In my last post on editors, I talked about the last editor I worked with, and my experience with her. There was a lot of criticism – some warranted, some crushing, and some that left me with more questions than answers received.
Now I’d like to discuss the latest editor I worked with, and the night-and-day different experience I had with her.
I met my most recent editor through a friend. My friend, we’ll call him MV, is part of a Catholic Young Professionals group in Omaha. There he met a woman who had self-published two books. Through their conversation MV learned that this woman had her sister edit her books, and through several emails they put the two of us in contact.
I was skeptical at first, but sister of this editor has done exceptionally well for herself and her books are still selling. It helped that her price was a fraction of what most editors charge as she was just getting her editing services off the ground. Jackpot!
Over a four week period my editor and I worked through my manuscript, first two copy-edits, and the finally an in-depth content edit looking at story structure, flow, identifying plot holes, and strengthening certain points such as one main character’s growth from meek to strong and the culture of the fictional people I am writing about.
My most recent editor was very thorough with grammar and punctuation. She was able to catch quite a bit of what the previous editor and I had missed. My editor was also able to go through and help make sentences and even paragraphs more clear and concise to better get the story across to my reader.
Through the in-depth content edit, my editor identified areas of confusion which need clarification, and areas where the story was weak and need additional dialogue and/or description.
It wasn’t all rainbows and unicorns. While my story is now stronger, there were times I wasn’t sure about my most recent editor. In all edits, and especially the last, she gave me a lot of pumping up and “your story is great, you’re a great writer” type of compliments. While this is a stark contrast from my previous editor, I don’t think it’s what I need to hear. I needed a hard, critical perspective and many times it seemed I was being provided too much positive reinforcement in a place where it wasn’t warranted.
Sometimes too many compliments and the like can be debilitating to identifying problems and fixing them, in this case in my manuscript. It can lead us into believing we have a great story when, in fact, we don’t.
With my current editor I had to be even more critical of my work, and bring things up to her and try to have her look at them in different ways. Sometimes it worked. Sometimes she replied with, “I actually feel that’s really good and I don’t feel it needs to be changed.”
Regardless of whether it is actually good or not, she said things like that so often that my blood pressure spiked a little and, after our meetings, I would go back and comb through my manuscript more.
So maybe it was a good thing?
Most recently (within the last two years) I have had two very different editors. One was overwhelmingly critical and, after paying a hefty sum for a single edit, cut off her availability. The other was much cheaper, but the constant positive reinforcement on things I thought were wrong made me concerned about the quality of her edits. The result: I believe I have a completed, ready to publish manuscript. Unfortunately, these, and one other editor many many years ago, are the only benchmarks I have for what editors should be like.
After reading both posts, what are your thoughts on these two editors? What have been your experiences with editors? I’d also like to hear the thoughts of editors/agents in the business.
Until next time!. . .
Update: the book is coming along swimmingly.
Part of the reason the recent editing of the book is going so well is the clear lines of communication between my editor and myself. Like any endeavor – writing, military operations, power plant maintenance, family – communication is key. I find over-communication tends to be better (though perhaps a little annoying) than under-communication.
Now I’m not going to write a whole lot on this. I am going to put a lot more into “A Tale of Two Editors – Part 2”. But it has been such a good experience that I wanted to cover it.
Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
Throughout the whole editing process this last month, my editor and I have been in regular communication through phone calls, emails, and face-to-face meetings.
Some people may think that this could become cumbersome, even annoying. At times my first reaction is just that.
But the high level of communication has allowed us to deconflict issues we’ve had, reschedule meetings without issue, and to verify next steps and expectations.
Talking through things has allowed my editor to have a much deeper grasp of where I want to go with my story, and the background to it. Sometimes I feel uncomfortable talking about all the nerdy stuff in my book. But the more I explain, the more my editor has been able to guide me in a better direction, and my book is really shaping up because of it.
Now Communicate Some More
I’m going to go back to the possibility of annoyance for a second.
I am very straight forward, concise, to-the-point kind of guy. I want the facts, and then to tackle the solution. I don’t need fluff or prolonged discussion.
I quickly found that this would not work in this case.
First and foremost, while my editor and I have gotten to know one another better, we still really don’t know each other well. We have both had to learn to understand how the other operates, reads, and understands things.
While I am a straight to the point kind of person, my editor needs more discussion. That, and I found that greater discussion in greater detail was required so that my editor could really grasp what I am trying to do with my book. It was a bit of a mental stretch for me, but once I got past my mental block, my editor has come to understand my book better and, as I said before, has helped me change it for the better.
For example, I wanted to ensure that the culture of the Star Folk, the main peoples described in my book, had a lot of examples without just info dumping. Info dumps make the writing boring and interrupt the flow. At first I tried to describe this and my editor had a difficult time helping me. But once I described the culture more, where and how I wanted to describe it, and examples of info dumps, my editor was able to give me suggestions and help me brainstorm.
The issue with this kind of communication is it’s a soft skill. It’s more difficult to make it into a procedure, or to document a process.
I have to understand myself and how I communicate, and learn how the other person receives information, processes it, and communicates back. And I have to do this each time with different people, whether writing, at work, or with family and friends.
As many may know, it takes time, practice, and many iterations of trial and error.
Communication through the editing process has been key to helping my book become better. Sometimes the over-communication has at first seemed unnecessary, but I’ve learned it’s required if I want my editor to really be able to help me. Perhaps if I had done this more in the past, my book would be further along that it is.
The book is, in fact, coming along really well! I wouldn’t normally say that – I would say good, or decent, or it doesn’t quite suck. But I can honestly say the book is making some real leaps to something much more organized, professional, and almost ready for publishing. I will have more updates in the weeks to come.
Until next time. . .