Editing

Things My Editor Does That I Take for Granted

“You write to communicate to the hearts and minds of others what’s burning
inside you, and we edit to let the fire show through the smoke.”
– Arthur Plotnik

“No passion in the world is equal to the passion to alter someone else’s draft.”
– H.G. Wells

You editor is someone with a special skill-set. One that is often described as being intrusive, overbearing, heavy-handed, and just plain wrong. But it is also described as being artful, challenging, insightful, and brilliant. Is it one or the other? Or is it both?

There are a few things your editor does that you may not fully appreciate. I thought I’d gather a few of them. See if you agree:

1) Reads widely. This is no small feat. When your editor reads for a living it could be surprising to find that they are reading for fun too. The advantage for you is that the editor can bring breadth and variety into the editorial conversation.

2) Cares About Making Your Book Better. It may not sound like it when the editor is being critical or dismisses your latest brainstorm. But editors genuinely want to be a part of great books. Lazy or cavalier editors don’t last long in the industry. I have heard editors speak passionately about a book they worked on…even books that were published years ago.

3) Fights In-House Battles Big and Small. An author rarely, if ever, knows the extent of the hallway conversations or the formal meetings that have an impact on your book. Everything from reminding a publicity person of their promise to do something to navigating the cover design decisions to the Title meeting. Some battles are won, some are not. But that editor is in the trenches working with the team to get your book done the best possible way it can within that organization.

4) Confirms Sales Copy. As the book makes its way through the marketing and sales process someone has to write the catalog copy or back cover copy. Someone has to proofread it. Someone has to make sure that it describes the book accurately. If your editor isn’t the one who created the copy it is very likely that the editor will be reading it at some stage in the process. Don’t take this for granted. It is a crucial piece of the puzzle.

5) Understands You and Your Book. Or at least attempts to understand. Your editor has their proverbial hands inside you doing surgery. It can be messy. It can even be “dangerous.” But they have talked to you, listened to your vision for the story, and is one of the few people in the world who knows your book as well as you do. This is not an easy job. If they poke too hard you may scream or if they let something slide it may ruin a chapter.

Do you have some other things that can be added to this list? Please add them in the comments below.

Meanwhile…thank your editor today. They are overworked and underpaid. But they still love their job….and hopefully still love working with you.

 

Leave a Comment

But My Critique Group Likes It!

Over the years, I have received this comment from frustrated authors when a work didn’t hit the mark with me. As someone who penned many books in the past myself, I understand and sympathize with these authors. However, this argument will almost  never get an author another read of the …

Read More

Returning Lemonade to the Lemons

Arrogant Writer

In my opinion, there are too many suggestions to improve things. Ten keys to success, five days to improving something, 12 steps to overcoming something, transform something by the end of the week, etc. An entirely neglected approach to life is how to make it go sour. Messing it up …

Read More

When the Gloves Come Off

Fist Slams Table in Anger

The publishing experience is rarely done in isolation. This means working with other people. And if their performance or effort does not meet your expectations, conflict can occur. Over the years I’ve seen more conflict than you can imagine…or all types and variety. But the majority of issues boil down …

Read More

Editing Etiquette

Writers and editors have a love-hate relationship. Okay, sometimes it can feel like a hate-hate relationship. Writers all know they need to be edited, but getting the manuscript back with those edits can be more painful than passing a kidney stone. And editors know they need to respect the author’s …

Read More

10 Things Every Writer Should Do

  I’m a list person. In part, that’s because said lists serve to bump my memory when it gets…um…lost. But I also just love lists—especially lists of things you should (or shouldn’t) do. So here, for your perusal, are my top ten things every writer should do every day: Stretch …

Read More

Chapters: How Long is Too Long?

I’ve had a number of people ask me lately how long their chapters should be. My answer has been: “As long as they need to be.” Now, it would be nice if I could give folks the “industry-standard” answer: “Chapters should be no less than xx and no longer than …

Read More

How Much Back Story?

Sometimes in my review of a novel, I find that the story doesn’t pick up soon enough. I’m not sure what I’ll be reading about and my interest may lag, though I can still eye great writing.

“But I wanted my readers to know about my characters,” the author may protest.

Understandable, indeed.

However, I believe it’s important to lay out the basic conflicts for the reader early on so she’ll know what she’ll be exploring with you and will be eager to keep diving in. Before I learn that the hero had a difficult childhood and the heroine struggles with lingering effects of poverty, I want to know their immediate obstacles to their current goals. Those goals may be (whether they know it or not) their ultimate romance. Or they may be involved in a quest. Or perhaps solving a mystery. In any event, the reader wants to know what type of book he’ll be reading and will want to learn what obstacles he’ll be overcoming with the characters right away. Then, once the reader is interested in the characters’ journey, their back story will be all the more fascinating and relevant.

Read More

The Right (Size) Stuff

One hundred and fifty years ago this fall, President Abraham Lincoln delivered his famous Gettysburg Address on the site of the battle that turned the tide of the American Civil War.  It was 270 words and took two minutes to deliver.

Not as memorable was the 13,600-word oratory by American statesman Edward Everett that lasted for two hours prior to Lincoln’s epic speech. In fact, the program for that November 19, 1863 event consisted of eight elements…four songs, two prayers, Everett’s speech and a few words from the President.

History elevated those two minutes by the President to some of the greatest words ever spoken. The rest of the program is all but forgotten.

Recently I was in an airport terminal waiting to board a flight and the well-intentioned airline employee picked up the really bad microphone and began explaining the boarding procedure for my flight in tremendous detail.

Fifteen minutes later (I am not kidding, I timed it) the announcement was finished.

Read More

Your Writing Team: Freelance Editors

You’ve heard the old saying, “Can’t see the forest for the trees”? In other words, you can see each tree, take note of the beautiful leaves and strong branches, but because you’re focused on them you don’t see the whole forest. The big picture. And that, my friends, is where it helps to have freelance editors on your team.

Yes, for some, the editor role is filled by an in-house editor. But if that’s not the case for you, then I encourage you to consider bringing a freelance editor onto your team. You’ll be amazed at the benefits.

Good editors are a mix of coach and cheerleader. They look at your work front to back with an eye not only to the details you see, but to the big picture we often can’t see in our own work. I’m constantly amazed, and grateful, for the insights my editor brings to me as a writer. The way she can cut through the story that I’m so immersed in and pinpoint exactly what I’m doing wrong (coach mode)—and right (cheerleader mode).

Read More