Saturday, October 13, 2007

Edits, Edits, Edits...where does it end!

We’ve all been through it and we’ll continue to go through it. Sometimes it’s not so bad, other times you’re ready to scream and pull your hair. If you’re lucky, you’ll work with an editor who knows what they’re doing and won’t attempt to destroy your voice and turn your book into a cookie-cutter romance. If you’re unlucky you’ll end up with someone who doesn’t know bad writing from good.

Recently I’ve been working with two different editors from two different companies. Both ladies have their own way of doing things and both are very thorough. I feel quite fortunate to have worked with them, as they’ve shown me that not all editors are evil. LOL Now, for the good and bad of it.

Good vs Bad:
A good editor will help fix your mistakes.
A bad editor doesn’t see the mistakes to start with.

A good editor makes suggestions.
A bad editor wants it changed no arguments.

A good editor will make you laugh at yourself.
A bad editor wouldn’t know a joke if it bit her in the butt.

A good editor knows that you are not perfect.
A bad editor expects perfection, so she won’t have to do her job.

A good editor will point out things, so you won’t make the same mistakes in the future.
A bad editor just wants your manuscript off her desk.

A good editor thinks you have something worth reading.
A bad editor never bothered to actually read your manuscript.

A good editor respects your voice.
A bad editor changes you into...her.

A good editor doesn’t allow her personal issues to affect her job.
A bad editor slips her pet peeves into your MS every chance she gets.

Now, if you have any other pointers, share them with us!


Anonymous said...

Edits? Aw, hell, I have to get past the submission process first! I am looking forward to editing...I'm still in first draft...

My CP did just pull a book from a publisher for a number of the reasons listed there though....

Mia Varano said...

Anne, I've been lucky so far. The three editors I've worked with have all helped me improve my stories. One helped me make a story better and then rejected it in the end. It was frustrating, but because of her edits, I had a stronger story to submit to the next publisher. Still waiting to hear from that publisher, and I hope I get the opportunity to work with a fourth editor!

Dwan Abrams said...

Good editor vs. bad editor... too funny! The editor I worked with on my second novel, Only True Love Waits, was very helpful. She was talented, and I appreciated her feedback. I even ran a different manuscript past her before submitting it to a mainstream publishing house and landing a two-book deal.

With that said, an editor is there to point out: tone/expression, inconsistencies, unanswered questions, overuse of certain words, poor scene transitions, timelines, and weak dialogue; in addition to punctuation, grammar and spelling. They have a tough job. However, it isn't their job to re-write a manuscript. Therefore, the author needs to give the editor a good product to work with.

There are a lot of people authoring books, but not all of them are good writers. And that can be frustrating for an editor. In addition to writing books, I'm a freelance editor. Speaking from experience, I've read some manuscripts that were rough drafts. They weren't polished, the characters underdeveloped, and the plot flimsy at best. So I can understand the temptation to re-write the book in one's own voice. But, that's not the way to go. It's advisable to simply give the author pointers.

The best thing an aspiring or accomplished writer can do is read a lot and hone their skills. Learn how to edit your own manuscript. That way, if you go with a freelance editor, you can save yourself some time and money by turning in a quality product. Additionally, you'll be in a position to know whether the editor actually did their job.

I've read a couple of self-published books where the author claimed to have paid an editor, but the books were riddled with obvious errors. I wondered whether the authors even bothered to proofread their own books. Those types of things make no sense. Whether you're self-publishing or submitting to traditional publishers, put your best work out there.

Dara Edmondson said...

I've worked with 7 or 8 editors from 3 different publishers and most have been great. One returned an entire ms with only a dozen changes. That was frightening. I know I'm not that thorough! Needless to say, I didn't give the pub another book.

CJ England said...

Excellent points Anne,

Editors can make or break an author. I came close to quiting all together when I first started. The comments from one editor were so rude, out of line and unprofessional. The fact she got fired soon after did little to make me feel like I wanted to go on.

Then I took a chance and submitted elsewhere and the editor was wonderful. She made up for all the ugliness and taught me a great deal. I learned that an author's voice is sacrosanct and while an editor can guide and direct, trying to change their voice is abhorrent.

And I learned how not to be too sensitive and use their advice to improve my stories. I also learned that no editor is perfect any more than I am. If you can both work together, you can have something to be proud of.


Debra Moore said...

Editing are incrediblyest important; there enput keps me from loking like a idiot.

See what I mean?

I've had three different editors now at Cobblestone Press, and all three were gems! Those fresh eyes are invaluable, and yes, I completely agree with Dara...I know I'm not that thorough! All help to try to get it perfect is so wonderful!

The most valuable input I've gotten so far was about dialogue tags and repeated words. I'd never realized how often I would repeat a word until she highlighted that. embarrassing that would have been if the story had gone out into the world like that!

Rock on great editors!

Terry said...

I've worked with numerous editors. Some fix commas and punctuation stuff like dashes, ellipses and hyphens. Love those kinds of catches, especially because a lot of times those are 'publisher's style'.

Some of my editors have suggested rewording, and have usually given their reasons. Others have said, 'Can you show her motivation better here?' and things like that. I appreciate those because it means someone cares about more than typos, although they're more work. So far, all my editors have allowed discussion about changes if we disagree.

What bugs me the most is an editor who is inconsistent in catching things. If I've been inconsistent in the way I wrote possessives of a name ending in "s" and the house has a preferred way of showing it, then an editor who misses half of them scares me, because in electronic submissions, it's a simple find and replace task. At least TELL ME she found them; I can go fix them.

I have a new editor for a new publisher who's said my first round edits will be arriving next week. I'm nervously awaiting them. She said it looked "clean" but I want to write the strongest possible book. If it means making changes, I'm willing to do it if I think they're justified.

A good editor can take a good piece of work and make it sing. A competent editor just makes sure a manuscript is typo free (if such a thing is ever possible). I haven't had to deal with a 'bad' editor yet, thank goodness.

Kayleigh Jamison said...

I think you're spot on. As a former EIC, and an author, I've seen both sides of the fence, and there are definitely bad editors out there. Too many of them, unfortunately.

A good editor gives you a timeline and sticks to it.

A bad editor floods your email with excuses about why her personal life is preventing her from finishing your mss.

I have noticed, particularly with small press and e-pub outlets, that editors are underpaid and overextended. Some edit for four or five houses. Most are also authors themselves. It's very difficult to balance one's own writing with editing.

My suggestions for any author:

1. When you first get your mss back from an editor, read over her comments, but don't jump into editing right away. Read through it, then let it sit. Particularly if this is your first time working with that editor, there will probably be an initial reaction of balking over the edits. "What was wrong with that? She's nuts!" That's fine. That's normal.

2. Pick your battles. Grammar, for the most part, is not debatable as a rule with most publishers. Word choices, sentence structure, etc. are, and a good editor is willing to discuss with you her reasons for the change, and listen to your reasons for rejecting it.

3. Keep an open mind when it comes to your editor. BUT if you truly feel that you can't work with her, contact the publisher and let them know.

Anne Rainey said...

Thanks for all this information! I've been taking notes here. You've ALL given me something to think about.

I firmly believe that there is ALWAYS room for improvement. No matter how big you get. And it's great that we can help each other grow us authors. :-)

Vicki said...

Great post! I'm not quite to the submission process yet but it's getting close.