You’ve written the book. You’ve rewritten the book. Eight times. You’ve had a friend go over it for typos and grammar gaffs. As near perfect as you can make it, you send it to your editor, right on time. Then you wait (and wait) to hear those legal words, “acceptable manuscript” so the publisher can release the next part of your advance.
So… what’s missing here? The edit. In between submitting your manuscript and having it accepted, it must be edited.
There have been several blogs here at Books & Such on the different kinds of edits– the substantive edit, the copy edit, proofreading and the editing process in general. Instead, let’s talk here about the emotional aspect of the edit process.
“I just received my edit. I’m going to quit writing.” Believe it or not, this is the normal first response of almost every writer on getting the edits. You’ve heard it hundreds of times. Firstly, skim over the edit. Secondly, put it down. Thirdly, enjoy your weekend and then, finally, tackle it with refreshed eyes. It’s part of the work of writing.
“I just received the best edit of my career. . ..” This is often what we hear when the author has received a manuscript back with only a handful of changes. Is this a good edit? Maybe. If the writer has already painstaking rewritten until the book is in the best shape it could possibly attain. Rare, but possible. It usually means, however, that the editor has been pushed to the wall and did the best he could with the time allotted.
“I can’t believe it. I got a twenty-two page edit letter. And I thought the book was good.” This probably means the book was good and the editor invested her time into polishing it to perfection. This can be a real gift to the writer and to the eventual reader. But don’t be afraid to question any edits with which you disagree.
“This is not my first book. I figured I was long past a hard edit by now.” A writer is never beyond a thorough edit. We all have blind spots, and it helps for someone to guide us over these. We’ve all read a book by a bestselling author that disappointed. We imagine an editor was strong-armed into a light edit.
“The editor has sanitized my voice from the book.” This happens. An over-zealous editor cleans up colloquialisms and intentional grammar departures and strips the very art out of the manuscript. However, it can mean that the editor has taken out overuse of voice and regional quirks that take away from the story. When voice issues crop up, you need an experienced eye. It’s time to schedule a meeting with your agent.
“I just read my author’s copy of the printed book and was shocked to find some major changes undertaken after the last edit.” This is not okay. Time to schedule that meeting with your agent.
Editing is like the difference between a builder-designed house and an architect-designed house. The builder house may be just fine, but the architect can take that design and suggest subtle changes that improve the flow and look of the house. It’s that gifted set of eyes that can make the house (or the book) sing.
This is about emotions, and no emotion is wrong. It’s often a struggle between emotions and what we know. So, tell us, how do you feel about edits?