I’ve worked with several editors over the years. Mostly, the experience has been good. If you work with enough people though, you get a horror story. The bad editors have one thing in common: they think it’s about them and they bleed self-importance. (Beware: at the editing stage, it’s not generally about the author, either. It’s about the reader.)
Bad editors are:
1. Belittling, condescending and even angry.
Let’s face it, for some people, editing is a power thing. They love to tell people what to do and where they are wrong because it feels great to be right. Editors like this don’t have a lot of authors who return to the whipping room for another go, however. Life’s too short. If you’re looking for a fight, there are better ways to use that energy.
One person tried to be abusive with me once and their lure was a very low fee. “Wow! You mean I get the privilege of being your bitch for a very low fee? Gee, thanks, but no.” (Hint: if you try to sell your editorial services this way, that’s a paddlin’.)
One editor went through the last few pages of a manuscript in a sad effort to convince me she’d gone through the whole thing. That set my production schedule back three months.
3. Frustrated writers.
A friend of mine was an editor and I got a chance to see her in action. When she was done, the book still had the author’s name on it, but it should have been her name on the cover. When the edits are intrusive or delete the author’s voice, it’s time for the editor to write his or her own book instead of mucking up someone else’s dream.
I could go on with a long list of bad editing practices. Many of you probably have a horror story or two to share. Instead, let’s focus on what good (and great) editors have in common.
The good editors I’ve known all do the same thing:
Picture a desk. This is the work desk the editor and author will use, virtual or literal.
Visualize the chairs. See where the chairs are around said desk?
The skilled editor who works best with authors places the chair on the same side of the desk and works beside the writer.
Working with a good editor feels good.
The relationship does not devolve into a hostage negotiation. It’s a team effort and the author is the captain of the team because their name will be on the cover forever.
The good editor is honest, but flexible enough to allow for stylistic choices. Some choices are objectively right or wrong. A bunch aren’t. Suggestions are welcome, but the author gets the final say on what he or she wants to do. Rigidity is the enemy of Art and good editors and authors know that. (Hint: Sentence fragments can be cool. They are not worse than herpes plus Shia Labeouf compounded by our sun exploding on Thursday afternoon while Yoko Ono sings)
Good editors have a light touch on the text because they don’t start off assuming all writers are idiots in need of discipline and more education. They may end up there, of course. Some of us aren’t that bright. However, good editors aren’t so cynical that they begin Chapter 1 that way and they never let their eye rolls and contempt show.
Good and great editors have diplomatic skills as well as sharp eyes. Even when a heavier hand on the text is required, good authors can become great by accepting suggestions with grace.
Good and great editors are out there. When you find one, hold on tight.
~ Let’s cleanse the palate. Time for a sneak peek at This Plague of Days 3? Go to ThisPlagueOfDays.com for a new excerpt. TPOD3 and This Plague of Days, The Complete Three Seasons launches June 15th!