to be accepted or publication another editor will be appointed and you need to trust their judgement.

In my opinion there is no room for divas! Luckily for me this is incredibly rare and by this point the writers know the importance of the editorial process and have long since shed their tiara and  learned to take constructive criticism. They will already know that a good editor or critiquer  is worth their weight in gold. Because, and this is very  much my philosophy,  a critique, a copy-edit, even a proof read is a teaching aid and if you get a good editor you will learn. It’s still you writing it — but an editor makes it stronger — and we all need that guidance. At the end of the day it’s about making your writing as good as it can be. And this should be the goal of the writer and the editor and it has to be the goal of the publisher as he needs to sell the book!

So can you argue with the editor? Insist on not changing things? Of course you can — it’s only one opinion but it has to be remembered it’s a professional and experienced opinion (or it should be if you pay for it) and so you need to think carefully about the advice. But if you did something a certain way for good reason and make a good argument an editor will listen to you and wants you to be happy too.

As someone who has straddled both sides of the proverbial fence, even when I wasn’t so sure there was something wrong with something my editor had questioned —  I looked at it very closely and nearly always made some kind of change to remove any trace of ambiguity. I trusted her and she did make great suggestions.

Don’t be a diva!

Have a great weekend all — out shopping for a new tiara!

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4 Comments

Filed under a book deal, Acceptance, Back-story, Bad advice for writers, Being a professional editor, being a successful writer, Believing, Critique, Critique groups, Crtiquing, Description, Dialogue, Dreaming, Exposition, finally being signed, Grammar, How to edit opening chapters, ideas, Learning to be a writer, Living the dream, Mentor, Mentoring, Novel writing, Openings, Pace, Passion for life, Passion for writing, Publishing, Reading, Short Stories, Show don't tell, Structure, Subplots, Winning, Writing

4 responses to “What an editor does …

  1. An excellent article and very true. Every writer serious about their work, should at least once experience the insights of an editor – it helps a writer grow. I did that. I not only learned about my weaknesses, I learned about my strengths, which is hugely important. Now I am very proud of my science fiction. I love to write and no longer write in an atmosphere of fear and dread and uncertainty. I have two books published and am working on the third, and I can honestly say, I would not be this far had I not some years ago undergone that professional assessment.

    • I am so sorry — welcome to the blog and thanks for your comments! I meant to reply before — I appreciate the feedback. Yes indeed I have both benefited from editing and edited so I see it from both sides and I entirely agree it’s really important to show writers their strengths as well. A good edit/critique is a learning process that should encourage and empower the writer 🙂 Hope you enjoy the blog and best of luck with your writing — will check out your books! Debz 🙂

      • Hey, thanks, Debz (I have covers and info up on my blog, including free chapters). No problem in any delay in your reply here, sometimes things get hectic.

        It’s hard for a writer to see the forest for the trees, especially when they have been immersed for so long in the nuts and blots of their work. It’s hard for a writer to step back and see their work as a reader would. I shelve mine, if I can, and come back to it with a fresh mind, then I get a better idea of what I have.

        I haven’t been right through your blog yet, but of course I like any blog that helps writers. 😛 I’m enjoying it so far! Cheers to you. 😀

  2. Pingback: Backing Up & Editing | lgflannigan

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