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Working With An Editor

Photo Credit: Joanna Penn via Flickr

Photo Credit: Joanna Pennvia Flickr

Well. The best laid plans of mice and writers, as they say. I learned a lot this week, and the most important lessons were not, as you might suspect, making sure you upload the copy that was NOT converted from .html back to .docx.  However, Shadows Wake is as flawless as we know how to make it. Watch that formatting as it can change between versions and file types. Whew.

Michelle wrote yesterday about her experience as the editor for Shadows Wake. I am happy to report that we are still on good terms! Today, I’ll try to give the writer’s side of her observations.

Relationship matters more than you think.

Picture yourself seated across from someone as you both tug a manuscript back and forth between you. This is not the kind of relationship you want with your editor. Instead, pull your chair around to sit beside her, and work together. Mutual respect is essential. Trust is essential. Patience is a real bonus. The editor is also working for the good of your story. You are on the same team. If this isn’t the case with your current editor, find someone else.

Editing is subjective.

I strongly recommend using just one editor per round or per project. Slight style differences and mark up methods can add up to a real pain. Agree on a style guide before you start and let that style guide settle any disputes. One part of editing is creating consistency throughout your book. Two or more people acting as editors on the same round or project will leave you correcting one’s preference for the other.

One thing I appreciated about Michelle was her willingness to research and provide documentation for anything I challenged. Fortunately, there were only a few obscure points that needed research.

Swallow the ego.

I don’t have a pocket full of ego when it comes to my own writing, but even so, there were a few moments when I bristled at a suggested change.  If that happens, get up and walk away. Come back later and look at it with fresh eyes. In all but one case, the editor was right and I made the change. A good editor isn’t going to try to change your voice, but they will help clarify your prose. If you feel your voice or style is becoming altered, step away for a while or come back to it when you are fresh. Trust that your editor is working for your story, not against you (and she was usually right).

Something else to keep in mind is that we, as writers, are very familiar with our story. Your editor is reading it from a fresh perspective and is better able to point out the areas where we miss because we see it in our mind’s eye instead of as a new reader.

Know what type of edit you want.

Though most people divide editing into three types, I have added a fourth to the list. These are not comprehensive and descriptions vary depending on who you ask.

  • Developmental edits take place right after the rough draft to smooth out plot holes and address both dead paragraphs and areas that need expansion. If you aren’t sure where your story is going or how to use conflict, a developmental edit is a good idea.  Beta readers or a writing group can serve you well here.
  • Content edits watch for continuity, check description, the balance of dialog to prose, identify spots where you are “telling” instead of “showing,” clear up present and past tense inconsistencies, and generally make sure your story makes sense, flows, and has both character development and conflict.
  • Proofreading works on spelling, word choice, dialog tags, grammar, and sentence structure.
  • Line edits check formatting, grammar, punctuation, spacing, and uniformity.

Fact-checking can take place at any level, so make sure you ask your editor if that is part of the editing plan for your book.

Do a good turn.

Include your editor (and her link) in your acknowledgements. I put my editor in the front matter right under my name as well as including her in the comments. Editing is a business just as authorship is. Promote each other. If you are happy with your editor’s work, recommend her.

What are your suggestions for working with editors and/or writers? 

3 thoughts on “Working With An Editor

  1. Hey Robyn – I would say #1 most importante is COMMUNICATION! Talk about the process up front, so you both know what to expect. Keep the dialogue open because irritations will arise and you need to keep talking them out. Thanks!

    • You are absolutely right, Marcy. Editing is probably the biggest financial layout for indie authors. Make sure you can work with the person you are paying and keep the lines of communication open. 🙂

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