Editor – friend or foe

IWSGA post for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group

The relationship between editors and writers is always a point of concern. Before I signed up with my publisher, Champagne, I was afraid of editors. They seemed almost mythical creatures with all the powers, hidden somewhere in their all-knowing towers, like grammar magicians, while I, the lowly writer, toiled below.
I have revised my view of editors since and stopped being afraid. An editor still has some power, but mostly, I now view an editor as my helper. The editor’s task is to make my manuscript better. Below are several common wisdoms about editors and my musings on them.

Editor is a necessity
Absolutely. An editor provides a fresh set of eyes to look at your manuscript, a much-needed feedback. In most cases, an editor knows her craft and is able to see problems with your grammar and kinks in your story. I was lucky with my Champagne editor, Nikki Andrews. I accepted over 90% of her suggestions, and it made my novels better.

Editor is God
Not true. Editors are human, like the rest of us. They are fallible and they have their personal preferences, which not always coincide with the writer’s. Once, I had a contract with a publisher, and the editor assigned by that publisher hated my story and my protagonist. She couldn’t even read the manuscript to its conclusion. She sent it back to me, demanding that I change the story and the protagonist. I refused, and my contract was terminated.
Of course I was very upset at the time, but now, looking back, I don’t regret the choice I made then. We were not a good fit, that editor and I, which is mandatory for a successful editing job. Moreover, her passionate rejection of my protagonist was actually a good sign. She hated my heroine as if she was alive. My story inspired strong emotions – a cause for celebration for any writer.

Editor’s word is law
Not really, but in most cases, it’s a good idea to accept your editor’s suggestions, especially with the small stuff: word choice, sentence structure, too many adjectives, etc. That’s why she is your editor after all. But a good editor always allows you a leeway, always remembers that it is your story. If you disagree – ask questions. Try to explain your stand. Discuss. Find a compromise. The more you work on your story, together with your editor, the better it is.

An editor is not your enemy or your friend, nor a god. She is there to help you. Use her help to improve your story.

This entry was posted in Insecure Writer's Support Group, Olga Godim, Writing and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Editor – friend or foe

  1. mirymom says:

    I’ll get to find out firsthand what you mean soon. Thanks for the balanced thinking about editors (and the comment on my blog).

  2. Loni Townsend says:

    Not all editors are created equal, as well. I self-published, so I went looking and interviewing for editors before releasing my story to the world. I sent out a dozen emails, and a few responded back with “I’d love to help you, Lori.”

    That right there told me they clearly didn’t have the attention to detail I expected from an editor (especially copy-editing). If you can’t even spell my name right…

    But your write-up is a good collection of observations, and I found myself agreeing to all of them.


  3. cgcoppola says:

    I always HATE getting my manuscript back from the editor. It love it the way it is (obviously) but then I get all these red lines and questions and I’m like NOOOOO you were supposed to *love it*.

    I think it’s difficult because we get attached to our work and when someone is advising to change it (for the better) it’s like a ripple of rejection or something… I don’t know. But, what I have had to tell myself over and over is “they’re making it BETTER.” You can choose to accept their suggestions/advice or not, but in the end, they’re taking a look at your work and saying “this doesn’t work. Change it and will be better.” And after all, isn’t that point of an editor?

    But I agree. Editors are definitely friends. They’re needed to look over your stuff with a fresh pair of eyes, which is what we, the writers need. Awesome post!

  4. Rita Bay says:

    I’ve been blessed with great publishers (4) that I continue to write for and editors (9) that I would gladly work with again – with one exception. Not all editors can work with every author.

  5. Very true, especially about the editor not being deific. ^_^ When it comes down to it, the story is yours; others’ help is valuable, but you don’t have to make changes just because someone says so. I haven’t had to deal with editors yet, but I’ve had suggestions from critique partners that I disagreed with and decided not to implement. Hopefully it’ll be that easy when it’s an editor. Oi.

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