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Thursday, March 22, 2012

What It's Like To Be An Editor-what all editors really think

People often ask me what it takes to be an editor or what it’s like to be one. I usually don't complain about my work in detail because I love what I do. And the last thing I want to do is appear angry and bitter about my work. I'm usually just stabby about bad writing. With that said, I think it’s time that I say what all the editors want to say. They hold their tongues because they don't want to sound like a judgmental know-it-all or turn off potential clients. That's completely understandable. After all, it’s a job, their livelihood. But that's not going to stop me. I am very fortunate to have a well-paying dayjob. So I will rant. I have to. For my sanity..

1. There are prerequisites. It takes more than reading a few books or having perfect command of "the"(<---trying to add impact here) English Grammar. Editing in creative writing involves knowledge of the trend of the literary market. Then there’s the required reading. Lots of reading. We need to have a broad view, so we can’t afford to read  only our favorite genre for pleasure. Years of education and/or hard-work go into producing a good editor. As writers know, a good, professional editor that one can connect with is a rare find. But do writers know what editors actually do or what it's like to be one?
Having this title means investing time, sweat, and money. There are times that I spend an hour on editing just one page. I pull my hair out to come up with alternatives and examples to show my clients. And at $3 a page? It’s not that motivating. But I do it because I love my job. There are no powertrips here. We constantly deal with criticism and backlashes. We’re expected to do the impossible at times. And to do it for free. While we do our best to turn your work into something publishable, we can’t be your mentor or life coach. We simply don’t have the time or can’t afford to. Our time is money. Me? I will cut you off after the 20th followup email of the week. 
2. No, I don’t have to love your book to edit it. This is my personal experience, but I’m sure other editors share similar experiences. During an edit, I edit and turn in 30 pages at a time instead of waiting to finish the whole book. It's to save them from feeling bombarded. Whenever I turn in my edit, I get the same reaction almost every time. They say, “You don’t have to edit my book if you hate it so much.”

Um...what? 
Here’s my answer to all of them. I am a professional editor. My personal preferences do not dictate how I do my job. And if I thought it was perfect and loved it to death, what is there for me to edit? Writer, please. This is personal to you, but it’s not personal to me. Let us all be professional about it. It is a business. Unless you plan to give your books away for free, then it’s a hobby. Otherwise, grow thicker skin and let me do my job. I promise that I will do my best to improve your book, not change it.
3. But my book is special. Yes, everyone feels that their books are special, unique, and should be published. So do I. I think my book should be the next number 1 on NY Bestseller list. But I’ve learned to distinguish fantasy from reality. Some writers haven’t. They go into a fit when they receive their first negative feedback, even after hiring an editor. I’d assume that people hire editors because they acknowledge their shortcomings and lack of the ability to self-edit. Why would you pay good money to hire an editor who won't fix anything? And if you don't agree with the suggestions, you don't have to keep them. It's your book. You have the last say on how it will be written. The end.
So grow thicker skin. I’ve said it millions of times before. Honestly, the process is a simple one. Learn as much as possible and write it the best you can. Then send your books off to alpha/beta readers to get feedback, revise like crazy, and hire an editor for the final polish. Don't go into a tirade because an editor pointed out your love of run-on sentences or comma splices. Expect contructive criticism. Expect your MS to come back with markups. Expect an editor to show you how things can be changed. If you’re expecting fabulous praises and kisses and hugs, you shouldn’t hire an editor. 
I refuse to lie or stroke anyone’s ego to save feelings. Not even for money. Well...maybe for a million dollar check. Never mind. Anyway, this is how I roll. This is my life as an editor. My usually day is spent buried in manuscripts and hundreds of client emails. Not as fancy as you thought, right? Still, it's so wonderful when I make that special connection with a writer. From the moment we begin brainstorming and exchanging ideas to reading their final revision after my input was applied, it's an exciting journey. I believe that every book can be revised, rewritten, and edited to near perfection. When that stage is reached, both my client and I feel the satisfaction that no one but other editors and writers can comprehend. And that's what motivates me to go on editing.

If you want to see what I can do as an editor, get a free, 3-page sample edit from me. I’ll let my work speak for itself, not my ability kiss asses. Visit my editor website for more information on my editing service. Thanks for reading~ 


Disclaimer: Because of my job, I'm constantly attacked by the Grammar Nazis. This is my personal blog, which I choose to share with the public, not a text book. I regularly start my sentences with conjunctions, end with prepositions, and even use contractions. I even use sentence fragments for impact. Like this. Someone mentioned my tense issues and unnecessary article use. So I had to reiterate the fact that this is a casual post. Conversational and easy to read. And like tweets and emails, I don't think it's required to be perfect. So...that's it. Just needed to say it to save those people time from pointing out the obvious. 

6 comments:

  1. Well put. If a writer has a problem with an editor, God forbid when reader reviews come in!

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  2. Honesty is always the best policy. No, you shouldn't lie when it comes to editing, because someone else will point out the mistakes you overlooked in a review if you don't say something first.

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  3. Please keep telling it like it is. Love your honesty.

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  4. I've decided being a lawyer is a lot like an editor, except the subject matter isn't so loveable, and when a client doesn't like what I've told them, I? don't have to say 'Suit yourself, it's your book' I can say 'Sure, no problems, but I won't be the one doing the jail time!'. Best of all, I charge clients for every single email I send them, so when I get twenty follow-up emails, I just say 'you do realise every email you send me costs you money?' It's amazing how fast thiose emails stop.

    On the subject of pre-requisites for editors, I agree 100% and will even go so far as to say there are pre-requisites for writing as well! Reading a few books is not enough.

    People really think you hate their book because you make suggestions? What do they think they are paying you for? Too many writers refuse to acknowledge this is a business. And seriously, a paid editor should NOT be the first negative feedback a writer hears.

    The first editor I ever paid to review any of my work told me I had used the wrong POV character. I sent her a thank you note. I was traumatised for years (OK, not totally, but it took years to think a way around the problem) but I STILL sent her a thank you note and explicitly told her I wanted to be sure she knew I appreciated her work because I'm sure she gets little appreciation.

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  5. Indeed. We can only help our clients as much as they are willing to listen to the advice they paid for.

    If we say, "This portion may bore the reader," and you respond, "But I meant it that way," you accept responsibility for every reader who shuts the book at that point.

    Think carefully about an editor's advice before you dismiss it out of hand or assume malicious intent.

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  6. I love how honest you are. I am editing a friend's book. I have only edited my own writing up to now and never a whole book. Believe me, I appreciate what editors do more than ever before. I had no idea how much time it takes. I googled, "What's it like to be an editor." I wanted to see if it takes others so long, among other things. I am truly loving this work and it helps to see that already I am experiencing much of what you expressed. Editors really rock!!

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