Monday, July 8, 2013

Working With an Editor: It Begins and Ends With You

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.


  1. You are exactly right about your editor. She happens to be mine, too, and she is very patient with me, as well. Not just an editor, she's one of my best friends--but that doesn't keep this feisty Italian from telling me when I need to change something . . . Most of the time I do.

    1. Anyone who can put up with me during book edits is pretty great! I went through a couple of quick editing sessions with other editors before working with Lorraine, and not one of them challenged me--that's my favorite thing about working with her.

  2. Thank you both for your wonderful comments and for your trust in allowing me to help you make your books the best they can be! You both make the editing process enjoyable and interesting.

  3. Yes, I agree with MK's & Verna's comments. I too hired the same "feisty Italian" as my editor.
    Without Lorraine's "feistyness" my latest book, Near Miss, would not have turned out as good as it did.