Adriana Noir wrote a blog a while back that dealt with this topic and I suggest you read her piece HERE for her personal experience on dealing with the editorial process.
With that being said, I’m going to go over the dos and don’ts of working with an editor. I’ve had my first taste of a bad editor (this person has no connection with Red Adept Publishing) and feel I’ve finally formed an unbiased, dual-sided opinion to share with everyone.
Now, before I go into my diatribe, you should know that I do not have my blog posts professionally edited. I don’t do this because I’m not trying to sell them. The readers that buy my stories and books are entitled to the best work I can possibly provide because they’re paying me. It’s a matter of good customer service. For my blog, I do a cursory line edit for typos and glaring mistakes, but for the most part, my posts read as if I’m talking directly to you. We’re having a conversation, and as long as I get my point across, we’re all good. That being said, every writer needs an editor. Everyone single one of you. Selling unedited material is akin to walking outside without checking yourself in a mirror. If you don’t care what you look like to the rest of the world, more power to you, but I’m always afraid I’m going out with my zipper down, selling franks.
The difference between good and bad editors can be summed up in one sentence, and that sentence is this: Bad editors rewrite your work for you, while good editors make you do all the work. It really is that simple. A good editor knows the value of voice and will not disrupt the style of an author because they think they can say it better. I’ve been working with my editor long enough that she can mimic my voice, but she still gives me the option of rewording her additions. But, more often than not, she makes me rewrite the poor verbiage myself. If ever you find an entire sentence deleted in your work, or a new one added in, take a step back and question it. Why is it there? Does it sound like your narrator? Does it sound like you? No matter the answer you arrive at, look for some kind of explanation in the editor’s comments. You should find something like, “Feel free to reword,” or, “Something like this.” A bad editor will rewrite, take away, or add text without explanation. That action pisses me off to no end. I write in a certain tone no matter what I’m working on. I use metaphors and similes to describe things. That’s just what I do. Dear Bad Editor, you don’t see things like I do, so stop trying.
To me, dialogue is sacred. Only the author knows how their characters sound in their heads. I do not mind punctuation or clarification added to my dialogue, but when I see vernacular changed and phonetic speech corrected I get a bit irate. You cannot tell me that nobody talks like that because my character just did and usually I get my speech patterns from people-watching. Now, if my character is breaking type, speaking clearly all of a sudden when all the rest of his dialogue sounded like he talks with a mouthful of marbles, fine. I get that. Let’s work together to fix said foible. But if you’re changing my dialogue because you think my character should sound different, because you hear them differently, I’m going to tell you where you can shove your edits.
Content editing is a personal favorite of mine. As an author, I only see what the story tells me. I’m blind to what could have happened because, in my head, that’s how it happened. I love being shown other possible scenarios. Remember this little piece of advice because it’s true: It takes a village to write a good book. My stories tell themselves, but sometimes, they need massaging. A good editor will find plot holes and give you suggestions on how to fix them. With Hope for the Wicked, my editor gave me a road map—a specific GPS location of the problem—along with point by point directions on how to solve the issues that arose. In the past, I have been given editorial advice that amounts to this: “Go down to the tree and turn.” My responses were, “What frakkin’ tree?” along with, “And which way do I turn?” I don’t need you to fix the problem, but I do expect you to highlight the specifics so I can do my job and rewrite accordingly.
Last, but certainly not least, I want to go over a list of thoughts you are going to have but should keep to yourself. You’re either going to offend your editor, or you’re going to come off sounding like a douchenozzle. For clarification, Douchebags simply hang around. Douchenozzles insert themselves directly into a situation and disrupt the natural order of things. Now, on with the list.
#1. Never say this to an editor: “My readers will get it.” Okay, douchenozzle, what do you think your editor is? I promise you that they are most definitely “a reader”. How do you think they edited your piece; by osmosis? Get over yourself. If they have expressed concerns about the plot, flow, or necessity of something, someone else will too. You might (strong might there) get away with not changing the issue, but do you really want to take that chance? I know I don’t. So I listen.
#2. Refrain from this statement: “But (insert famous author who has sold more books than Jesus) does it all the time. Why can’t I do it?” Really? You’re going to put yourself up there with those guys? First off, you’re not said famous author, so stop trying to do what they do. Second, that person has been around and could probably publish a recipe book on how to simmer shit into a tasty stew and people would still buy it. If you’re an author just starting out, you have no right, nor do you have the audience, to critique an editor on what some big-named hot shot has gotten away with. Swallow your uninformed comments and do a little research. If your editor says you have a grammar issue, Google it, or buy the Chicago Manual of Style. If you can find proof that you should be able to do it, show your editor. If not, shut up and fix it.
#3. Never expect perfection. You are not perfect, so why the hell would you assume your editor is? Mistakes happen during the editing process. Needless words are left in, or needful ones are deleted. Whole sentences can turn into gibberish. Periods get left on the wayside and poor little commas explode, never to be seen again. This. Shit. Happens. Deal with it accordingly, but do not give up on your editor when you find mistakes. Hell, you’re lucky they turned your pile of nonsense into a lesser form of literary diarrhea in the first place. I have been through as many as seven edits and eight proofreads before I received something I was proud to put my name on. Nobody, and I mean nobody, gets everything right on the first pass. This writing gig is a matter of trial and error. You’re going to screw up, your editor is, too, so live and learn. Errors because of line edits are more common than sunsets and bowel movements. This is why we need those wonderful souls known as proofreaders.
#4. Ask questions, but don’t be a tool about it. Editors are people, too. You don’t piss off an editor for the same reason you don’t cuss out the waiting staff at restaurants before you get your food. They’re handling things important to you, and don’t think they won’t spit in your meal. Professional attitudes are best. You want to build a relationship with your editor. The more they like you, the more they will want to make you look good. Just because you’re paying them doesn’t give you the right to look down on them. In the end, they could make your whiny-ass famous.
Well, I’m out of here, folks. I know this blog post was longer than normal, but maybe you learned something. If you have any questions, I live in the comment section below. Have yourself a wonderful day and stop being such a doucenozzle. Instead, try to be a back massager. Everyone loves “back massagers”.