Congratulations! You’ve just contracted your novel and now it’s time to prepare for the big debut. At first it’s all very exciting. You get your own editor, marketing manager and updates on your book cover. But then one day, just as you’ve reached the pinnacle of your high, an email rolls in with both your revised manuscript and a list of improvements. Improvements! What do you mean? This story is flawless…right? Well, think again.
Editing, believe it or not, is what makes or breaks a book. Check out any great author’s dedication page, and you’ll usually see a grateful tip of the cap to their editor. But before you get it mixed up, let it be known that an editor does more than just corrects spelling and fixes spacing. Editors are a key component in ensuring that the story plot makes sense and that it’s flowing to the reader’s liking. Think of them as the directors of your great movie. It’s the difference between a box office hit and a flop.
If you’re a first time author, it can be tough hearing suggestions from your editor. You’ve put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into your work, and now some total stranger is going to rip it all apart and tell you what doesn’t work for them. How dare they? Obviously, your manuscript is wonderful without edits or it wouldn’t have been contracted. Well, yes and no. What authors need to remember is that editors are not requesting changes to your baby in order to wound you. They’re doing it to better the details you’ve perhaps overlooked during the creation period.
I’m spoiled. Anyone who has been following my writing career probably has heard that my wife is my strongest critic. The woman goes through a book every two days and knows bad writing when she sees it. It’s her weekly purchases that puts the children of authors through college. Yet, with all of the productive criticism that I’ve received from her, even I was shocked the first time I received an editor’s review. It was hard to swallow why someone would disagree with ideas that I had ripped from my soul- ideas that I had been brave enough and bold enough to share. Understand that this is a bad mindset to have.
What I eventually learned was that editors are the last line of defense between your story and the book market. It’s their job to help you keep face while making sure the publisher profits from your book by perfecting the story. They spruce up your work so that it’s presentable to a broad audience. Are their suggestions sometimes painful to deal with? Obviously. But should we be upset with editors for their professional opinion? Not at all.
Patricia Fuller once said, “Writing without revising is the literary equivalent of waltzing gaily out of the house in your underwear.” Authors, we are not perfect. We make mistakes. We occasionally overlook the rules of grammar. We sometimes choose the wrong paths for our characters and plots. Let’s not forget that publishers chose our stories for a reason. They have serious potential. All editors are trying to do is make sure that your work is not going to waste. Together, with a great author and superb editor, one can move mountains. Authors, let’s work with them.
A special thanks to some of my best editors including Mallory Alcala, Sara Jodon, Danielle Romero and Alissa Holly.
Author of Consumed and The Plenty Dreadful Series