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.”
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?