What I like most about editing is getting to work closely with writers. I love the energy that’s generated as we slog through a project together, discussing and debating all possible solutions to the endless riddles posed by a newly completed (but not quite polished) novel, memoir, or short story collection. Ideally, the process of editing a manuscript, though laborious, becomes a true partnership, the coming together of the objective and the subjective, the critic and the creator.
That said, there are ways to crush the author-editor relationship before it’s sprouted, much less grown strong roots. What follows are the top five ways a client can make me sorry I ever said “love to!” to their book.
5. Come into the relationship without understanding what an editor does–especially YOUR editor.
As a content and development editor, my job is to take your “final” draft and show you where it falls short. The opening passage that fails to entice. The sagging middle or undeveloped subplot. Characters who take up precious space but offer little to nothing in return.
Line editing/proofreading focuses on spelling, grammar, and punctuation. This vitally important final step makes a book ready for public viewing.
If your book has a cracked foundation and damaged framing, you can’t come to me expecting a lick of paint and some pretty curtains. If you refuse to see the problems in your work, I cannot help you address those problems. That will make me sad.
4. Expect a fully re-worked manuscript for the price of a proofread.
Few writers have an unlimited budget for editing services. Yet thorough editing takes time. The more work the manuscript requires, the longer it will take the editor–and the bigger the blow to the writer’s wallet.
There are ways to ease the financial strain. Buddy up with a fellow writer who is as good as OR BETTER than you are. You will each bring an objective eye to the other’s work. Take an editing course through your local community college. Write more. The more books you write, the better each one will be. Over time, you’ll notice you need less and less help with your basic structure and content. The point is to get your work as close to DONE as you can before you seek an editor.
What you should not do is come to me with a book requiring a major overhaul and ask me to cut my rate by a third or a half (or more!) with promises of “many more manuscripts to come.” What you are actually offering me is a lot more labor at under-market rates. That will make me cry.
3. After an editor quotes a turnaround time of three to four weeks, call, email, text every other day to “just to see how it’s going.”
I get it. Your book is your baby. You’ve trusted me with something precious to you, and you need to know that it’s okay.
Your book is important to me, too. I want to give it the attention it needs. I want to become engaged by it, build a relationship with it. I can’t do that if I’m being interrupted or need to spend editing time returning dozens of calls and emails. This will lead to tears.
One-on-one discussions are an important part of the editing process. To offer the most value, they need to be focused. After working through your manuscript, I want to be excited to sit down with you (in person or virtually) and tell you everything I’ve discovered and show you chapter by chapter how to make the book as good as it can be.
2. When an editor is in the middle of your project, send her new/re-worked scenes or chapters.
Have you ever seen a toddler break down in the grocery store? Wild screams. Pounding fists. Face red and twisted.
That’s what happens to me, internally at least, when I’ve spent hours working through a section of a manuscript and the author emails me to say, “Hey, I had a great idea for when Reginald betrays Marigold in chapter five. I mailed it this morning. Oh, and I’ve added a scene to Josephine’s stage debut in chapter nine.”
Don’t do this. Just. Don’t.
1. Call demanding to know why your beautifully edited manuscript was turned down by an agent, publisher, or movie producer.
The reception of any creative work–a book, a film, a symphony–comes down to personal sensibility. The best editor in the world cannot make an agent fall in love with a novel. Nor can we turn a published book into a bestseller.
What we can do is set the stage for success.
Working together with respect and understanding, the writer and the editor can make a novel, memoir, or short story collection shine its brightest, so that it has the best chance possible of catching the attention of publishing professionals and, ultimately, readers.