o you want to entice your reader from the beginning? Then you better ZEST your writing voice, using as many of the five senses as possible. Remember, in real life you hear the birds chirping, you smell the burnt toast, you feel the prick of a needle—this applies to the written word, too. You want to enable your reader to step inside your magical walls, entranced by what they see, hear, smell, touch, and taste. And who helps you? Your editor.
Writing is only the beginning. Getting a contract is the thrill of proclaiming you are now a published writer. The task of communicating, listening, and cooperating with your editor, at times, falls to the wayside. Why?
- The author believes the manuscript was accepted at face value, and no edits would be necessary.
- The editor lacks the finesse of communicating with the author and/or tries to change the writer’s voice.
In both instances, the author and editor are in the wrong. Authors must understand edits are part of the writing world. Editors must understand authors are sensitive where their work is concerned. This doesn’t mean to sugarcoat comments; but an explanation on the sidebar, explaining an editor’s reasons for deleting a whole passage, offers the writer the opportunity to see her point. Authors need to be objective and allow the editors to do their job, and editors need to understand tact.
When both sides fully grasp their partnership, everything goes smoothly. Open communication is the key. Both should be able to debate changes requested and come up with a solution. An author/editor relationship is vital to the final and formatted manuscript.
We all know how tedious the editing process is—the likes and dislikes of various submissions editors. What I seek as the submissions editor for Red Rose Publishing are manuscripts that prove to me writers took the time to fully edit their stories. When a story begins with simple typos a writer should have spotted, my Spidergirl senses tingle a warning. Manuscripts riddled with long descriptive passages of the main character in the first two paragraphs, or stories beginning with backstory before the main character is introduced are two other areas warning me that rewrites are inevitable.
Below I asked several published romance authors the following question:
Q:How did your manuscript change from its original state after you collaborated with your publishing house’s editor?
The reason for this question—to see the editorial process in a publishing house and the thoughts of the authors involved.
To me, an editor is a much-needed second pair of eyes. Because as the author, you hear the story in your head, hear the dialogue zinging between the characters...you know what you mean, but sometimes what's up in the noggin’ doesn't translate on paper. So, your editor, at least all of mine, have been ‘translators.’ After I've given a manuscript to my editor, she's come back with questions, tightened tense, tightened POV, really focused in on what I meant to say, versus what I was trying to say. It's a gift to have a simpatico relationship with an editor that respects your voice and hits the mark of clarity without taking your literary license away from you.
2.Kim Smith, is the author of Avenging Angel, A Shannon Wallace Mystery, available from Red Rose Publishing. She answered the question this way:
My manuscript when contracted was in what I thought decent shape. I had worked several years on it, rewriting, and having it critiqued by my peers. Boy, was I wrong.
The publishing house’s editor knew things about editing that I had no clue about, such as pacing, tension, and style. After the edits were done, there were more places where the story came out of hiding. Filling in the blanks, beefing up the prose, and straightening out the reasoning in the writing was something that only my editor could do. Never in my wildest dreams could I have found those nuggets on my own.
It is my personal opinion that professional editors are exactly what they are purported to be; and that is, someone who can round off the sharp edges and bring the story out that’s lying beneath the surface of our idea. I feel that my manuscript after being professionally edited has been given a greater range of options in the marketplace. Instead of feeling as though my work might not stand up to the scrutiny of the reading public, I am proud of it and excited to present it. I believe my readers will get a much better product thanks to my editor.
Without a professional editor to do those sorts of hands on wringing of the work, a book very well may languish and never see the light of published status. Too many errors, too much fluff, and over or underwriting can be corrected with a quickness in the hands of a pro; whereas a writer without one may not see the forest for trees and send off a work that is simply not ready.
“It's a gift to have a simpatico relationship with an editor that respects your voice and hits the mark of clarity without taking your literary license away from you.”
(Photo Left: L.A. Banks, from her website.)
3.Raven Starr, author of four romance books out with Red Rose Publishing, had this to say:
When I first signed with RRP [Red Rose Publishing], I was a mere poet. So when writing my first book Fan-tasy, I must admit it was a tad bit rough. The thought and plot was clear; but being a novice in writing shorts, my editor showed me how to use more descriptives and showed me about character development to make the story clearer for the reader. With each book I've written, I've learned more and more about the ‘art of writing.’ It takes a little something extra to be able to take what's in your imagination and apply it to paper so the reader can see, hear, and especially feel the world in which you've created.
My manuscript either changed a lot or not at all, depending on the publishing house. Usually, the story gets deeper or more polished.
I usually have my entire world worked out for the fantasy and paranormal themed stories. So it's a matter of making sure everything is explained.
For historicals, if the editor knows that genre and the country you're writing about, they can be your fact checker. It's important to get the facts and the language correct in historicals.
In my mystery/suspense stories, my editor usually checks to make sure I haven't skipped any vital clues to solve the case. Or that I don't put in too much detail and give it away too soon.
When an editor asks for too many changes and the changes are personally and not professionally motivated, I pull my story. It's one thing changing a few details or adding plot-hole fillers. But changing a character's entire personality because the editor doesn't like him/her is unacceptable.
“We, as authors, are ultimately responsible for the integrity and how much we are willing to give up of it, of our work.”
(Photo Left: Janis Susan May, from her website.)
5.Janis Susan May, multi-published author, said this about working with editors:
My first book, a contemporary romantic adventure called Where Shadows Linger, was published in 1979—back before there were even tip sheets available, and editors were actually accessible. I wrote a story and sent it in; and Dell liked it and said they would publish it—if I cut it by a third. Gack! Talk about cutting the fingers off your children! One whole subplot out the window. And let's be honest, a lot of excess verbiage too, which probably improved it.
The second book, a traditional (back in 1979, everything was traditional!) Regency called The Avenging Maid—same house, different editor—wasn't cut as drastically, but it did change periods. I originally wrote it as a Victorian era piece, but the editor thought it read better as a Regency.
And I didn't know very many writers. People today have no idea of how isolated we were then. No Internet. No RWA [Romance Writers of America]. There were local writers' groups, of course, but almost all of them encompassed everything from poetry to screenplays and were painfully literary. I remember being told once that writing a romance novel was barely a step above prostitution.
So many editors seem to want to turn your story into their story. I've heard horror tales of editors (in major houses!) who, without a word to the writer, have re-written great chunks of novels. Not just rephrasing, or smoothing out a few lines of rough prose, but changing the very storyline! I sold a book to a lovely publishing house and then bought it back after the editor tried to make it into something it wasn't. I had a suspect of a heinous crime who happened to be a union man; among other egregious demands, she insisted that I not only remove him from the suspect list but write something in the book lauding the union movement. That not only would have ruined the mystery part, it would have changed the entire tenor of the book itself.
We all stand too close to our work to see every flaw. On the other hand, it is our work, and we do have the right to see it produced as we envisioned it—not as filtered through the lens of an editor. An editor is part of the refining process, not part of the creative—something that polishes instead of reshapes. We, as authors, are ultimately responsible for the integrity and how much we are willing to give up of it, of our work. It's a balancing act—our vision versus editorial influence. Thank goodness most of the time, it is a mutually satisfying compromise.
There are a few things about (some) editors that make me livid:
1) If I use a little known, but documental fact, and the editor refuses to allow it on the grounds that 'most people won't believe it is true.' A codicil to this is the editors refusing to believe any fact that is outside of their own belief system, no matter how you try to tell them the truth. In one story, I had the hero and heroine, out in the desolate Panhandle Cedar Breaks region of Texas, stop and aid an accident victim by putting him in the back of the pickup and driving him to a doctor. She was incensed that they would try to move an accident victim and insisted that if they couldn't telephone for help, one should stay with the victim while the other went for an ambulance.
I never could convince her that such an action would turn what was a minimum of a one-hour delay in his receiving medical help to one of three or four hours. She could/would not comprehend that there is no cell phone service in a great deal of that country nor had she any idea of the distances involved.
2) A refusal to accept statements of fact in an historical novel that were true at the time of the story, which is nothing more than an attempt to ignore history and make the story nothing more than modern people in fancy dress. (Once I had an editor demand that in a pre-War for Southern Independence story, my upper-class heroine had to have an African-American friend of comparable status. Needless to say, that didn't happen!)
Although I try to write as cleanly as possible, I have two main faults that I will never be able to overcome. I tend to leave out words, and sometimes I’ll use a word that is almost what I meant to say. Bless my editors. They catch those missed words (like "to" and "the") and fix my grammatical booboos that my brain automatically fills in, regardless of how many times I re-read to edit. And because they can also read my mind, they’re able to suggest alternate words that fit my sentences so much better.
But most of all, I’m grateful they can spot the foggy parts and let me know where I need to clarify things. As many authors know, a plot point that may seem perfectly obvious to me may be as clear as mud to the average reader.
Without my editors, my manuscripts wouldn’t ‘sparkle,’ my stories wouldn’t flow, and my readers would find themselves observing the mistakes rather than immersing themselves in the story.
As the authors explained above, no matter how tedious the editing process is, the continued cooperation and partnership between author and editor makes the whole process run smoothly. It is vital not only to the publishing house to produce a book with merit, but to the author to also offer the best writing to the reader for them to remember and recommend that author to others.
Lea Schizas is a multi-published, award-winning author and editor; founder of: Apollo’s Lyre, The Muse Online Writers Conference, The MuseItUp Club, The Muse Marquee, Editing Services, and numerous groups, blogs, and e-zines. She resides in Montreal and continues to joke how glad she is that she finally woke up from her “23-year self-induced coma of taking care of everyone else and began her writing career.”