Wednesday, February 7, 2007

But I Like It That Way! (Part 1)

I like to create things – quilts, baskets, a redecorated room, a story – but I don’t really care to have my work critiqued. It seems especially hard to take critiques that come from my mother, my sister, or my cousin. I created it in that color or that pattern, and I like it that way, so others should too. (Don’t tell me I used too many “that’s.” ) I don’t want anyone pointing out where I got lazy and fudged on my quilt stitches. They are my stitches.

It sounds silly and childish. I guess the kid in me feels like someone is trying to take something away from me by adding their perspective when all they really want to do is help me see where I can make it better. As the creator, I get too close to my work to see the smudges; so another perspective truly is helpful for seeing the project in a different light. When I put that quilt on my wall for all to see or that story out for others to read there will be plenty of “strangers” willing to give their critique. When I’m honest with myself, I’d really rather run it by a friend or family member first before having the world tell me where all my goofs are.

The author-editor relationship is like that. We editors are your friends who want the best for your work. We want to help you clear out the bugs before the work goes public – before you embarrass yourself with a flat character or a research error. We wouldn’t intentionally steer an author wrong with our advice. We just ask that authors trust the insight and training that editors possess.

Here is what some authors said about their author-editor relationships. I’ll post more next week.


No one writes a book by themselves. It's a team effort from start to finish. Authors who refuse to allow for correction or editorial input are only damaging themselves. If a passage or character is confusing to one person (as in your editor) then you can bet that it will be confusing to a lot of other readers. Authors must understand that the editor is there to make the project the best possible story. It's to everyone's benefit. I can give an example out of my own work. A while back I had an idea for a story and presented it to my editor. She liked the general premise, but suggested changes to strengthen certain elements of the storyline and character development. At first I thought, "But that's not the story focus I had in mind." Then as I reconsidered the situation I saw the merit. I had to remove my personal feelings, my attachment to my "baby" and listen to what the doctor said would benefit the life of that "baby." In the end, I made the change to the focus and the book was a best-seller. I've learned to listen to my editors, and while sometimes I find it necessary to defend a particular element of my book, I know that over all my editor is my best friend.

Tracie Peterson, best-selling author of the Alaskan Quest series

Editors are the unsung heroines/heroes of the publishing world. I consider my editors to be my writing partners -- wanting the best possible book in the end. My editors pick up the themes I've woven into the book that sometimes I don't even realize I've managed to put there and help me strengthen them. They let me know if there are plot holes, or if my heroine is unlikable in areas and help me correct those problems.

I discovered the value of editing early in my career. Becky Germany wanted me to cut 20,000 words from my first manuscript. Gasp! Impossible, I thought. But she'd marked the areas that could be cut, and I recently reread that first manuscript (BAD!) and realized how right on she was with her suggestions.

I've craved hard editing ever since. Recently, my two WestBow editors, Ami McConnell and Erin Healy (geniuses!) thought the ending of my first hardcover, Abomination, just didn't work, that it was a little hokey. Though it hurt to hear it when I really LIKED the ending, I bowed to their expertise because I trust them. I know they want the best for the book, just as much as I do.

As a writer, I want to get better with every story, and a good editor is the only way to make that happen. I thank God for my editors, and if you're a writer too, you need to cultivate that relationship and really LISTEN. That's the only way you're going to grow.

Colleen Coble, author of Midnight Sun, a Women of Faith fiction choice

(Clarification: Becky did not ask Colleen to say nice things about her. But *blush* thanks.)

Brandilyn Collins of suspense fiction fame says: “In each of these [links] I make it clear how much I need editing, and I give my editors lots of credit for improving my books. I also give examples of what my editorial letters said and how I dealt with those issues. And I'm not afraid to point out my letters are LONG --15 pages for Violet Dawn, for example. Violet Dawn was my 12th book. Crimson Eve was my 14th. Point being to new authors -- those of us who have a few books under our belt know the benefit of a good, hard editor.

Link to Brandilyn’s blog entries here:

Part one for Violet Dawn – “Every novelist ought to be getting an editorial letter as detailed as this one. That’s because all novels, no matter how talented you think the author may be, need a good, hard edit.”

Part two for Violet Dawn – “I don’t have to just 100% do what they suggest. Sometimes I can come up with an even better way to fix an issue. Sometimes I’ll take their idea, but add my own spin to it.”

Crimson Eve Rewrites – “What astounds me is that these same issues come up every time. Why can’t I just get them right for once?


Linda Ford said...

Am I really the first to respond to this post? I, for one, appreciate all the effort the editors make to improve my book. I realize they can see my story with a detachment I lack. I can honestly say that every book is better because of editorial help. In fact, I would be very nervous about a book that didn't get close scrutiny. I know I'm not that good.

Thank you, ladies and to the others on staff who have helped. I consider it invaluable.

Linda Ford

Mary Connealy said...

I know for myself, everything that came from Barbour made my book better.
It's a great lesson to remember that editors won't be trying to change your book, just strengthen the book that's already there. The book wouldn't have sold if someone didn't like it as it was.
I am still a little bit surprised how totally my book is still MY book. I really thought you guys at Barbour would FIX it. :)
But no, it's the same book, shy a couple thousand commas and a nice list of sentences that didn't make sense. And I WANT that stuff gone.
And I keep hearing how everyone loves my cover and I have to tell them what my publisher came up with was so much better than I could have imagined.
And having gone through edits on two book, I am just amazed at your eye for detail. The things you catch that I now see--once you pointed it out--need fixing.

I believe in editors.

Beth Loughner said...

Editors really are a writer's best friend. No matter how many times I (or those who help with the process)edit the manuscript, the true editors find those mistakes which would have been really embarassing if it would have went to print that way. So, my hat is off to the HSP/Barbour editors.

On one of my books, I redid the first chapter so it could be adapted to the Ohio series which meant the previous sequel book would have ended in a marriage. During the final proof, an editor caught that I had forgot to change the maiden name of the character to her new married name. Yikes! It saved my bacon.

Editors are great people. :-)

eileen said...

We appreciate ALL you do! Always. Even when we grumble. LOL

Lynette Sowell said...

I'd be worried if I *didn't* get any editing comments back. The more eyes, the better! It's amazing how pet phrases and oddly reworded sentences can get past critique partners, etc.! :) We writers are just part of the process.

Kristy Dykes said...

I'm in the galleys stage for my Heartsong Presents novel, The Heart of the Matter. I'm grateful for the editors and proofreaders at Barbour. They make my books better.