Editors: Satan or Savior?

Some of you may have noticed I’m not haunting my usual stomping grounds as much as I used to. The reason for that is simple. I’ve been up to my ears in editing!

Editors are always a hot topic among writers. If I had a dollar for every time I’ve seen or heard someone complain, I’d be sitting pretty by now on millionaire’s row. We’ve all heard the long list of gripes ranging from “they don’t get my story” to “they nitpick every little thing.” You hear horror stories about these people, and somewhere in the back of your mind the fear starts to grow. You wonder what sort of monsters wait lurking around the bend. Images of hideous beasts with hooked talons for fingers start cropping up left and right. Then…the day comes when you learn your story is going to be passed along to…*gasp*…an editor.

*cue creepy music*

The nightmares start, lingering well into the daylight hours. You toss and turn, wondering how your precious baby will fare at the hands of such a murderous stranger. You cringe, thinking about the blood bath certain to follow. Days pass. You lose weight, hair, and any quick glimpse in a mirror makes you wonder if perhaps you suddenly aren’t half raccoon.

These are all the things I’d expected. The day my publisher called to tell me my edits were waiting in my inbox, I almost got sick. I’d just finished eating dinner, and I was certain that spaghetti was going to come back up as I clicked the link with trembling hands. I shook like a junky going through major withdraws.

Then, a funny thing happened. I started reading through the long list of comments. After a minute, some of the tension started to ebb. Eventually I sagged with open relief. It wasn’t nearly as bad as I expected!

Don’t get me wrong. My book was not perfect. Far from. But, my editor posed a lot of questions. She made me think even more about the how and why behind the story. She pointed out things that I thought were clear as I was writing…but in hindsight, to readers, perhaps not so much. Not to mention a few things that made me burst into a fit of laughter.

Example: “Such a pretty girl,” it leered, the words spoken backwards in a guttural nuance.

The depraved growl made my blood run cold. As if to prove its point, the dresser swung out from the wall and crashed against my legs, pinning me as Ava’s shirt crept higher. A red wheal erupted across her abdomen.

My editor’s comment: “It’s proving Ava is pretty by hurling dressers at Seir?”

Oops! LOL See what I mean? I knew what I was trying to convey here, but THAT was NOT it! Maybe it would have made sense to a lot of readers, as is. But, I am guessing the vast majority (especially you more analytical and writerly types) would have been scratching their heads and laughing at my blunder. *blush*

Good call, editor! Good call.

Reading through the list of edits, I realized certain things. I have a strong tendency to cling to certain words or phrases. Lyrical beauty only goes so far when if you are beating people over the head with the same thing over and over again! There were places where the whys and hows of my mythos were not explained enough. There were places where my prose became a little too purple. Thankfully, I only had an occasional missing word or typo. Truth be told, I still felt bad…but not for me. For my poor editor who had to point out every single last one of these flaws. Flaws that I thought I’d buffered out over the course of two revisions. Boy was I wrong!

And damn am I glad I didn’t decide to go at this on my own. (I obviously didn’t know as much as I thought I did!)

A lot of editors get a bad rep. Maybe some of them earn that badge. I really don’t know. I can only speak from my own personal experience here, but I love mine. Tanya was efficient and nothing if not thorough. Though there were a lot of comments or questions…they all made sense. I knew halfway through, this was going to make a HUGE difference in my story. One that I would be proud of once all the extra hours of work were done. (Dear God, do I wish they were done!)

In fact, I called my publisher the next day, gushed over my editor like a giddy schoolgirl, and practically begged for the same person to do my sequel once it’s done. You cannot imagine my relief when she laughed and told me “that was the plan.”

I’ve heard of others who were not so fortunate, and left feeling resentful after their experience. I recently read a blog where an author was stunned that her editor wanted a pivotal part of her story removed. I have a friend who relies on his editor to weed through, as he puts it, his “endless pages of shit” (which really, reading his work, I find it hard to believe he produces anything of the sort…) But maybe that is the point. Perhaps his editor is just really good at their job. And maybe he is really good at his, right down to being able to set his ego aside when all is said and done and go with the flow.

I’m new to this whole publishing an entire book thing. The experience is vastly different from the ones I’ve had with my short stories. (Maybe I just have that arena a bit more down pat.) But it is not one I would change for anything. I’ve learned from my mistakes, and thus had a chance to grow. I can see both weaknesses and strengths, thanks to the time and effort a stranger has poured into my work.

That, to me, is priceless.

So what are your thoughts on editors? Have your experiences been good or bad? Are editors Satan or Savior when it comes to you and your writing?

I, for one, wouldn’t dare brave this world without one!

~Best wishes and happy haunting!~


34 comments on “Editors: Satan or Savior?

  1. I am truly laughing my butt off after reading this! Being on both the crafting (though nothing novel length) and the editing end of things, I believe it is the editors job to offer suggestive criticism which is often taken as a direct attack on the authors ability. The truth of the matter is, no matter how good you are at editing your own work, you, the author, see the big picture in your head and can’t always relate to the fact that the reader doesn’t have that advantage.

    I say let your editor be the devil as long as you are willing to be grateful that they ‘poked their nose in’ at the end and helped you refine your own talent for the world to read. A good editor questions, suggests, and only actually changes grammatical, spelling, or oops word errors. It’s still your voice the piece is written in, and the editors suggestions should always be looked at as just that, suggestions to help you improve upon your baby.

    Love your editor if you will, but feel free to hate them with an open heart and welcoming arms, it’s expected 😉

    • Adriana Noir says:

      I’m glad I could make you laugh, Nina. Heeey! That wasn’t at my idiotic blunder by any chance, was it? 😉
      You’re very right about that, and not every suggestion has to be welcomed with open arms. But they should be considered and weighed with an objective mind.
      I think any author would be lucky to have you inspect their work. While you may have horns, methinks that might have to do a bit more with your personality than your profession! Thanks for stopping by!

  2. davidjfuller says:

    Satan or saviour? I’d say editors are both, for who better to play devil’s advocate? Great post, I really enjoyed it (as someone who’s been on both sides of the editor’s red pen).

  3. edwardlorn says:

    If for no other reason, writers need editors because we’re freaking blind to our own work. We see the world(s) we’ve created, and nothing else. Editors (good ones) clean out the nonsense and leave the sense. But how do you know when to trust them? Do we go blindly into the night, or do we question? The answer is the former. We question, using our own common sense as a GPS for random BS. Remember this simple rule: If your editor is questioning something, nine times out of ten, your reader will too.

    This is your best post yet, Adri. Keep it up.


    • Adriana Noir says:

      Thank you muchly, E! I couldn’t agree more. Writers need to have an open, but objective, mind. We aren’t sheep. It doesn’t do you any good to blindly click and accept every last suggestion. There will be times when we dig our heels in and stubbornly disagree. However, you make an excellent point with your rule, and that does give a writer something serious to consider. Thanks for the comments and for stopping by!

  4. lexacain says:

    I’m glad your experience with an editor was a good one. I won a free editorial letter from one once, (one from a big house) and she helped me a lot. Good luck with revisions! 🙂

  5. maramcbain says:

    I admit to being absolutely terrified when I submitted Club Justice to my editor, Robin, I spent the next couple of weeks nauseous and checking my email obsessively. lol When I opened the edit document I expected it to look like a crime scene with the red pen of doom splashed across the pages. It wasn’t THAT bad … and like you said … the changes made sense. I’ve never kidded myself into thinking I could edit, but I have to admit that the experience made me respect those that can even more.

    • Adriana Noir says:

      *laughs* I remember those days well! Good times, I tell ya, good times! (at least in hindsight lol) Oh, I kidded myself, Mara. But now, like you, I’m just deeply grateful someone has the skill (and patience) to clean up my mess! Loves ya!

  6. Tim Baker says:

    When it comes to punctuation, grammar and spelling – I love my editor. When it comes to suggestions on story content – I like her a lot. When it comes to catching me using the same words/phrases over and over again – she’s invaluable.
    What I could live without is the suggestions that alter either a character’s nature or my intent in the telling of the story.
    Example; I have a character named Ike…he is an ex-Navy SEAL and all-around bad-ass. In a recent editing pass she suggested I say (in a particular situation) that Ike was “scared shitless”.
    Sorry – not going to happen. Ike would sooner die than be scared shitless. (Didn’t you read my first four novels?)
    Bottom line: We’re all on the same team (editors and writers) so we need to respect each other to get the job done.

    • Adriana Noir says:

      Well said, Tim! I couldn’t agree more with your bottom line. It sounds like a lot of people lose sight of the fact that, differences aside, we still share a common goal, and that’s for the book to end up the best that it can possibly be. Thank you so much for stopping by and sharing your insights as well as your experiences. It’s always fun to hear about what other authors go through on their journey!

  7. Tim J Finn says:

    I haven’t broached the “book thing” with an editor yet, just short stories so far (I’m still in the just getting published newbie stage), but anything I’ve seen 2 out of 3 of my editors change (we all know the song), has been to tighten and move along the story. I look forward to the eventual “full length novel assault,” with a mixture of gusto and trepidation. I hope I get an editor who mirrors, for the most part, the majority of experiences in your post. I wonder if it might be with the good ones, you can see their points, if a little grudgingly, the bad ones will only expose their own deficiencies with your commets. I hope that’s how it works…look forward to finding out before too long to finding out.

    No cookies for me please, words aren’t the only thing I’m trying to edit.

    • Adriana Noir says:

      *laughs* Why do you think I’m trying to give the cookies away, Tim?
      I wish you all the best with your future endeavors. Keep us posted! Thank you so much for stopping by.

  8. Beth of NoiseGlamUSA.com says:

    I work in publishing and our Editors are actually Acquistions Editors who sign all the talent and fund the projects. However, copyediting is a different animal and all the grammatical reviews are outsourced to India. Yes, not only to another country but to those with no field experience with the content they are reviewing. Makes for an interesting production process I tell ya. LOL SMH

    • Adriana Noir says:

      Oh geez! Interesting production process, indeed! I can’t even imagine how that works–but it must. 😀 Thank you for taking the time to read and comment. It’s deeply appreciated.

    • Outsourcing copyediting? Great! I am reminded of the talking children’s doll (made in China) that curses, and the coloring books (printed in India) that spell ‘cat’ – ‘kat’ and frequently use the word bitch!

  9. I’ve not had the fortune of working with a pro editor yet, but from what I’ve you and others to do for me, I gather that writers need editors for one reason and one reason alone. Two pairs of eyes are better than one, especially if you’re paying for the second pair 🙂

    Thank you for you insight. I know your hard work will pay off in the end 😉 I want to read the end result of course.

  10. See, I forgot the word “had” in the first sentence!!

  11. Hunter Shea says:

    I may be odd, ok, I am odd, but I actually enjoy and look forward to my editor’s suggestions and corrections. As a writer, we work in such a void, an editor is like a life raft. Now, when I’m in self editing hell like I’ve been all month, that wears on me.

    • Adriana Noir says:

      Well, Hunter, I am in the same odd class of people. 😀 I’m really enjoying the process and the things I have learned. Now, all the extra work…ehhh…not so much. 😉 I’m lazy like that.
      Keep your chin up, my friend. I know whatever you produce in the end will be great. I’m looking forward to reading it!

  12. Just as important as understanding your writing, editors understand readers.

  13. elizjohn2000 says:

    What a great post, Adri! Very informative. Now the only question left is: how do you find a good one???? But I suppose that’s a blog post for another day…. 😉

    • Adriana Noir says:

      Ah, that is the question, isn’t it. I was very fortunate to find mine. I guess the easiest way would be to take a look at some great books you enjoy and look into the editor behind them. 🙂

  14. […] Noir wrote a blog a while back that dealt with this topic and I suggest you read her piece HERE for her personal experience on dealing with the editorial […]

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