In honour of my publication anniversary, and also in honour of how completely exhausted the whole process left me, I thought I’d write a little bit about my experience of working with an editor. Like, a proper editor – not your friend from nursery school, who reads your stuff with a cup of tea and tells you how great it is, because she’s your oldest friend and that’s what oldest friends do.
During the publishing process of my novel, the editorial stage was definitely a learning experience for me. So, what did I learn?
I learned how to be dispassionate when it comes to receiving constructive feedback about my work.
I learned to be active with the feedback, instead of reactive.
I learned how completely exhausting it is to edit through your entire manuscript for what seems like the millionth time.
But the most important thing I learned was how crucial it is to have a great editor on your side!
Anyone can publish without an editor. Some people can even publish excellent work without an editor. But I suspect that most of us need editorial assistance at some point in our writing careers, so we may as well learn about it all and develop an understanding of what an editor actually does.
There are many types of editors with various editorial skills that will benefit different writers. In a nutshell, editors are put here by God to help writers produce the best work possible.
An editor is not emotionally involved in your work, so is able to experience it objectively. Take advantage of this by sitting back to digest and consider any changes, comments, or suggestions the editor makes about your work. Is the writing, story, plot or dialogue consistent throughout the book? Are your characters being portrayed in the way you want them to be? Or is there something you’re missing in your work?
In my own experience with my editor, she was able to spot the words that didn’t fit, and the phrases that didn’t suit the character or situation. As the author, I had spent too many nights sitting at my computer, too tired to notice the simple corrections that would have made those sentences shorter and sharper. When I’m in ‘the zone,’ I’m not thinking about these responsibilities to my work, because I’m in the story, I’m with my characters. When I’m writing like that . . . there’s no feeling like it. I put my fingers to the keyboard and off they go on an amazing journey of their own, and I’m on a magical carpet ride through my own imagination, meeting new friends who I wish were my friends in real life, because they know me better and love me better than anyone here on Earth. When you’re in that creative space, the last thing on your mind is how grammatically correct you are!
That’s why it’s so important to have a great editor on your side. A new set of eyes can see things clearer. So when an editor tells you to change something, it’s not because they want to ruin your art, it’s because they’re trying to do the best thing for you and your work.
It was so interesting for me to see the changes and comments that my editor had made throughout my manuscript. I had slaved over this document for so long, and she was able to change the entire feel of a scene by cutting out a few sentences. And even though I loved the words or the phrases she was cutting, I had to admit that the scene flowed better without them. In just half an hour, she was able to spot what I had failed to notice in three years. It drove me to the drink.
By the time I handed the manuscript back to her, I had a whole new respect for my editor. I wrote the novel, but she really helped to shape it. I created the characters, but she made them behave.
Throughout all this, she was never once mean about my work. She may not have liked everything I wrote, but she was never negative or unkind with her criticism. I always knew instinctively that she really did want the best for my book. I always knew that she was on my side. And for that, I am truly grateful.
Your editor doesn’t write the book for you. Your editor will help you to write the best book that you can write, before it’s time to release it to the big world. Your editor is the reader’s representative, so anything they spot in your work will probably be spotted by your audience.
So, if you’re in the process of writing your own novel, or if you’re working with your own editor at this very moment... Or even if you haven’t started your novel yet, but plan to soon, just remember this: I understand that your book is your baby. My book was my baby, too. But like all babies, you have to get them to a place where they’re strong enough to fly the nest. And to do this, you have to trust your editor’s perspective and learn to work with them, not against them. I’m not saying it will always be easy, but I am saying that in the end, it will make your novel a much stronger, healthier and better book. And when this happens, let it fly the nest with pride. Then get back to your keyboard and start the whole process again!