Some authors describe their stories as their “babies” or their “creations”…so what happens when the editor gets hold of said creation and decides it needs sweeping changes?
For many authors, the relationship with an editor can be a love-hate thing. They love getting feedback and learning new things about their writing, but they hate the need to make changes. There are authors who accept the changes with open arms, ready to polish their story to a gleaming shine. Other authors, however, see it as someone trying to gut their story–and who wants their baby gutted?
I’ve had my own experiences with editors, good and bad. The bad experiences were mostly my fault in that I wasn’t willing to make the changes necessary to make my work the best it could be. Do I have regrets about not making those changes? Yes, at times. There are times when I think, “Hmm, should I have done X like the editor wanted, or am I happy with how my original decision worked?” I have doubts to this day about not listening when maybe I should have.
Editors aren’t here to kill our babies. (Okay, so maybe some of them are–I don’t know all the editors out there, obviously.) They’re there to make our stories shine, to give them the best chance they have. They’re there to catch the mistakes that we’re too close to see, to look past the original vision to see where the story needs to go to grow and succeed. Editors are a good thing.
Some authors might disagree with me. They might have had some bad past experiences with editors, or they might think that they’re doing just fine as their own editor. Well, I’ve got some advice for those authors: You remember the adage about “A man who represents himself has a fool for a client” (credit to Abraham Lincoln, via the Internet)–well, the same could be said about the man who edits himself. Yes, we all need to do our due diligence in editing our stories as best we can before submitting to a publisher, but we also should do our best to find an editor who can give our stories the once-over (or twice- or thrice-over, if necessary) that they need. If an author chooses not to find an editor for their story, well, I have little sympathy.
Granted, there are those who simply can’t afford an editor. I was lucky to have a built-in editor in the form of my mom (who has had her own professional editing business in the past), who wouldn’t take payment from me for Whispers of Death. I was lucky to have a critique swap group on Facebook where I could send a few chapters at a time for critique, review, and yes, edits where necessary. But not everyone has these resources. Professional editing services can be expensive, and for the struggling writer it just might not be feasible to hire someone. And that’s okay, but be warned that your story might also not be as successful without that neutral pair of eyes to look over it and see what you’re too close to see.
As I await the first round of edits for Escape the Light, I try to keep this in the forefront of my mind. I don’t have to butt heads with my editors (although I love the editors at RhetAskew, so I don’t think I will). I don’t have to dig in my heels and refuse to budge on something they suggest changing. What I have to do is keep an open mind and try to learn from the experience. I have to be receptive to change and utilize those changes in the manner that best helps the story.