Good morning, everyone!  Today's writerly perspective isn't about craft, or the technique of writing, but about how to handle an editor's remarks...appropriately.

Let's look a little at the process:  For one reason or another, you've entrusted an editor with your manuscript.  On the surface, particularly for traditional print, it may seem as if you have no choice in who is editing you.  Alas--wrong.  As an author, it's your responsibility to research the houses you are shopping your book with.  If you don't trust the editing staff of one house or another, you have no business shopping your manuscript there.  Read what the house is publishing, check out each individual line that corresponds with your work.  If you like what you read, there's a good editor behind the scenes.

With self publishing, options are broader.  The same research applies: look at some of their titles, ask them for references, analyze what comes back both in your initial correspondence and the 'test-edit' -- the remarks you receive from your sample.

So, all that accomplished, you have an editor, and now you must extend faith.  Just as an editor extends faith that you're willing to improve.

What happens then, when you get a manuscript back filled with red marks in the columns and comments all over the place?

In short form, particularly in self publishing, you can reject every darn thing he or she says.  But if you do so, why did you decide to hire the editor?

Your Editor Is Your Friend

An editor isn't out to cut-down your work.  That's the most important thing to understand.  An editor also doesn't want 'bad product' reflecting on his or her name.  And last, the editor wants your book to succeed.  Otherwise, she/he wouldn't be editing.

Editorial remarks come from a perspective that isn't tied to the story.  An educated perspective from someone who understands technical, market, and overall plot needs.  It's not just about fixing sentence structure or incorrect punctuation.  It's about looking at everything as a whole and crafting the best possible product for readers (and, in turn, for the author's bottom line.)

Editorial remarks can point out small things that, on the surface, may seem unimportant -- who cares if there are intruders, or commas in series?  Or if a specific car can really reach a claimed speed. Or what sort of helmet existed in the specific year.

Editorial remarks can also cover larger issues: characters who come off as psychotic when they aren't supposed to; gaping plot holes, and structure issues.

All of them are designed to draw your attention to a noted issue.  Most often, the editor is correct.  But it doesn't mean he/she is right.  If she's changed the entire plot by altering a poorly structured sentence, that's not particularly right.  The grammar change is correct, however.

So what do you do?

Thoughtfully Review

Well, review everything for starters.  Is there an overall theme?  Is she continually hitting the same 'issue' -- passive voice cropping up all over?  Or is it all about small details that could possibly be excused?

Your job as an author is to use that faith you entrusted to the editor you hired and evaluate whether the remarks damage or incorrectly change your story.  If they don't, I pose the question: What harm comes from spending the time to improve?  If you've been called out for passive writing, does it harm your story to nix it and put in active passages?

Editorial remarks should adhere to their purpose -- to improve what's already written.  If they don't, by all means, raise the objection with your editor.  Open a conversation to see if you can understand why they might have been made.

If they do offer a means of making your work more competitive, or can improve what you've already put forth, think solutions through.

Determine The Real Issue

Another thing I've learned is that the remark may not relate to what is specifically stated.  Nine times out of ten, if an editor has called out something and you object with the editor, you've failed to ground something you thought you did.  Often you can solve the issue by addressing that, as opposed to making a sweeping change.

Don't Sweat The Small Stuff

Discover what means the most to you.  What remarks can you shrug off with a "eh, if it makes her happy, fine."  What remarks have you saying, "No way ever."  Pick the battles accordingly.  There's no sense in starting an argument over a remark like, "I don't really see why she'd say this, please reword."

For instance, one of the remarks one of my editors made was "I don't really know anything about her family, at all.  Are they still living? Are they dead? I'd like to see more."  It didn't hurt me, or the manuscript to add in a sentence or two.  I made her happy.  I still don't see that as a detrimental remark, but it took all of five seconds to address something that bugged her enough to make a mention of it.  And chances are, if it bugged her, it will bug someone else.

Don't Make Excuses

Use your wisdom, your judgement, and really think things through.  An editor didn't spend 18 hours editing a manuscript just to drive you nuts or tear your baby apart.  She did so with thought and consideration for the likely success of your work.  Do what you can to really decide whether it's an improvement.  And don't just wave off the remarks with, "She doesn't understand my genre.  She doesn't know what she's doing.  I did it deliberately.  Other books in my genre are written like this."  (And so forth.)  Doing so only wastes the editor's time, as well as your money.  Rely on that trust you extended, and consider thoroughly if making the change will give you a better book.

And that's my long-winded two cents!

Looking for an editor?  Check out Finish The Story!


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