I belong to a lot of email loops. Some professional, some for marketing purposes. There are a lot of discussions going on about different aspects of publishing and the book market.

Well, the other day someone was talking about a formatting disagreement an author was having with their editor. (It had to do with POV and I’ll save that discussion for another day.)  Which is what got me talking about the process of editing process in the first place and how I handle it.

But today I wanted to talk about the relationship between the editor and her author. First, let me preface this by saying I’ve had five different editors for my 10 books. I’ve loved them all. Seriously. I’m not being politically correct. I really did. They pushed me and my writing so that when the book released it was the best it could be at that time. (Well, except commas … God love every one of them that they tried to teach me when and when not to use a comma … it’s a lost cause. 😉 )

Don’t forget, writers grow and mature. Writing changes. Our needs change. Not every writer requires the same thing from the editor. Editors must balance and weigh editorial comments and changes between the needs of the manuscript and the skill of the author. Every writer has their own style, their own voice and editing without losing that is a talent I can’t even imagine.

But here’s the thing — and the reason I’m writing this blog. Editors are human. Yep, I said it. They’re not up on the high pedestals of publishing. They’re not conspiring with agents and publishers to make it hard to reach your goal of publication. They’re the step between contract and publishing that gives your book another chance to shine. But once again — it bears repeating — they’re human.

Which means … they have opinions … and tastes … and views. And those opinions, tastes and views may not jive with your idea of how you wanted something to work within your scene. Does it mean they’re always right and you’re always wrong? Absolutely not.

I’m a stickler for honesty. Say what you mean. Mean what you say. Therefore … if I disagree with my editor I tell her. A discussion begins and I give her reasons why I feel the way I do and she in turn explains her side. It doesn’t happen often, but it does happen. I don’t always get to keep things the way I’d like, but at least I feel better knowing why it got changed.

We’ve all heard horror stories of the author who refused to budge and the contract got dropped. I’m not talking about that kind of arguing. I’m talking about a reasonable discussion of artistic points of view. We’re all readers and we all have hot buttons that pull us from a story. Well, so do editors. They have “house styles” they need to confirm to and grammatical rules that need to be followed (go figure *g*). But they also have their personal preferences. Which is where you can actually wince and say “no, I just can’t see my character doing that” or “my scene doesn’t have the right feeling with that change”.

Tell them. Don’t be shy. Because in the end … it’s YOUR story. Disagreeing with your editor isn’t unprofessional, it’s just … human

15 Responses to A New BFF?

  • My editors have tried to teach me about commas too, Nina. To be honest, there are times when I can’t decide, and just go ‘let the editor figure this one out’ and move on. I admit it. Sometimes you really don’t know.

    My worst experience was an editor who was new to my writing, and suggested I change a character’s name because it didn’t sound strong enough. Since the same character had appeared in four books already, that wasn’t going to happen. Another time, one suggested I make a particular character younger because her actions did not match her age. I could see how that would be a problem, but this character was going to be a key figure in later books, and had to be old enough to fall in love with the hero I had planned for her. Factor in the fact that she was only half human, and you have a reason for the different behavior.

    When I have a valid reason for needing something to be a certain way, I’m not afraid to explain my reason. That said, I have also had to bow to the rules of the Chicago House of Style, Merriam Webster, and house styles as well. The point of an editor is to have the best possible book in the end.

    To me, editing is like having teenagers. ^_^ Pick your battles carefully and ask yourself, “Do I really want to die on this hill?”

    Excellent blog, Nina. Insightful as always.

  • Great blog. I adore my editors. They are constantly teaching and reminding me of my little habits, helping me to become a better author. *Grin* I appreciate their hard work and they’re patience with me.

  • Well, I’m a complete newbie, but I found the editing process extremely smooth, and my editor was great. She totally got my vision and the changes she suggested were reasonable, and she told me why she wanted the changes. I don’t know if she was being extra nice because I’m a newbie, or if she’s always like that, but I was pleasantly surprised by how painless the process was.

    It’s funny you should mention commas – my critique partners are starting to worry about my comma fixation! I’m always deleting commas here and adding them there. Misusing commas bugs me almost as much as misusing apostrophes 🙂

  • Hello, Nina,

    I’ve sat on both sides of the table. I’ve been an editor as well as an author. Let me say that as an editor, I really appreciate an author with your perspective, who will engage in a mature conversation about pros and cons of a change rather than viewing my suggestions as a personal affront!

    As an author, I’ve had a few editors who were just plain wrong. Can’t just come right out and say that, of course. You’ve got to be diplomatic. Most of my editors, however, have been supremely helpful. One editor, in particular, took the time to correct lots of vocabulary in a historical I wrote that was set in Elizabethan times. I was awed by her knowledge–and intensely grateful.

    The bottom line is: we’re professionals and hopefully our editors are as well. We have a common goal. With that understanding, the relationship should normally be smooth.

  • Great post Nina, Editors have a tough job. I’ve learned so much from mine, and I’ve become a better writer with each book. I can be a comma junkie too.

  • OMG, I thought I was the only author that was comma impaired. My edits are generally very light – except for those dang commas. I put too many in, I put too few in. I keep telling my many editors – “I’ll get it right next time, promise!” And I never do. It’s like someone giving me directions to get to a certain destinaton. They tell me to go right, I invariably turn left. Guess it’s those dumb blonde moments. Anyway, I agree with your take on this, Nina. If an author feels strongly about something her editor has questioned, she should state her case. Nicely, of course. However, if you have to explain something to your editor, it could be your ms needs to be rewritten ‘cuz you ain’t gonna get the chance to explain anything to your readers. 🙂

  • Kayelle – I didn’t even think of the series vision. Which is true, an editor may not realize there is a bigger picture and want to make changes based on one book. Thanks for stopping over.

    Selena – I’m so glad you mentioned their incredible patience. My editor just rolls her eyes and repeats the grammar rule AGAIN when I continue to make the same mistake. LOL!

  • I’ve been fortunate to have the same editor for all seven of my Ellora’s Cave titles from DREAM TRAVELER to my upcoming DO ME GOOD. She pushes my boundaries each time to write the best book possible. I love that about her.

    In the early days of our author/editor relationship I didn’t understand that her comments were meant to make me a better writer. I thought of her more as a boss than a partner. After our first project I realized her purpose was to help me reach my potential. This made me work harder than ever to create better and better books for my readers.


  • KC – I panicked when the first book I had to edit had barely any changes. I had expected to move scenes and fix characters, but it was quite painless as you mentioned. Here’s hoping every editorial experience is just as painless for you. And best of luck with the book sales of your debut story!

    Lisabet – I can’t even imagine the myriad hats an editor needs to wear in order to work in all genres. But their knowledge and insight often times blows me out of the water. It would be interesting to have been on both sides of the table. I’m sure it gives you an understanding most of us will never know.

  • Kathy – My commas are like a pepper shaker spewed all over my manuscript … spread randomly throughout the story without rhyme or reason.

    Tina – That’s a point I didn’t make and I’m glad you mentioned it, if it has to be explained to your beta reader or your editor then your words aren’t doing their job. THOSE are the kind of insights that makes me LOVE my editors.

  • Adele – I think sometimes authors do see the relationship as boss/writer rather than a PARTNERSHIP, which is really my point. Editors don’t want to squeeze out our uniqueness or squelch our creativity, they simply want to push us to our writing boundaries so we produce the best book possible at that time. Like I said, it is amazing that they know and understand each author and treat them and their story as individuals.

  • I am pretty new to all of this. My first book will be out next year, but I have to sat that I admire my editor more than just about anyone I know. When I think about the fact that she had to read my ms not once, but at least four times by the time revisions were done, well, I felt sorry for her! lol

    An editor’s job is very difficult. I was listening to an agent’s assistant at a dinner once and she said, “Look at it this way. That editor has to like your stuff enough to not only be willing to spend money on it, but also to be willing to read it over and over. That editor REALLY has to like it.”

    So that is one thing I focus on in my writing. Creating a story that my editor won’t mind reading three or four times.

    Great post, Nina!

  • I’ve had two editors at two different publishers. One I wouldn’t trade for any amount of money. She’s honest, knows my “voice”, and listens. The other one…let’s just say the entire editing process was long and difficult. I assume it was that way because from what I could figure out she was relatively new to the job.

  • Hi, Nina!
    Great post!
    I’ve been through the editing process twice so far and I’ve been blessed to have a wonderful editor! As a new author you hear all kinds of horror stories so I kind of didn’t know what to expect the first time around. But from the first my editor has been patient, knowledgable, open…and did I mention patient?? LOL! As a comma junkie myself (can we start an association or something??) she didn’t lambast me for still not getting it. She challenges me to write the best I can–while deleting a whole bunch of commas! LOL!

    What’s more is I can ask her pretty much anything even if it’s a WIP and have questions. While sometimes I’ll feel like a bug-a-boo she’s never made me feel that way. She’s professional but is still very approachable. Again, for a new author, it’s pretty awesome to have that helping hand.

  • Darynda – I never thought about reading and rereading stories, but that is so true about an editor they must really be committed to our books to spend nearly as much time with our characters as we do. Thanks for the reminder!

    Marianne – That’s a bummer you went through that with an editor. That must be really difficult for the editor as well when there doesn’t seem to be the “meshing” with the author. 🙁

    Naima – I posted this for writers who are leary of the editing process because we’ve all heard the horror stories of retched editing experiences. But editors want to help their authors, they want a book to be successful as well.

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