Working with an Editor
Editors are an integral part of our work as writers. In the same way we should revise the very first draft of whatever we’ve created ourselves after it’s been written, we should make sure we’re listening to other people about the quality of our work as well.
Writing groups and readers who can offer critique are excellent ways of getting feedback, but it’s also vital to develop a relationship with an editor who isn’t your best friend/parent/fellow writer, but someone entirely divorced from your social circle and not afraid to speak their mind about your work’s ups and downs.
For people signed with a publishing house, you’ll be matched with an editor when your book is going through the preparation stages before publication. If you’re working on something that you plan to self-publish, then recruiting an editor is absolutely essential—yes, there’s a cost involved, but there’s also a cost to your work being released and not being the absolute best it can be. An editor will absolutely help you in that process, by concentrating on the structure of your story and helping you improve, even if—especially if—you think it’s perfect and that there’s nothing more which can be done to it. There always will be, I’m afraid to tell you, and you’ll definitely need an editor if you are convinced that I’m talking nonsense.
I enjoy working with editors; I’ve collaborated with different ones at Inspired Quill and have always had my thinking challenged by their questions and ideas. There have been occasions when we’ve disagreed, and a few occasions where I’ve stood my ground—not many, but when I’ve written something I’ve particularly wanted to keep. Once, I argued for keeping the last couple of sentences in a book which was due to be published fairly soon; I felt they had an emotional punch to them which I couldn’t describe or hit in any other way, and once I’d explained that to the editor, they accepted it.
But there have been many more occasions where I’ve listened carefully to what they say and worked on their suggestions. As a result, my writing has got better and I’ve been able to improve my books as a result. I have never assumed that I know best because I’m the author. Yes, it’s my work, but if I’ve missed something then I need someone to tell me.
When I was working on a relaunch for one of my titles, I was assigned to an editor I’d not worked with before. That was fine, although I’ve always taken my time in getting to know new people—that’s just the way I am. I was nervous about the change, only because I’m human and was concerned about how someone else would react to my work on a professional level. I accept that readers aren’t always going to want to read what I’ve created, or aren’t even going to like it, but when you’re collaborating with professional editors on the fundamental structure of the story (which, up to that point, only I had ever seen), it becomes the property of not just the writer, but of those who are equally as invested in the work.
Of course, I didn’t need to worry; the moment I became convinced our writer/editor relationship was going to work happened early on, when she emailed me with her initial comments…all eight pages of them. She had spent a hell of a lot of time going through the book and asked questions, made suggestions, and connected with the characters in a way that I was awe-struck by. It meant that she had engaged with my work in a way I’d hoped, and it thrilled me to know she was as keen to strengthen the book as I was.
I am hugely supportive of editors, and we writers should collaborate with them in as open a way as possible. Yes, we’ve created this series of words and seen it born onto the page, but it doesn’t mean that it can be delivered entirely by us. We will get help and advice from others, and we should listen to their advice, disagree where necessary, challenge where we think an editor might not see the whole picture (rare, but it can happen), and really think about what they’re saying. I’m glad to have worked with some excellent editors, and I would absolutely hire one if I wasn’t with a publishing house.
Allow your inner editor to work with the external editor, and you’ll find your work only getting better!
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© 2018 Matthew Munson
Available under the Thanet Writers Education Policy
Thanet-based author Matthew has three novels published by Inspired Quill, is an inveterate blogger, and writing is his passion.