Avoid An Editing Nightmare

By Melissa Koberlein

The Editor-Writer Connection

Relationships are important in publishing. For me, as an indie author, my relationship with my publishing team is vital to the success of a new release. So, since Halloween is right around the corner, let’s talk about the relationship that can be the scariest—the one with your editor. Cue Jason’s ch-ch-ch-ha-ha-ha.

I’m joking…a bit. But, honestly, when you first work with a professional editor, it can be intimidating. The first time I sent a manuscript to an editor, I was new to indie publishing. She did a developmental and copy edit on my first manuscript. I didn’t know what to expect. What sort of errors would she find? Do I have massive plot holes? Was the entire manuscript a dumpster fire? I was terrified.

When I got my manuscript back, I couldn’t wait to tear through that sucker. She found some plot holes, a few small and one BIG. She was also the first to diagnose my comma problem. I forget them and like them too much. She also pointed out where my writing was strong—character development. I’m a pantser by nature, so I let my characters do their thing and I write it down. Overall, there was good, bad, and, thankfully, no ugly.

Since then, I’ve written six more books and started a relationship with a new editor. She’s pretty great. You might know her… okay, I give up. It’s Jeni Chappelle. Through my relationship with her, I’ve learned even more about my writing strengths and weaknesses. So, I’d like to pass on three things I’ve learned about having a healthy working relationship with an editor. I find that following these three principles make my manuscripts and writing stronger.

1. Listen to your editor. I know, this sounds obvious, but often, a writer’s instinct is to go on the defensive. “But, that’s my favorite part…” It’s hard to press that delete key. But, in the case of a book, the editor/reader doesn’t know that it’s a special description, line, etc. to you. She only knows that it doesn’t work. Often people forget that a book is intended for an audience, i.e., it’s not all about you. Besides, if you’ve written a trash fire, wouldn’t you rather know it now?

I think this one is especially important for a first manuscript. I say this because when I look back at my first manuscript compared to what I ended up publishing, I realize that most of the suggestions from my editor were spot on. At the time, it was difficult to hear. But, the changes made it a stronger story.

2. Don’t take it personally. I know. Everything is personal. We’re human. But, this is one of those cases, where you should separate yourself from your work. Your manuscript is going to be marked up when you get it back from your editor. That’s normal. Surprise, surprise, you’re not perfect. I would argue that if you focus too much on the ‘rules,’ you’ll stifle creativity. That’s what second and third drafts are for.

Keep in mind that your editor’s interest in your manuscript is to help you whip it into shape for publication or submission (if you’re going the traditional route to publication). There are no ulterior motives. Your editor wants to see your manuscript succeed as much as you do. That’s why, if you’ve found yourself a good editor, they will mark up your manuscript and point out your issues and problem areas. Separate yourself from your manuscript and that process gets a whole lot easier.

3. Learn from previous edits. Once you’ve established a relationship with an editor, you can self-edit based on what you’ve learned from previous edits. For example, if you overuse exclamation marks as I do, you can search and destroy them before you hand your manuscript over to your editor. Or, you can catch them when you're drafting. The editing process can make you a better writer, and that’s a good thing.

All the relationships you form with publishing professionals are important. But, the special rapport you establish with your editor is vital to the success of your manuscript and should be nurtured. Always remember that your editor is on your side, your team. If you’re lucky, they might be just as attached to your story as you are. Just remember, killing your darlings is par for the course. CH-ch-ch-ha-ha-ha

Melissa Koberlein is a professor of communication in eastern Pennsylvania where she lives with her husband and their two daughters. Prior to that, she earned a doctorate in sociology from Oklahoma State University. Her passion for stories comes from an imaginative childhood where every day ended with a book.

She enjoys reading and writing about the spectacular, sci-fi, technology, and romance. She embraces her geekiness and enjoys sharing it with the world. Authors that inspire her are Diana Gabaldon, Dan Brown, Charlaine Harris, Janet Evanovich, J.K. Rowling, and Suzanne Collins. Fireflies, a young adult trilogy, melding romance and light science fiction is a fun and quirky allegory for the future of nanotechnology. The complete trilogy is available on Amazon.


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