Monday, July 22, 2013

The Value of an Editor

by Mary Sutton / @mary_sutton73

Apologies for the late posting today. I was going to write about JK Rowling, but something has trumped that post.

Some writers don't like editors. They think that, somehow, letting an editor in messes with the "purity" of their story, as if the editor's goal is to rip everything to shreds and rewrite it to fit their (the editor's) own vision of the story. Or if they want an "edit," they only want a copy edit. Go find all the typos and leave the rest alone, lest you mar my beautiful creation.

I have a word for this: baloney.

I've been blessed to work with three wonderful editors for various projects. I'm working with a fourth for Wedding Bells: Hero's Sword Vol. 3. I will admit to feeling a little nervous when the new editor was introduced. Would he like the story?

Being a professional, he went back and read the first two books. I'm happy to report he liked them, and he liked Wedding Bells, saying it might be his favorite of the three. Yay!

However, that doesn't mean the manuscript didn't come back with suggestions and changes: everything from grammar corrections to suggestions on word choices. Plenty of red marks, that's for sure.

And you know what? All of it resulted in a better, tighter story. I did a lot of nodding as I read his comments. he didn't change my story - he made it better.

I had a similar experience with my first Laurel Highlands story. I submitted it and it got rejected a couple times. I worked with an editor. I incorporated her suggestions/changes. And I sold the story.

That's what a good editor does. It's not about changing or remaking the story. It's about elevating it. Because face it, authors; after staring at your manuscript for days/weeks/months/years, you can't see the weak spots any more. You need fresh eyes to come in a say, "You've used 'hurry' three times in three successive paragraphs; pick something else," or "Strengthen the scene with a little more/less description."

A good editor is worth his/her weight in gold. Yeah, you might have to work with a couple different ones (if you are self-publishing), but when you find one, hold on tight. Your editor is not your opposition, she's your partner. Together, you'll work together to make a great book for your reader.

And isn't that really what it's all about?

Image courtesy of Nic McPhee, used under Creative Commons


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  2. Two words: Laurell. K. Hamilton. (Okay, two words and an initial.)

    Hamilton was fairly talented writer who experienced some intense success, and then let her ego run away with her. She jettisoned her editor and went from being one of the real up-and-comers of the urban fantasy genre to a hack who publishes badly-plotted porn. Badly-plotted port with typos.

    1. Yeah. When you are with a big publisher, hopefully they are providing good editing. But it's a real challenge for independent authors. Most often, it's "Oh, editing is too expensive and my brother-in-law was an English major so he'll edit my book for free." But catching typos is only a small fraction of the value of an editor. I've been fortunate to meet some awesome ones and I don't regret a penny of what I've spent.

  3. I look forward to working with a professional editor when I've gone as far as I can go on my own.

    1. I love how the ones I've worked with seem to find those spots where I know something could be better - and they actually have good suggestions to fix it.