Wednesday, June 18, 2014
My Profound Thoughts On Editing by Jannine Gallant
Sorry, folks, I'm ditching the monthly topic. Giving it the boot. It's gone with the wind...
I've been thinking a lot about editing lately and decided to share my profoundness. I've had quite a few editors, most of whom have been a complete joy. I've also been an editor, though not officially working for a publisher. Doesn't make the process any different. These erudite thoughts of mine have revolved around why some editors are a joy to work with and others--not so much. I came up with a few consistent points.
1) Basic Human Kindness: Let's face it, when we ask for an editor, we give someone permission to criticize us. It's for our own good (like medicine), but it's still tough to hear our plots and characters aren't perfect. So, mixed in with all the points about where we went wrong, it's heartening to hear we did something right. A "Great line!" or "This made me laugh." or "I love this conversation." in the comments area goes a long way. Nope, we don't learn from constant praise (that's why we have mothers not editors), but a few words of encouragement does keep us motivated to make all those changes when we realize everything we wrote doesn't completely suck. I know I get into an editing zone, looking for problems, making corrections and suggestions, but it doesn't take much to add a positive comment when I catch myself smiling. I'll try to do more of that in the future.
2) Don't Beat A Dead Horse: When I find a problem with a character or a plot point, I'm tempted to keep pointing it out--over and over and over. STOP! From now on, no more nagging about the problem issue. Authors aren't stupid. We all get the idea. All repeat criticism does is create resentment. There are a few exceptions. Dialogue tags. Sometimes we don't notice them in our own writing. They need to be pointed out. Same with telling words. I miss them all the time--though not as often as I used to. Makes me crazy. When editing, I like to simply highlight the phrase--she watched, he felt, etc.--then put in comments (telling). Same with tags. Easy-peasy. My smart author friends get the picture, and so do I.
3) Don't Try To Change An Author's Voice: This hasn't been a big problem for me, but I know it has given others fits. Constant rewording can make sentences unrecognizable as belonging to the writer. Noting grammar issues is an editor's job--no question about that. But just because you wouldn't say it exactly the same way doesn't mean the author's way is wrong.
4) No Preaching: I don't want to hear the scene is unbelievable because YOU wouldn't do that. Everyone is different. The world would be pretty boring if we all reacted the same to a given situation. I'm 100% fine hearing that my editor doesn't understand my character's motivation. A request to make it clearer or explain the character's actions more thoroughly is A-OK with me. A lecture on why the character is wrong isn't going to make for a positive working environment.
Being an editor is tough. It isn't pleasant to dish out criticism. It isn't pleasant to be on the receiving end of it, either. I can only say thank you so much to the editors who were so kind and considerate in their critiques and made me love them. Ally, Kathy, Stacy, Margo--you guys rock. I appreciate you more than I can say. I hope the authors I've edited for feel the same way about me. If not--I'll try harder.
What about you? What makes you happy to work with an editor--or want to take out a contract on her? Dish the dirt! Did I miss any major points?
You can find all my well-edited books on my Website. I hope you'll check them out.