Blogger: Janet Kobobel Grant
When you read the changes your editor has made on your manuscript, some of the adjustments can be a real surprise.
Maybe you thought it was imperative for certain information to be included in your nonfiction project, but your editor deleted it. Or you considered the protagonist in your novel to be imminently likable, but your editor didn’t care for her. What’s your editor’s problem–did he just have a bad day, or does he have a valid point?
I’d suggest you start with the assumption that the editor is on your team and is not the enemy. Honestly, sometimes it’s hard to remember that when you’re looking at your edited manuscript. Since your editor is your advocate at the publishing house (and might well have been the person who convinced the publishing committee to buy your project), he’s most likely seeing flaws in your manuscript that you’re too close to recognize. I’d suggest you start out with the assumption that your editor is trustworthy.
To Work with an Editor, Know When to Ask Questions
Sometimes an editor does overstep her bounds. I recall a time one of my clients, who was writing a series, received the edited text for her third book in that series. The editor thought the protagonist’s style of dressing and personality weren’t to her liking so she just changed the manuscript. Since the protagonist’s personality and sense of style were clearly established in the first two books, the editor was, no doubt, overstepping her boundaries.
As the author’s agent, I asked the editor for more details on the motivation to rewrite fundamental details about the protagonist. Turns out the editor thought the author wasn’t as strong a writer as the editor, who aspired to write her own series in that genre. So she simply took over my client’s manuscript.
Wild, huh? She forgot that her job was to make the author look good. An editor and author should think of the editing process like singing a duet. Voices blend, minds meld, and the result is a singular sound.
Obviously that editor is an extreme example of swerving outside the boundaries of what is appropriate feedback or editing–in essence, taking over the song. Often the concerns an author has about the editing are much more subtle–wrong notes, bad timing, misplaced words.
I would suggest you (or your agent) ask for the reasoning behind changes that don’t make sense to you. Try to weigh the responses objectively.
And don’t ask questions about the editing in a challenging way, but in an information-gathering way. Such as:
“I’ve given considerable thought to this change you’ve made, and I’m still puzzled about it. Could you explain to me why you made that adjustment?”
To Work with an Editor, Expect the Editor to Dialog with You
When I was an editor, I invited dialog. I understood the manuscript was the author’s work and the author’s name would appear on the cover.
If I spied problems, I was supposed to figure out a fix. Sometimes my fix was acceptable to the author; other times the author, after we had talked over the problem, would dig in and find a better solution than I had.
We brainstormed options, and at times came up with a new route neither of us had thought of before. That’s when you know the editor-author relationship is working like it’s supposed to.
Generally editing is a collaborative process between the editor and the author. But it takes both of them being willing to work as a duet–no solos allowed.
What do you rely on an editor to do on your manuscript(s)?
How do a writer and an editor work together? Click to tweet.
Can you trust your editor? How do you know? Click to tweet.