Last night I commented on a friends FaceBook post dealing with editing. It reminded me of the first time I’d worked with a real editor. I’d sent a short story in for an anthology and got an email from the editor saying he’d accept the story with a couple edits. It would be great if I could say I eagerly made the changes, sent it back and then eagerly waited to see it in print.
But… that wasn’t quite what happened. First off, I sulked, for a couple hours. How dare this guy want to change my story. It’s my story, not his. I wrote it just like I wanted it. I think I probably made the comment about editor being a writer-wannabe but couldn’t get published so got a job editing.
Then, after I threw my tantrum and got my pride out of the way, I looked at his suggestions and yep, they were appropriate. And good. And made the story better, tighter.
So, I made them, sent the story back and then waited eagerly to see it in print. And yes, it was accepted and I still have a copy of that anthology on my shelf.
Now that I’ve grown a bit in my writing, I’ve learned a couple things about editors.
First, the good ones…they edit cause they love it. Sure, it’s often a job for them, but it’s one they love doing. An editor friend once told me something to the effect that an editor’s job was to bring out the story the writer wanted to tell. It’s not to change the story but help the writer make it better. I kinda like that.
Second, editors aren’t always right. They may be when it comes to commas and grammar stuff, and probably are. But sometimes they get it wrong, especially when dealing with your character or story.
So, here’s a couple guidelines I use when deciding whether or not to use an editor’s suggestion.
1. Does the suggestion make the sentence/paragraph/etc. better, tighten the prose, and generally make sense?
2. Does the suggestion stick with my character or storyline and make sense?
3. Does the suggest keep my voice and style?
If the answer is yes, then I’ll make the changes. If not, then I don’t.
A good editor will work with the author. A good editor keeps in mind that it is the writer’s story and not his and the writer knows the story much better. A good editor is the writer’s partner and teammate.
But what about you? Got any tips for working with an editor?
Got any tales about working with an editor you’d like to share?