The Joys and Pains of Editing

Rachelle Gardner

Blogger: Rachelle Gardner

Many of you are working on your first contracted book. (Yeah!) Prior to your publishing deal, you may have been through countless edits and revisions. But you’ve never had to do it under deadline, and you’ve never done it with the input of a publishing house editor. So this is something new, so we need to talk about the emotional aspect of this milestone.

You care deeply about your words and you’ve tried to get them just right, so your first encounter with an editor might be a little daunting. When they send you pages and pages of notes for revisions, you might be overwhelmed, depressed, and demoralized. Take heart… this is normal.

If you are overwhelmed and even if your honest gut reaction is, “No way! I’m not doing this. The editor doesn’t get me, she is missing the whole point of my book. This would RUIN it!” — it’s okay. I promise!

Give yourself some time, a few hours to a few days. Let your emotions subside, and let your editor’s words sink in. For most writers, this is all that’s needed in order to get back to work.


The best approach is to enter the editorial process with a humble and teachable spirit. Maybe not the advice you wanted! But the editing process is your best chance to learn more than you ever have and keep improving your writing.

Handling Disagreement

One of the questions writers ask me is: How do you tactfully interact with your editor when there are differences of opinion about the revision process? In other words, your editor is requesting changes with which you disagree. The answer may vary depending on who you are, i.e. if you’re a bestselling author versus a first-timer. Guess who has more leverage?

In a situation where you don’t understand the editorial request or you disagree with it, ask a lot of questions of your editor. Try to get their perspective. Get them to explain their reasoning, and keep your mind open, considering the possibility that they may be right. If you feel the need, gently explain your side. But realize you may not understand what they’re saying until you actually do what they say. Most times, authors end up agreeing that the changes improved the book. In any case, the key is communication. Be courteous in your disagreement and try to negotiate a win-win with your editor. Your name is on the book, so it’s important you get your point across.

When Things Turn Bad

You’re always going to hear a few random stories from authors who feel an editor ruined their book, totally didn’t get it, etc. Take my word for it, that scenario is not the norm.

Now sometimes an author deeply disagrees with certain changes an editor requests. And sometimes, the editor has strong reasons, and they won’t back down. In this situation, you have to decide if this is a hill you want to die on. In the last fifteen years, I’ve been involved in two cases where the author so strenuously disagreed with the editorial changes that the author and publisher agreed to cancel the contract. And the author paid back the advance. So, consider how important it is that you get your way in the editorial process. Are you willing to give up the contract for it?

If you want an overview of a typical editorial process at a publishing house, here’s a post.

How do you handle the editing process? Any advice for your fellow writers?



Photo by John Jennings on Unsplash