Thursday, March 13, 2014

Working with an Editor: What a Reader Doesn't See, Does Matter

Believe me when I say that my editor is far more qualified than I to write this post, but since it's from an author's perspective, you're stuck with me. 

What do I mean when I say, "What a Reader Doesn't See, Does Matter"? 

Not long ago I spoke with a successful bookstore owner who'd been in business for more than three decades. They managed to make it through the recession, compete with online book shopping, and even open a second location in a second small town. When I asked if she might like to be a judge for a writing contest, she couldn't help but laugh. She was flattered and wanted to, but said that she was probably the worst person to ask. When I asked her why, she said because she doesn't pay much attention to the writing skill, but she does care about a great story. 

Needless to say, this surprised me. Our talk continued for a few more minutes until she had to return to her busy bookstore. The conversation had me asking myself a few questions. How much do readers really notice? If an editor finds a minor plot hole, but the author doesn't want to fix it, will the reader notice? What if an editor enjoys something specific about the book and asks the author to please add in more of that something, will the reader notice the difference? 

Probably not. Why then do I say it matters? Because all of those changes that take place during editing, whether it's filling a minor plot hole, rearranging a couple of scenes, or expanding upon a sub-plot or minor character, all make a difference in the story as a whole, AND that is what the reader will notice. Sure, the average reader may not notice that something is missing, and because of the great reviews your book receives, you wonder if making changes is worth the effort. IT IS! 

I've said this before, but it's worth repeating. When you work with your editor and they offer suggestions, ask questions, or make comments, don't ignore them. Consider what they're asking of you. Perhaps they don't even know what is missing, but you will. If something doesn't quite feel right, fix it, expand upon it, or delete it. If it doesn't feel right to you, some reader out there will notice. 

This is why what a reader doesn't see, does matter. Readers don't know what happens behind the scenes. They don't see the multiple drafts, the markups, deletions, additions, or the big piles of shredding from the printed first, second, and third drafts. They don't see the writer and editor going back and forth while the editor tries to convince the writer that something doesn't work, and the writer tries to convince the editor that it does. 

So, if you think that one sentence with the minor character doesn't matter, think again. If you aren't sure that you want to change three pages of narrative into three pages of mixed dialogue and action, think again. If you think it's too much work to change or delete overused words just because you're on the final draft and you'd rather start writing the next book, think again. If you have dreams of reaching that best seller's list, don't skimp on the editing. Learn everything you can, and do better on the next book.

There's a lot that readers don't see, and a lot they don't miss, but it still matters to the finished book, and it will matter to the overall reading experience. Readers deserve the best books that we can give them.

Disclaimer: My editor doesn't edit the Working with an Editor posts, and I've decided that's because they are from my perspective. I'm not an editor, and if I had her edit these all of the time, the readers of this blog might come to expect perfectly edited posts moving forward. I prefer to remind you often that I'm only human.

Post photograph: Free Picture-Best Sellers

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  1. This is a great article. I would be surprised if there were many editors who are not only competent but truly invest themselves personally in the success of their authors as yours does. I know because she's mine, too!

    1. She really does invest all of herself into editing, and I believe it makes a big difference in the finished product. She remains true to both the story and author.