Working with an Editor

Kariss manuscriptsThey say that all good things must come to an end. Sadly, the same holds true in writing. As you turn your manuscript in to the publisher, you abdicate your position as ruler of your own fictional kingdom in favor of an advisor who tells you all the wonderful things you did wrong and how you can fix them. (For example, my editor would have asked me who “they” is in that opening line.)

But this “bad” thing doesn’t actually have to be bad. In fact, think of it as iron sharpening iron. Who knows your story and characters better than you? And who better to help you improve than an unbiased person who likes to read and knows a whole lot about writing and how to craft a story?

I am by no means an expert, but as I edit my second book, I realize how much I learned while editing Shaken. As you prepare your book for the editing process, here are some ways to prepare yourself, as well.

1. Check your pride at the door.

First of all, realize your editor is there to HELP you, not hurt you. Don’t take it personally. I thought I understood that, but I didn’t really grasp it until I received my first round of notes. Then my pride took a nose dive and shattered in a very ugly pile around my feet. This process is meant to refine both you and your story. I tend to write in a steady stream of consciousness, wrapped up in my story world. It takes someone looking at it from the outside to show me where the issues are and help me to change them.

2. Kill your darlings.

In Texas, we call this “killin’ your darlin’.” Your editor believes in your story, too, or they wouldn’t spend countless hours helping you. They want to make it better, but sometimes that means cutting important characters or scenes you love. This is the part I hated in the editing process.

It is challenging to dig into your story, delete scenes, and create new ones where you originally imagined something different. There were times my editor suggested a line of copy or dialogue that made me cringe, not because she wasn’t right, but because it wasn’t in the exact voice my character would have said it. Here’s where camaraderie came into effect. She could see the holes. I could keep the story true. We made a great team. Killing my darlings made my story stronger.

3. Fight for your story.

This may seem to contradict the previous point, but trust me, it doesn’t. Like I’ve said before, NO ONE knows your story or characters better than you. Here’s where discernment comes into play. At the beginning of the editing process, my editor asked me to cut several characters. No matter how much I played with this request, something didn’t sit right. So I fought for these characters, explained the role they would play in future books, and stood my ground. I knew keeping them would benefit the story. Once I explained their importance (and not just my emotional attachment), my editor listened and immediately replied with ways I could make these characters even stronger than what I had in mind.

It turns out that the characters I fought to keep have been some of the favorites for readers. If you know in your gut something needs to stay, fight for it. Just make sure to check your emotional attachment at the door and identify exactly why this piece adds to the story.

So, take what I’ve learned. Add your own insight. And I’ll add to the list after I finish this round of edits. I never want to be a bratty author who says I know best. I do want to collaborate. Yes, I know my story, but I need people who will help me make it better. I’m pretty excited about the possibilities. Bring on the next challenge.

What lessons have you learned while working with your editor?

13 Replies to “Working with an Editor”

      1. Thanks for sharing. You were right on all of the above. I faught with my editor over the same things. The one thing my editor brought to my attention was that my reader does not have a crystal ball. I gave the reader to much credit for figuring the obvious hings out. My editor said, more dialog here, here and here.

    1. I completely understand this. I also realize that killing your darlings seems like a stupid statement. It took stepping back from my writing and asking myself why I really wanted to keep something to realize that as the writer I had an emotional attachment to an element that really didn’t enhance the story. That’s when I made myself cut that “darling.” However, if cutting it hurts the story (and you’ve removed any attachment you have from this process), then fight for that darling (like I said in point 3). Editing is a process. Good luck as you figure out the ins and outs!

  1. Thank you, Kariss, for this great reminder about keeping things in proper perspective. When we editing my debut novel, I also had to battle with the editors to keep in some dialogue that was key to the characters. They accepted my stance and helped make it stronger.

    1. That is such a challenging and intimidating undertaking. They are experts, but then so are you. I remember the first time I went to bat for something that I needed to keep. It took me forever to find the nerve to write the email. Now editing this second book, it seemed more like a collaboration than something intimidating. I’m glad I’m not the only one to experience this!

  2. I have a character in my trilogy that I’m scared to death an editor is going to ask to cut, only she plays a very vital role in the next two books. I can only hope the editor will understand that.

    This is great advice and I will be holding on to it with everything I can as I turn my “baby” over to someone with more experience. Thank you.

    1. Kimberly, this exact thing happened in editing my first and second book. However, I knew these characters would play vital roles in the coming books. My editor was more than willing to work with me. Just explain what role they will play coming up and make sure you somehow make the reader attached to that character so that they want to know more in the second and third books. Good luck! That’s exciting!

      1. Well I hope that I have made them connect to her in some form. She’s very hush hush about her past, and I even have a scene where people from her past show up and cause some trouble, only to be taught a lesson by my MC. There are also other ties to her past within the book, that I hope give the impression that there is something very dark and mysterious going on there.

        Fingers crossed, and good luck with your edits / re-writes. 🙂

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