Wednesday, September 4, 2013

#WWoW! Editors: The Good, Bad and The Ugly

Congratulations on having your work accepted by a publisher! 

I'll let that set in for a few more minutes before I bring you back down to reality...where the real work begins. That's right, even though you've poured your heart and soul out into writing every single word, paragraph and page, you have to prepare yourself to rip it apart.

We've all been there—afraid to open the file attached to the email from the publisher. Of course the instructions will vary, but in general we're told to make sure the Track Changes feature is ON after opening the Word document, make any changes you agree to do, and make any comments you feel necessary before sending the whole thing back by the deadline.  Whew!

Why are we all scared to open the file? I think it's different for everyone but mainly we're afraid of rejection. What if the editor assigned to your work doesn't like it...any of it?  It's really not the end of the world, but that fear always comes up front and center when you open that file to find an EXPLOSION of colored balloons and comments throughout every single page. *GULP*


Take a deep breath and briefly read through some of the balloon messages to get a feel for what you have to do. Look for any repeat messages, glaring grammatical mistakes, and just the overall impression of the work you have ahead of you.  Now put it aside for a day or two if you can.

Why? You'll want to go through it with fresh eyes and when you've had a chance to get over the shock of the myriad of colors that used to be your "baby."  Trust me. Giving yourself a day away from it will help you keep an open mind. Many of the suggestions listed in the comments will improve your story. Some of them you won't agree with at all. That's okay.

Grammar and punctuation rules will vary from publisher to publisher depending on what style guide each prefers. For example, one of my publishers hates the use of semi colons. Others don't mind it at all as long as it's used sparingly. Some comma use and placement will also be dependent on the style book preferred by the publisher.  Don't be freaked out by some of these changes. You may have been taught one way in high school or college English courses, but your current publisher prefers another style. These are not the areas you'll need to "fight over" later. They're pretty much non-negotiable if you wish to continue to be with this particular publisher.

Now go through each part of your manuscript line by line, carefully read any notes or suggestions. Note any and all corrections your editor has made. If you feel strongly your version is best, don't accept the editor's changes. Talk to them about it if you're able. If not, use the track changes feature and leave a comment balloon yourself with your reasons why you don't accept what has been suggested.

Don't be stubborn and refuse to consider the editor's ideas. Often they come up with points you may not have even thought of before and which actually make your story flow more naturally.  THIS is the editing relationship of your dreams.

All Editors Are NOT Created Equal

Just like all writer's are not created equal, editors come in all shapes, sizes and levels of experience and expertise. Not every editor will understand you or your vision. That doesn't mean they're wrong, it just means they're wrong for YOU.

What makes a good editor?

  • They read through your material from start to finish and try to see your vision and help you bring out the best story from YOU.
  • They correct grammar and punctuation using specific style rules agreed upon ahead of time, usually those set up by the publisher both of you work for.
  • A good editor points out areas where your story is lacking details or has too much (info dumps).
  • SUGGESTS alternatives to eliminate repeated words and phrases to make your work flow smoothly.
  • Never tries to rewrite or rework your book into their own voice or writing style.

What makes a bad editor?
  • Cockiness. Claiming you need them in order to sell more books or you'll not find anyone out there who edits like they do. (There may be a reason for that! Just sayin...)
  • Turns off the tracking in order to delete and/or rewrite portions of your story with their own ideas of how the characters should act.
  • They treat you as if you're a moron with comments such as "have you learned nothing at all from the previous editing rounds?"
  • They can't refrain from making snide comments about editors with other publishing houses, calling them "overworked" and "lazy" when they "allow" things to slip through the cracks.

What makes up "the ugly" editor?
  • This group sets themselves up as editors but actually have no real experience doing it and no formal training.
  • Some are just glorified proof readers, catching glaring grammatical errors, but charge you as if they've edited for content and flow.
  • These are the people who take credit for your finished product in promotions. They make it known far and wide they were the one who edited your book.
  • Editors in this group not only turn off tracking to rewrite your novel, they'll actually convince you it's a great idea NOT to use it in the first place. This is a HUGE red flag.
  • These folks promise you the moon and stars, specifically you'll have huge sales simply because they're your editor...not because of your writing.
  • The "ugly" editor won't have a set pricing schedule nor will they have a basic contract. They'll just wing it and quote something different with each client. This is another red flag. 
How do you tell the good from the bad and avoid the ugly?

If you're with a traditional publisher, you may have very little say in who is assigned to edit your work. If you do find you don't get along with the person or you just don't click, you can request a change. What's the worse they can say?

If you're self publishing, you have many more choices out there. Just like with most things in life, you look for recommendations from other authors. This is a great place to start. It doesn't guarantee you'll find a gem. That may take some investigation.
  • Ask for their qualifications. Are they professional editors, meaning they've worked for publishing houses in the past? 
  • Have they edited in your genre before? If they've never edited a historical romance, they may not catch the specific details needed for that genre. Don't get me started on "vanilla" editors attempting to edit erotic romances! The two just don't blend. NOT. AT. ALL.
  • Give them a try. They may meet all your criteria and you don't click with them. That's okay. Don't be discouraged.
The only way to know if you and your editor will get along is to work with them. Take the plunge! If you feel they've helped you and truly worked WITH you to keep your vision on track, then you found the right partner.

If not, and you feel as if the editor doesn't understand you, your characters or your story as a whole, they're not a good match for you.  You don't want a "yes" man. You want someone honest, straight forward and helpful without tearing you down every time you work together.

Compare different editors and their styles. Yes, this could cost you a pretty penny at first, but it can be so worth it. It's something I did with my current WIP in editing. I put both edits up on a split screen in Scrivener and compared each, line by line.  The combination of their suggestions help make my work shine. There were a few instances where both of them said "WTF?? Did you really mean this?"  LOL!  Talk about a good red flag. This is something to change and do it pronto. hehehe

Editors are not meant to be the enemy. They really are there to help you improve your skills and put forth the best book possible. It takes time to find the right match for you, but when you do...

The sky's the limit!

Learn More About Tammy

Tammy Dennings Maggy is a multi-published poet and erotic romance author with Siren and Sassy Vixen Publishing. Her writing explores many facets of romance from ultimate betrayal to finding your soul mate. Her poetry serves as a companion to her novels and has inspired entire series all on their own. Tammy and her alter egos Lia Michaels and Stephanie Ryan make up the core authors at Sassy Vixen Publishing and together they've created the shared world series Temptations Resort. Look for the first books in that series to come out later this year.

Now happily married to her own Muse and soul mate, she continues to live her dream and act as secretary to all her characters demanding to have their stories told.

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