I love good editors!
The good ones make my writing better. That’s true for many writers. The acknowledgments you see in many books thanking the editor are not just flattery – in most cases the gratitude expressed is genuine.
Which isn’t to say every editor is a good one, although I’ve found far more good ones than not.
Editing is really an art. Sure, there are rules of grammar and spelling, but the good editor brings much more to a manuscript that a rigid understanding of the rules.
Much of that ‘more’ is an understanding of their audience. The fact that they bring totally fresh eyes to your work is another reasons the good editors can be so effective making your writing better. Even when we writers have the luxury of putting our work aside for weeks, we simply aren’t able to see it as clearly as someone else.
When editing goes bad
Ideally you’ll get a chance to vet the work the editor does before it goes into print. This is true of books by trade publishers and some magazines.
If you get an opportunity to see the edited piece before it goes to print and you don’t like it, the first step is to ask why the editor made the changes. It could be that once you get the editor’s point of view you’ll be if not happy, at least satisfied that the edits are okay.
If, even after the explanation, you hate what’s been done to your piece, you’ve got a choice to make. You can let the edits stand or you can challenge them.
The best way to challenge edits you don’t like is to suggest an alternative – something that’s not the way you originally wrote it, but isn’t exactly like the changes the editor made either – a middle ground as it were. The good editors will often be happy to meet you half way.
Once in a great while you’ll run into a piece of editing that so radically changes your meaning you’ll want to insist the change not be made.
This has only happened to me once and the editor seemed to be determined to add something that I felt changed the whole tone and gave a wrong impression of what I was saying.
After asking for some time to think about it I called her back and said something like, “If you insist on adding that I won’t fight you but I will ask you to take my name off it.” There was a long silence and she agreed to do it my way.
I’d make the same decision again, but you also need to know that I never wrote for that publication house again. I suspect I got a reputation of being hard to work with.
Often you won’t have a chance to approve the edits. Most of the time that turns out okay, but not always. My first article about computers was a humor piece and the editor added her own ‘touches’ making it so hokey I never even claimed credit for it on my credit list. I wanted to complain, but a fellow writer who had been in the business longer than I had advised me to just let it go. Good advice I’m sure.
By far I’ve had way more editors who have made my writing stronger and more readable, but the other kind of editing does happen occasionally.
What’s been your experience with editors?