It's that time again--book edits. I'm at the start of another editing session, and I have to admit that I've missed it these last six months. One year ago I wouldn't have imagined myself making that claim, but it's true, I've missed it.
Editing a book can be either an overwhelming endeavor, one which causes an author sleepless nights and endless worry, or it can be an enlightening experience, one which enables a writer to more fully appreciate their own words, the story their trying to tell, and the characters who make their story possible.
I've seen some readers remark that a book may not have been as good as it could have been because an editor had too free a hand, or not a free enough hand. The truth is, that unless an author is working with a publisher who makes most of the major decisions regarding a book, the final decision rests with the author--no matter what an editor may or may not suggest.
I used to fear the dark and scary road that leads to editing. When I first began working with my editor, I tried to keep an open mind. At first, I studied the comments and suggestions, sometimes only one or two words off to the side, but with those few words as a guideline, I had to make a choice--do I step back, turn off the "this is my baby" attitude and listen to someone with more experience than I, or do I fight back?
There are a few bad traits which could be attributed to me, stubbornness being chief among them. It wasn't an easy thing to set that aside, become humble, and accept help where I knew it was needed. I did "fight" back, at least at first, but my editor was patient with a new writer. She guided, she asked questions, but ultimately every decision regarding the book was left solely up to me. At the end of the day, if I chose to keep a section, take it away or change it, I was the writer, and the decision was mine.
At times, authors may look for extra guidance and a heavier hand with regards to the story, but that isn't the role of a good editor--they're teachers, they're grammar drill sergeants, and the great ones are perfectionists. When they're done with a book, it's polished and not a punctuation mark is out of place, but the magic is up to the writer.
I hope I've reached a point where I've learned to listen better. I'm lucky to work with an editor who is also a great teacher. If I don't understand something, I ask her. If I don't agree with her, I tell her why, and then she'll tell me why she disagrees with me again, but I wouldn't have it any other way. Because I know it's my final "yes" that sends the book to print, and because I want to continually improve, I have to learn to listen, be taught, and most important, I need to understand that there is always more to learn.
Our books are our "babies." We've worked hard to write the story--doesn't the story deserve everything we can give it--to the end?
Are you a teachable writer? What do you feel is your worst trait and/or best trait(s) as a writer?
Note: My editor does not edit the "Working With An Editor" posts, and I take full responsibility for any errors.