Updated: Apr 29
I know I ended last week’s post with this note, but I’m going to start out this week’s with it too. It’s that important.
Make sure your editor understands that, ultimately, you’re in charge of your own manuscript. Editors are there to make suggestions – and hopefully very insightful, educated suggestions. But they’re:
1) not infallible
2) Not the one who put months and months, or years and years of hard work into theorizing and actualizing your story.
You did. Don’t forget that.
Therefore… if you find that, during the exploration phase of finding an editor, someone is coming across as a know-it-all – he or she who must be obeyed – ditch them.
For that matter, even when you find a good editor who does respect your authorship, don’t feel as if you have to take every single piece of her advice.
My editor is wonderful, and I value her immensely. Yet there are times I will flat-out reject what she says for personal or professional reasons.
Either way, it’s my right to do so – whether I’m ultimately correct or incorrect. Assuming you find an awesome editor as well, you should operate under the same exact outlook.
Of course, even if you reject every single suggestion your editor – awesome or otherwise – makes, you’re probably going to spend some time going over the suggested revisions. And if you do accept some of them, that’s going to take even more.
Naturally, the more suggestions made, the longer your task becomes.
But I’m not even concerned about that aspect at the moment. What I’m cautioning you against here is employing an editor of any kind before you’re really ready.
So how do you know that you’re really ready? Many writers think if they’ve looked over their manuscript eight times already, they can’t possibly have that many issues left.
But, alas, that doesn’t automatically mean a thing. Like any other human out there, we writers have a very, very bad habit of seeing things through our oftentimes very, very narrow, very, very self-informed lenses.
Understandable though that may be, this condition can lead to missing a lot of problematic details. That in turn can keep our editors working overtime. And that can cost us double, triple, or quadruple what we’d otherwise have to pay.
Worse yet, it can mean we have to revise everything so intensely that we need a whole new round of professional editing. Which, of course, will cost us even more money.
Obviously, that’s a fate then you want to avoid.
To be as clear as possible, none of us are immune to that kind of undesirable possibility.
I’ve now published 12 books, each and every one of which my editor has looked over. And each and every time, I’ve thought, “This is the one! This is the manuscript that gets minimum feedback from her!”
Sure, some were better than others. I also like to think that, the longer I keep writing, the less constructive criticism she has to give me.
But I’ve never given her a single book-to-be that she hasn’t dissected (or flat-out ripped apart) to some degree. She’s told me that my main character was whiny and unlikable…
That I get way too far inside my characters' heads…
That I drone on about details nobody cares about…
That I use way too many adverbs…
Essentially, she’s told me all the things I need to hear to help me clean up my act and publish something worth publishing. Something really worth reading.
An editor is always going to find something to edit. Rest assured of that. But again, the less big things they have to point out, the less you have to deal with. Therefore, the better.
More on how to accomplish that next week.
Editor’s Note: Read the next post on "Do you need an editor?" here.