My own modest experiences of being edited, both long and short, has always been positive, usually enjoyable, so I can look back at them with some fondness.
Then I got into editing, the other side of the table as it were. In the main I look back at both sides fondly. To all those editors, and editees, my sincere thanks for the often long-distance conversations, and for making ‘working together’ exactly what it sounds like.
To a select minority, I dedicate the following. [Experience says they’ll either not read it, or sneer at it, but for others, maybe it will prompt a few nods and smiles. Even the odd giggle.]
So here we go. You are a writer. Your new publisher says you’re going to work with an editor. You say yes, for whatever reason – a general willingness to work on your script/a fear of losing your shiny new contract/sheer curiosity; what the *** is an editor?
And so it begins:
1) Your editor emails, says hi, maybe explains their approach, and says they look forward to working with you to make your story the best it can be and get the best reviews.
- You reply curtly/ assume they know your enormous talent, and your life history/ tell them you’re very busy but will fit them in when you can, your deadlines being more urgent than the publisher’s/ don’t reply at all, let alone try to sound friendly to a ‘mere’ employee.
2) As stated in that email, your editor kicks off with, say, a single chapter, aiming to get acquainted with what you like or need, the best way to relate to you before diving in. [Plus, they are aware those opening pages will be your first impression on the reader and how important that is.]
- You complain you’d rather have the whole script at once.
3) Your editor queries whether the reference to a building in the very first paragraph could signal a misleading past/present/future setting. Maybe you could add two words to pin that down, to avoid sending a reader off down the wrong assumption-path?
- You reply with ‘Isn’t it obvious?’
4) Your editor explains they really don’t think two prologues will go down well with your readers, and suggests cutting the shortest, or moving it, to get the main action started sooner.
- You write three pages, to the publisher not the editor, on why both are absolutely essential and, as clearly the editor isn’t clever enough to see that, you’ve by-passed them. Expect support and take offence when the publisher agrees with – horror – the editor.
5) You have two, often three, adjectives attached to your nouns. A lot. The same for similes, metaphors…Your editor suggests sometimes choosing just the best.
- You reply that every one is vital.
6) Your editor can’t work out what word XXXXXX means. It crops up repeatedly and they’re pretty sure most readers will have the same problem. They want to understand better to see how to avoid confusion. Is it, they ask, maybe an AAAAAA? Or a BBBBBBB?
- You answer, ‘No, it’s an XXXXXX.’
7) Your editor requests you change two near-identical names, of two characters who always appear together.
- You reply either, ‘That’s their names,’ or ‘I can’t possibly offend them’.
8) Your editor asks you to move a long discussion out of the middle of a fast-action chase scene. With guns.
- Hey, just ignore.
9) Your editor asks you to tweak a ref on page 20 to make it clearer.
- You tell them it’s quite unnecessary; you’ve explained it perfectly on page 50.
10) (a) Your editor uses, and explains the need for, the preferred mark-up system of both publisher and editor [ probably Track Changes but feel free to insert to taste ].
- You reply that you don’t like/can’t work with/don’t approve of it.
10) (b) Your editor, willing to be nice and accept you really can’t deal, offers to work with coloured highlights. More work farther along for the editor but hopefully better for you.
- You don’t reply. Instead you ignore both approaches and remove all the mark-ups before you return the full edit, telling the editor they can ‘just’ go through the edit by reading all the before and after copies and comparing them.[ Every **** word, and no I’m not talking a short story!]
Am I making all of this up? Any of it? What do you think?
Obviously this doesn’t refer to any one edit. How could it, right? But hey, following these guidelines will definitely get you noticed. Your name will stick in the mind of both editor and publisher. So yes, you will have made a real impact on your professional standing
Sadly, it may not get you another contract with that publisher?
Terry Jackman began writing nonfiction, more by accident than design, before eventually tackling fiction. These days she runs the BSFA Orbit groups and edits-for-hire between writing and the day job. She also runs the occasional convention workshop, and is strange enough that she actually enjoys moderating panels.