Blogger: Janet Kobobel Grant
Location: A Wine Country condo, Mt. Hermon Writers Conference Career Track Planning Retreat
So far this week we’ve talked about two responses to the editing process on your contracted manuscript. If you aren’t sure the editing is helping your manuscript, you should:
1) know your rights–what is appropriate to ask to be looked at again?
2) know when to trust your editor.
And today, I want to talk about your need to know when to relinquish your opinion.
You’ve gone back and talked over the changes with your editor, and the two of you are at loggerheads over some issues. You’re sure you’re right; the editor’s confident she’s right. What to do?
I’d suggest that you ask for neutral but professional feedback. That would be your agent. Your agent’s job isn’t to work through each and every nitpicking change the editor made but to discuss with you the more sweeping adjustments. Because agents read many manuscripts and often have been editors, they can bring perspective and help to discern what editorial changes are puzzling.
One of my clients was sure her manuscript needed to end a certain way. But the editor thought that ending wasn’t resounding and had her own idea about the conclusion. No amount of conversation seemed to move either party.
So I read the two endings and realized the editor was right. I explained to my client why I, as a reader, preferred the one ending over the other. My client was reticent to agree.
So finally, I said, “The publisher has invested a lot of money in your manuscript, and every one there wants the book to be a huge success. All those of that professional team who have read the edited version of the manuscript like the ending. If I bought this book, I would find the ending satisfying. Not one of us wants an inadequate conclusion. So, ultimately, you need to trust our opinion.”
The author agreed. The book comes out next year, and I’m willing to bet that, once he receives letters and emails telling about how readers’ lives were changed, he’ll decide the edited ending must have been okay.
Ultimately, as with every creative effort, we have to trust the opinion of those around us who have been at this biz for quite some time.
Lea Ann McCombs
That must be tough for a writer to have to change the entire ending of a novel. Like finding out your five-year-old son was really your daughter!LOL
You’d sure have to put a lot of faith in the editor’s reputation for being spot-on.
This is a great reminder. I read a lot of blogs and often the attitude I see from writers is “it’s them against us.”
Reminding ourselves that the editors want our work to succeed just as much as we do, and have put their money where their heart is – that can only help us on the editorial journey.
Maybe it’s just me, but I know have a country song in my head… “know when to walk away, know when to run… You gotta..”
Okay, I’ll stop now! Trust me, I need to write not sing:-)
It’s funny, as a “pre-published” author I sit here and think, “Wow! I can’t imagine telling an editor no! As long as they are publishing it, I’ll change anything!” But then I know you all are probably laughing at the naivety of that… Regardless, it’s good advice to keep in mind for when my rosy glasses aren’t so rosy anymore!
Excellent advice. I just read your article on CFOM today and thought it was very wise. Thanks for sharing!
I would definitely take to my prayer closet over a situation like this. But I think it is important for writers to be open to feedback and suggestions. In the case of my first book, a friend who is an avid reader was kind enough to read the ms. When she told me afterwards that chapter 3 should be chapter 1, I was skeptical at first. But after reading the first 3 chapters LIKE A READER, I had to agree with her. I changed it and the book was later published.
Julie Surface Johnson
Recently,I read Jimmy by Robert Whitlow. It was a sweet book about a boy with learning disabilities–and it had a tragic ending that broke my heart. At the end of the book, there was a statement to check the author’s website for an alternate ending. Is that something authors typically do if they aren’t sure about the ending that is ultimately chosen?
That must have been hard for the author, but as author’s we must learn to entrust our stories to those who can see the bigger picture.
Can I ask what happens when you “lose” that type of discussion and it turns out to be a flaw in the book? It ultimately reflects on your skills as a writer when other editors/publishers/agents see it, not on the editor’s and it feels very unfair. Is there a way to redeem the situation?
About alternate endings appearing on an author’s website, I view them as kind of like an alternate ending for a film as additional material on a DVD. A decision was made as to which way to end the book, but just maybe this the alternate ending would generate interest in the book.
Valerie, yes, the editor can see the book wrong and steer it incorrectly. Unfortunately the author’s name remains on the tortured published piece. But, in my 30 years in publishing, I’ve seen only a handful of manuscripts misshaped by an editor.