Write Wow!

Writing tips and techniques from the publisher of Swimming Kangaroo Books. Send your 3-page writing sample to be critiqued to dindy@swimmingkangaroo.com with the word "critique" in the subject heading. Your submission will be critiqued on the blog, but your name will not be used unless you give permission.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Your Editor Is Not Your Enemy

Everyone has editing horror stories. I have a few of my own that still send shivers down my spine. In most cases, however, your editor is the best friend you will have throughout the publishing process. Editors are very brave people-- they take on the job of turning people's prose into a published work of art, knowing that the writer may not necessarily be appreciative of their efforts. And that is precisely the reason why editors are there-- because they
look at the work objectively and bring an outside perspective to it.

If a writer consciously or unconsciously includes inappropriate stereotypes in a manuscript, the editor is the one who will catch it. I've had writers protest, "That's not what I meant!" to which my response is, "Your editor saw it that way, and chances are, if she saw it like that, your readers will too."

Your editor will probably find the line that you are especially proud of and make you take it out. That's because it sticks out like a sore thumb-- your entire work should be a cohesive whole. If you have one particular line that disrupts that flow, it doesn't belong there, no matter how inspired it is. If your jokes aren't funny, your editor will be the one to point that out to you. Again, if your editor doesn't think something is funny, odds are, the reader won't either.

Your editor may suggest you restructure your manuscript. S/he may rewrite some of your passages. S/he may point out technical inaccuracies in your work. S/he may point out when your manuscript steps outside the realms of belief. S/he may suggest you delete passages or ask you to add some more details. Your editor does all of this because s/he absolutely hates you as a person and thinks you are a worthless worm who can't write worth a dried pickle.

No! Of course that's not true! But at some point in the editing process, you will probably feel that way. That's because your editor is not as close to your work as you are. The editor is able to take a step back and look at the words you have put in place without the advantage of knowing what you actually meant to say. Your editor has no sacred cows. If you have a totally useless
character in the book that reminds you of your great Aunt Gertrude, your editor is going to point out that the character has no reason for being.

Your editor is NOT your enemy. S/he is trying to make your book be the very best it can be. S/he will make mistakes-- sometimes there is just a mismatch between an editor and an author and another editor needs to come in and take over. Sometimes the editor just plain misses the boat. But 99% of the time, I find my editors to be right on target.

Be nice to your editor. Thank him/her for the time spent on your manuscript. Let him/her know that you appreciate it. And LISTEN to your editor's suggestions. Writers need editors because we cannot be objective about our own work. That's what the editor is for.

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