Sunday, July 18, 2010

Ooh, those eeevil editors

by Raelene Gorlinsky

Yes, indeed, the goal of all editors is to gut your book of individuality and uniqueness, force it into some predetermined mold, and rip your words out of your control.

And there is this bridge I'd like to sell you...

The amazing, incomprehensible thing is that some writers actually believe this nonsense. Are they so ego-driven that they think their writing is perfect and any editing is an attack? Or are they embittered people whose writing has not been yet accepted by publishers, and so they have to justify this with some reason not related to the quality of their work?

Reality: The purpose and goal of any good, professional editor is to help a writer take that gemstone they've produced and polish all the facets to the highest sparkle, turn it into a shining jewel. And thereby ensure the best sales potential for the story, for the profit of both author and publisher (who pays the editor's salary).

Victoria Strauss of Writer Beware has an excellent post on this attitude, which seems to be popping up now as a justification for self-publishing of questionable-quality work. After all, you wouldn't want one of those eeevil editors to get their hands on your precious, perfect words and--gasp--actually have suggestions for improvement!

The Myth of the Evil Editor

Do read the whole article, but the gist of it is this:
At its best, the author-editor relationship is a partnership. The editor doesn't want to turn your book into a cookie; she wants it to be as good as it can possibly be so it will sell robustly and make money for everyone. To that end, she suggests ways in which your manuscript could be strengthened and improved, and leaves it to you to make those changes in the best way you can. You're well-advised to take her comments seriously--she's a professional, after all, and writers who believe they don't need an editorial eye are letting their egos run away with their good sense. But it is still your book, and if you disagree with your editor you're free to say so, and to make a case for keeping things as they are, or for making a different change.

That's what it comes down to--this is a professional partnership, with author and editor each contributing their specific skills in a cooperative effort to make the story the best it can be.


Angelia Sparrow said...

Being in the seventh circle of Editing Hell (a novel and 2 novellas, AT THE SAME TIME), I'm not the person to talk to right now.

I only dislike the "Smut it up and add naughty, naughty words" phase of the edit. The rest is seldom all that bad.

Hardest part I ever had was finding a medieval word for balcony. The architectural feature is 3000 years old. The word came about in the 1500s. *headdesk*

Jayme Whitfield said...

I've always had the perspective that I, as a writer, should know how to tell a good story, while the editor, whose job it is to market and sell books, should know best how to edit that story into something the masses would enjoy reading.

Perhaps this requires a bit of a leap of faith on the part of an author, but it is a leap that can only benefit them in the long run. Sure, it can be challenging to do the rewrites, but it has been my experience that they are worth the effort.

My personal issue with editing is that I simply hate to do it. Once I've finished a story, I'd much prefer to move on to the next one, enjoying the creative high that accompanies fresh writing. Nothing can make me grind my teeth more than a stack of pages covered in red pen. I don't blame my editor for that, though!

Wynter said...

I know I am in the minority among writers because I love working on edits. I trust my editors to bring out the sparkle in my prose. My current (EC) editor has really allowed me to spread my creative wings and I don't feel she's ever changed my voice.

Cris Anson said...

I can't agree more about the value of a good editor. I've had two excellent ones at Ellora's Cave and I appreciate them more than I can say. I know there are weak spots in my work that I can't see, but after she takes a pass at it and I absorb her comments, I realize how much better I can make it.

Anyone who thinks his/her writing can stand without a tweak here and there from a knowledgable partner is just denying reality.

Tibby Armstrong said...

I realize I am biased, but I know, without a doubt, that Sheet Music wouldn't be half the story it is without the incredible editorial guidance I received.

I think a good editor is worth their weight in gold. Not just sayin'.

Desiree Holt said...

Two words sum up the ideal relationship between anauthor and an editor-trust and respect. I have the utmost trust and respect for mine and I believe it goes both ways. Helen takes my stories and makes them sing. A good editor is the basis for an author's success.