Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Too Close to Your Work

I have a black eye. The first that I've had the pleasure of sporting. Many people haven't noticed, but today I'm having trouble keeping the makeup smooth over the spot.

Basically it is purple in the corner by my nose and resulted from hitting my cheekbone under my right eye with the handle of a hammer.

You see, I was too close to my work as I was prying a nail from a board.

In my years of editing, I've encountered several authors who get so close to their work that they can't see the need for editing or how to fix things in editing. It is no fun working with an author who argues with an editor about even the most minor editing points.

If you get your manuscript back from edit with changes you don't understand, first, take a deep breath. Second, realize that the editor's goal is to make your work shine without doing harm to your original intentions for the story. We try to keep every reader in mind. We want your writing to have the broadest appeal it can to readers, and sometimes the slightest change makes for better clarity. Third, step back from your work and put yourself in those readers' shoes. Now, see if you can't see the reason the editor made the change.

I don't mind when an author asks about an editing change--especially if it can be a teaching moment. Just try not to make an argument out of it.

Remember, too, that no two editors work alike. The editor on your first manuscript might have let an issue slide, while the editor on your second manuscript will question and change the same issue.

I just don't want to see authors getting "black eyed" book reviews because they refuse to allow their manuscript to be properly edited.


Debby Mayne said...

Yikes on the black eye, Becky! I got one about thirty years ago when I was riding a bike that hit the curb and sent me flying across someone's yard. My cheek bone hit something hard (still don't know what), and somehow that caused a black eye.

As for the edits, I agree that an editor who does a thorough job is a jewel. However, when we first see the revision letter, there's a bit of a sting that takes a few hours to subside. That's why I always read it, let it simmer in my mind, then come back to it and tackle each issue, one at a time.

Mary Connealy said...

Sorry, Becky. Ouch. I had a black eye once. My big sister, we shared a bed, hammered a hand into my face 'in her sleep'. Yeah right, but it was about 45 years ago and I still can't shake her story, which boils down to.
"Huh? I did? I don't remember it."

How do you shake THAT story? Get me the bare lightbulbs and the waterboard.

And, may I say that somehow it's really disturbing that you compare editorial changes to taking a hammer to the face. That just doesn't seem right!

And, in conclusion. I like the help of an editor. Even if I disagree with a change I try and think, WHY did they ask for this, what did they read in a way that wasn't smooth or true or fitting to them. Assuming other readers may feel the same.

And also, the comma damage control alone is worth the price. Yikes!

JoAnne said...

Mary, I have a very similar story from when my big sister and I shared a bed. Somehow she never remembers the details, either. Huh.

Jennifer Johnson said...

Hey Becky, I've never had a black eye either...yuck, not fun!

On my last book for Heartsong, my heroine wasn't strong that's a hard pill to swallow at first. But when I looked at it, added the suggestions, it turned out GREAT!!! I don't think I argued with JoAnne about any of it either. :)

Erica Vetsch said...

Ouch on the Black Eye!

But a great analogy. I find a long cooling off period between writing and editing is one of my best tools for seeing the thorns among the flowers in my story.

And there are still things I can't see because I'm too close to it. Sigh.