I admit it, the first editor I worked with was a jerk and this turned me off to editors for many years. I developed the belief that editors were control freaks or word nerds who only cared about the bottom line and not a writer’s creative spirit or feelings. But then later in my career, I developed a respect for editors. Obviously, they’re part of the human experience, meaning we’ll find good and bad seeds among them.
And it’s true, in my early years as a writer it seemed that anyone could call themself an editor despite their educational background or writing experience. I encountered fussy and manipulative editors as well as ones that helped me shine as a writer. I worked with editors who judiciously rewrote copy and then slapped my name on it (I quit a contract job because this drove me crazy), and I met editors who helped me polish my writing skills by gently or not so gently referring me to the AP Writer’s Guide during my foray as a journalist.
While some editors came off as control freaks, others knew how to work with emerging and veteran authors in ways that did not wound egos. I also worked with one team of editors who caused me anguish over the impersonal way they edited a book that I took six months to write. I ended up re-editing the manuscript line-by-line which took me a month to complete. And this almost turned me off from all editors, except that I recalled one editor then living in New York who took the time to edit my screenplays which could have also been labeled literary train wrecks. This particular editor gave me confidence to write in longer form and I gleaned wisdom from his red pen.
So what are tips for working with editors?
- Hone and polish your writing skills by working with grammar and writers guidebooks
- Write several drafts before submitting work to an editor
- Know ahead of time what you are willing to compromise or negotiate
- Listen to what the editor says before making a rebuttal
- If you’re freelance get editor referrals (don’t just work with any editor)
- Follow directions when submitting to magazines and papers
- Continue to improve your writing skills
- Be firm and polite with your expectations
- Know that editors are extremely busy people, multitasking for most of their work day
- Editors make mistakes (be gracious instead of smug)
- If your personality clashes with a particular editor, don’t work for him or her
- Not all editors are equal (some could do better in another profession)
- Remember that editors are people too and they have feelings/egos
- If you’re hiring an editor, look up his or her credentials & talk to referrals
- Remember to acknowledge and thank editors
Not all editors are professional writers, but many are so they have a deeper understanding of the writing craft and a writer’s aspiration. Not all editors are created equal so when you find one who helps you look spectacular stick with him or her. Also know that those books you pick up at a library or a store most likely went through a long editing process with editors offering suggestions to the authors. This means that writing a book involves a collaborative effort between the writer and the editor.
And the right editor can determine the fate of a best-seller or a book that fails to break even. In the end, no matter the subject matter, readers will either criticize or praise the book based on the quality of the writing. Often though the author gets most of the credit, it’s like that saying that there’s a good woman behind every successful man, but we substitute there’s a good editor behind every successful author.
I am an intuitive coach for creatives, an astrologer and author. Sign up for an intuitive coaching session so we can take your project to the next level. wholemusicexp at gmail