Editing

This is more a ‘creativity’ post than a specificially druidic one, but, writing is very much part of the bard path for a lot of fellow travellers, so hopefully someone will find this helpful.

For writers, editing is an essential, but not always easy or happy process. No matter how good you are, everyone makes mistakes and a fresh eye to go over the manuscript and help with the polishing is invaluable. For the author who is protective of their work and sensitive to criticism, it can all feel very uncomfortable.

Over the last ten years or so, I’ve accumulated a fair bit of experience from both sides of the fence – writing, and editing. So, here are some thoughts on what good editing looks like, and when to dig in and demand to work with someone else. There are dreadful, inexperienced, self-important editors out there, and I’ve fallen foul of a few along the way, and heard tales of others. There are also a lot of brilliant, dedicated helpful people.

A good editor will improve your work. It might sting a bit, having the flaws pointed out, but if at the end you get a better story for the changes, then the editor is good and you just have to learn to tolerate the process. A good editor will not only pick up on typos and grammatical errors, but will flag up continuity errors, phrases that don’t make sense, flaws in the story logic, anachronisms and other weak spots. Generally, good editors will identify the problem and either make suggestions or leave you to figure it out. In the ebook world (at any rate) heavy handed editing where the changes are made for you are rare. However (putting the editor hat on) there are authors who prefer to be heavily edited rather than being left to their own devices. If you run into an editing style that doesn’t suit you, it is worth asking if the editor would be prepared to tackle your work in a different way. If you’re going to be with someone for any length of time, it’s worth negotiating to find a way of working that suits you both. Very good editors may well be flexible, or willing to pass you on to someone who better suits your style.

When should you resist the editing process? I’ve had experience of editors who were determined to change my voice into theirs. Now, I gather some big publishing houses are very keen on this. My feeling is that if you get a big publisher, that may come at a price, and you might well want to grit your teeth for the sake of higher sales and visibility. However, there are a lot of small epublishers out there, and if you find the editing process with one of them totally unacceptable, you can always try somewhere else. If the editor’s work damages your plot, or results in the manuscript being less clean, run away. I’ve had both happen, and this is not good editing. If the editor is rude or abusive about your work, contact your publisher immediately and complain. (I’ve had that one happen too.)

It is not easy, especially when you are new to writing, to judge what is unfair editing, and what is the grumbling of a bruised ego. None of us really enjoys having our mistakes flagged up. However, it is really important to determine between the two. Having a hissy fit over good editing will not help you in the slightest. Tolerating bad editing won’t help you either. The critical question to ask is, does the process make my book better, and more saleable? If you aren’t sure, ask – it may be that there are conventions you need to learn about. A good editor will help you learn. If you feel that the process is genuinely harming your book, then contact the publisher. They took your book on based on what they saw of it, after all. In my experience, a word to the publisher can result in a change of editor when needed. If all else fails, and you really aren’t happy, then walk away. Sometime it pays off in spades.

The vast majority of editing is good and helpful, but don’t be afraid to complain if the process doesn’t work for you.

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