Friday, March 8, 2013

What I Learned re: Editing

With eighteen releases and soon-to-be releases, I have certainly jumped through many editing hoops of my own and from publishers.

Going to state right off I will not be mentioning any names or mention any pubs in particular. I will be speaking in generalities.

I will also confess I am not the most skilled writer when it comes to grammar, punctuation and hanging modifiers and body parts moving independently etc...I could go on.

My strengths? Plotting. Character development. Looking back over my edits even the most intense ones, no one ever changed my plot or ask me to change my character's motivation. That's a good thing. I may have been asked to expand on a few points, but nothing has ever been cut or changed. I take pride in that. Or maybe I have been lucky.

I am stunned how different editing styles are from one publisher to another and from one editor to another even within the same publishing house. A few edits I received were far too light, some nit-picky to the extreme. But I will say this, I have learned from them all.

The most important thing I learned? Like promo, you have to take the bull by the horns yourself. I have learned to become my own self-editor and critical eye. Does a publisher give you two weeks to complete edits? TAKE THE TWO WEEKS. Go line-by-line. No one is perfect, not even you.
I have read Avon romances with errors. It happens. As The Human League sings, 'We're only human, born to make mistakes...'

The more you edit your own work and work on the edits from editors, a pattern will emerge of your writing weaknesses. Keep these in mind when you self-edit. Also, sometimes an editor's comments can seem terse. Ignore them and don't answer back in kind. Remember you do not have to accept everything an editor suggests. If the relationship between you and an editor deteriorates enough that you are both about to enter a mud-wrestling ring, this might be a good time to bring in someone from the publisher to act as mediator.

In all these edits I only had to contact the publisher once. Turns out I was not the only author with issues with this particular editor. The Pub handled it in a professional manner and I was assigned someone else.

Edits are not fun. Someone who has a sensitive nature may cringe and feel like curling up in a fetal position when you see a manuscript highlighted like a Christmas tree. Remember to take it slow. This is your story, your (pen)name is on the cover, so take the time to go through your manuscript carefully. Do not take anything personally (hard, I know) and do not be afraid to raise points and questions, but keep it professional.

Not every publisher has three rounds of edits, so make the first one count. It may be your only one.



  1. I found your insights particularly interesting, as I have sat on both sides of the fence: as an editor, and as a writer. Depending on how thorough of an edit someone wants, I've certainly lit up some pieces like the mentioned Christmas tree! Generally, though, it's rearranging sentences for better, more concise flow and pacing. It looks worse than it usually is, and it's never personal (unless the writer makes it personal...).

    I think, though, as both a writer and editor, the honest, brutal editors are the best ones as their goal is usually to help your work shine, and they often see things that you as the writer never would have seen.

    The one time it did get personal for me was when a writer asked for my help, and I gave him honest feedback. He has a stubborn streak and didn't want to acknowledge what I was trying to tell him, and I was trying to tell him a change was needed to avoid it reflecting badly on him as a writer. I got a bit argumentative because I didn't want him to go out in the wider world that way and end up getting crushed :/

    1. You are correct, the highlighted manuscript is often just sentences that need rearranging or bringing duplicate words to the writer's attention, but to a new author, it can be daunting. Me? I'm used to them.

      In my experience, it is not only the author that can make it personal, but as I said in my piece, out of 18 edits, that has only happened once. Pretty good odds. Every other editor was either a peach or close to it.

      One can be honest, even brutal if the situation calls for it. As long as the editor treats me with respect, I'm cool.

      thanks for commenting! :)

    2. No problem! No matter how honest I am, I always strive to be respectful and constructive! It's good to hear that the "bad" experiences are quite rare. I have attended at least two master classes where a published author tore the stories of my fellow classmates to shreds. I somehow escaped one, and took a very small hit on the other, but I felt like crying on the inside for the other victims...

    3. Oooo, that would be painful to observe. Having your story torn to shreds in public sounds like one of my recurring nightmares ;)

      I also try to stay respectful in all my dealings, whether its editors, publishers or other authors. Thanks for popping back in! :)


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