Working with an editor

Finding an editor who suits your needs is somewhat like finding a golf pro who can actually improve your game (without ruining it).

As any golf pro worth his salt will tell you, the best way to help a golfer (at any stage of his/her progress) is to zero in on strengths and help them along by changing as little as possible. This is so because every golfer has a unique swing; changing it can wreak disaster. So a great pro watches then offers suggestions to smooth out any issues in the swing without changing it too much. This working with a client serves the golfer's needs and keeps the relationship with a positive.

So it is with editors. There are many wonderful editors out there, and some bad ones. My first criterion is always cost analysis. How much do they charge and what do they provide for that service? A great way to calculate this is to see a manuscript they edited - before and after. Even just a few pages. This will allow you to see what they have done before, how they helped the writing - or didn't. It's a good start if the editor will share.

Of course, a good relationship is based on chemistry. This should go without saying; but if you don't "hit it off" with an editor somewhere near the beginning, you should probably move on. However, if you find you don't get along with ANY editors...maybe-probably - it's you. That said...

An editor's job is to help your writing. To help it to be clearer and more effective - basically to do what you intended to do but maybe didn't quite get to. The rub can come if you disagree on an edit, of course. It is within editorial-relationship etiquette to question a suggestion, with respect for the intent. A good editor will answer your concern with specifics. A not-so-good editor will get peeved that you question their "authority." It follows that if you find yourself asking questions of too many edit suggestions, either you are being too defensive or your editor is being too picky ior even arrogant - or some combination of both.

So this comes down to basic sensibilities. If you are not clicking - you are not clicking. And it may be time to try another editor. But be sure that YOU are not the problem. I.e., always be open - at least in the beginning - to anything an editor suggests. You can decide as you go along whether or not you desire to continue.

Of course, we are talking about editors that you seek out; not editors that are provided by a publisher. Whole different can of worms. In the former, you have control; in the latter, you do not. That said, professional editors assigned by topnotch publishers are most likely great to work with because of their extensive experience. In the case of HIRING an editor yourself, you may not have any idea of what you are getting into until you are into it.

A tip: Try having a prospective editor work on a short story. Pay them to edit a short piece to see how they approach your style. If it goes well, move on to longer pieces.

A note on my personal experiences:

With magazine editors, I cannot recall having an issue once they decide to run a piece. I have found their editorial comments to be both respectful and accurate. Or at the very least inconsequential - as far as my concerns to "protect" my work. They usually have a reason for the edit (and usually tell you what it is); and it usually does not impact your writing as a whole in any way. I.e., if you are overly sensitive to mini-edits, you might reconsider YOUR approach, not theirs. I cannot recall ever saying no to a magazine editor's suggested changes. In some cases, I couldn't even identify what they had done! So: no room for complaints.

As to hiring an editor for a longer work: totally different story. I have only tried it twice, but neither time was successful. In one case, I was referred by a publisher to a particular editor because my story "needed fleshing out" - which it absolutely did. So I was happy to get suggestions. However, after getting paid, the editor's only comment was: "Your story needs fleshing out." I asked how, and was told that I would have to pay LOTS more to get that advice. I reported back to the publisher who was surprised - then fired the editor. Not really a win for anyone.

The second time I tried, the editor simply never edited - never started the work. I checked back in for months but nothing had been done. Fortunately, I had not yet been asked for money, so I was able to walk away.

On the other side, I have edited lots and lots of material for many writers and have always - as far as I remember - been received well. I think this is because I take each writer, and each piece, separately on their own merits. I have had to be "cruel" - i.e., some pieces needed a LOT of work. But I never spoke cruelly to the writer. For this, I received little to no resistance, and writers most often took my advice - or at least they used my advice as a jumping-off point to improve their writing their way.

Final tip: Listen. A good editor - in some cases even a mediocre editor - will point to a problem and usually offer a suggestion on how to "fix" it. Feel free to discuss what changes might be appropriate. Don't badger the editor and NEVER argue. Even if you don't agree, take the comment in and consider it. If it doesn't ring true, put it aside for a little while then go back to it. Often, letting time (and your ego) slide a bit will bring you to your solution.

So, as with golf, not every suggestion is a total winner; but there is usually some truth to any suggestion given by a professional - as long as respect goes both ways. You must know that they are serious about helping you, and not just making a clone of themselves; and they must know that you are open to improvement. It goes both ways - which is probably the single most disregarded notion in most of life, eh?
1 like ·   •  0 comments  •  flag
Share on Twitter
Published on February 06, 2019 11:04
No comments have been added yet.

RITR (sic)

Glenn A. Bruce
An attempt to enter the blogosphere vis a vis the writing life.
Follow Glenn A. Bruce's blog with rss.