Ch-ch-changes: 5 Tips For Surviving Editing (with Guest Blogger goodness)

J. Jonah Jameson

Editor may not be exactly as shown. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


All right, you little word badgers. I have a special guest for you today. Sherry D. Ramsey is an excellent writer whose debut novel, One’s Aspect To The Sun, was just published by Tyche Books. In addition to that, she’s an editor, putting together several short fiction collections with her collaborators over at Third Person Press.  She’s here to talk about working with an editor, and since she’s got experience on both sides of the table, you’d best listen.

I’ll be handing things over to Sherry now. Be nice to the substitute, or I’ll keep you all after class. *Takes off Shouty Hat and Stompy Boots, hands them over to Guest Blogger, watches you all ominously from behind a pillar.*

5 Tips for Surviving the Editorial Process


by Sherry D. Ramsey

The thought of working with an editor—either an editor you’re paying to help you improve your work, or an editor at a publishing house—can be a scary one. What if they hate your story? What if they don’t “get” it? What if they want you to change everything?

Well, having spent time on both sides of the editorial desk, I can tell you: being edited is part of the process, so you might as well get used to it. Or as Bare Knuckle Writer herself might say, Suck it Up, Princess. I rewrote the last third of my new novel, One’s Aspect to the Sun, after getting detailed feedback from my editor at Tyche Books. She told me what she liked about the novel, but also identified problems and weak spots and suggested how I might fix them. Although her advice was invaluable and she helped me find the right ending for my book, not all of her suggestions worked for me as they were. My job was to figure out how to address the issues she identified while keeping what I felt were the important elements of the book intact.
It can be challenging, but working to editorial feedback doesn’t have to be a horrible experience. Here are five tips to make the editorial process easier to confront.

1. The Editor is Your Friend.  A good editor offers a fresh viewpoint and an objective (and usually experienced) eye. The best editor will be your partner—not a dictator—in working through your story’s weak spots with you. It should be a back-and-forth process, the editor offering suggestions and guidance that you interpret and implement in your story. The editor’s job, after all, is to help you make your work better. No editor benefits from making your work worse.

2. The Editor Does Not Want to Ruin Your Story. An editor may have a different “take” on your story or see it going in a direction you hadn’t planned. This doesn’t mean that they are trying to ruin the story or make it theirs. Remember: editors have read a lot of stories, and many of them have been awful. They’ve probably seen every way a story can go wrong, and they want to help you avoid those pitfalls. Their ideas are usually worth considering.

3. Not All Editors are Created Equal. Not every editor is going to be the right one to work on your story or book. If an editor would like you to change everything except the main character—they’re probably not the right editor for this project. Likewise if they offer only vague comments with no real guidance, direction, or explanations. The right editor will clearly identify problems and weak spots and maybe even make suggestions for changes. Just remember: if they make personal comments about you as a writer, run the other way, and take your story with you.

4. The Writer Isn’t Always Right. Suppose your knee-jerk reaction to the editor’s suggestions is “No way!” Okay, throw your hissy fit while no-one’s watching. Then calm down, sit down, and consider what the editor has said, and why. It’s entirely possible that your story has some serious problems, and the way you wanted it to go is not the best way to tell the story. You might be wrong. Accept it, then see what you can do about it. Taking editorial suggestion is often about compromise, and you can’t compromise if you think you can’t make a mistake.

5. You Always Have A Choice. Editorial suggestions are just that: suggestions. Really don’t like them? Walk away. No-one is forcing you to make these changes. Just be sure you’re walking away because you actually fear for the integrity of your story, and not because your ego doesn’t want to be bruised. Writers who don’t need editors are extremely rare, if they exist at all. Are you completely certain you’re one of them?

Want more of Sherry’s writing thoughts? Tune in on Twitter: @sdramsey. Or check out her website over here.