A page from World's End
There are all kinds of editors, good ones, bad ones, and many in between. A good editor is one who will give you a run for your money. She will not only correct all your grammar errors, but will question you on every detail, find logical inconsistencies, hold your feet to the fire. Odds are, she will write, “Show, don't tell!” somewhere on your manuscript.

A bad editor will not do anything at all. Increasingly, editors – who are generally underpaid and overworked – simply don't want to put any time or effort into a manuscript. Like a homeowner who doesn't want to fix up a house before putting it on the market, they want to publish a book “as is.” Writers who have dealt with editors who are real sticklers may think this is sheer heaven. After all, editors who do nothing are great for an author's ego. But, believe it or not, there are errors in your manuscript – of internal logic, of grammar, and of sense. There always are. Trust me, you don't want your readers (or reviewers) to point out your mistakes.

Good editors are a dying breed, but great editors – ah, these are the ghosts of the past. A great editor not only gives his authors a run for their money, he brings out the best in them. A great editor puts his own ego aside (a rarity), and instead of adhering to a rule book (“Show, don't tell,” “Only one POV allowed”), follows the author's lead. Great authors break the rules, and great editors let them. A quick look at the rejection posts on this blog will give you an idea of what great authors have in common – and why editors/publishers (who were not up to their jobs) rejected them.

I had a good editor at RH. She forced me to examine everything in my manuscript – every chapter, every paragraph, every sentence, every word, every punctuation mark. I fought her every step of the way - and sometimes I was right. When I caved in to her insistence on following the rule book it robbed something from my story. But, more often than not, she was right. The trick to working with her was to understand what she was getting at, and then adjust my manuscript – slightly. In editing my first book - and this will always haunt me - I deleted too much. This is a common mistake for first-time authors. They throw the baby out with the bathwater.

I have learned through trial and error that the best way to work with editors is to walk the middle path. When they say “Jump,” don't ask “How high?” In other words, don't slavishly follow every suggestion. Use your judgment. On the other hand,  don't, don't, don't tell them to sod-off – even mentally. They may be right. Take a step back from your manuscript, take a deep breath, and then exercise your skill as a writer. Make your manuscript shine as only you can – with their guidance. If the editor is good, the final product will be well worth it. 



10/16/2012 6:46am

Excellent post. A truly good editor is worth every cent they charge and developing a connection with him or her is the key to progress. Mutual respect for each other's work is essential.

10/16/2012 2:34pm

A great editor makes you proud of the finished product. She doesn't rewrite it for you, she gets you to do the rewriting, so that what is there is yours and you CAN be proud of it. And yes, I have known some editrs who rewrote some bits of my books. My last book was for RH and, as it was a medieval fantasy, they gave e an editor who had knowledge of the era and asked,"Was this around in the 12th century?" and so on.

10/16/2012 2:38pm

Sorry, my iPad froze the comment and your blog doesn't have an edit facility! The old "show don't tell" line has been responsible for such awfulness as "she ran a hand through her long golden locks" Urk! Sometimes a few lines of tell is enough. - and my editor accepted this when I explained that "show" in this case would tar pages.

10/16/2012 4:20pm

Hello Sue, I wonder if we had the same editor... In any case, I don't trust anyone who edits by a rule book. I've had editors insert sentences, whole paragraphs, and change dialogue so as to conform to whatever recipe they have in mind. My short story, Stella's Starwish, has been published five times - in five different forms. The only version that conforms to what I actually wrote is the one I posted on this website. This is why we turn to epublishing.

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