wildfillysama: So you think you can write?

That’s great. So do millions of other people. What makes your writing unique and special in amongst that lot of keyboard/typewriter/pen/chisel-calloused individuals?

That part’s up to you. Good luck with it.

But here’s a tip if you ever want to get it published.

Standing between your writing and internet/real life/alternate space of your choosing fame is one key person.

I am talking about your editor. Yes, that person a hundred miles away on the other end of a keyboard, sipping tea and spraying red lines and crosses all over your precious masterpiece. If you’re lucky, your writing will only be completely mangled. If you’re unlucky, there’ll be a nasty note attached to it.

I am going to tell you here and now, if you want to get anywhere, listen to your editor.

Editors are not all evil. Well, some are. Most are just harassed and clinically disinterested in everything you have to say. Here are some handy tips to help you survive the editing process: both professional and at a lower, more casual level. This is, of course, assuming that your editor is one of the mass of genuinely “nice” individuals trying to tease out a living and get some good writing published, and not one of the tarnished souls who exist only to crush dreams and alienate writers in order to get a paycheque.

Tip 1) Editors are not out to crush your dreams.

You see all those suggestions? All those tracked changes? They are love. Editors want you to succeed. They do not want to spend hours picking through a piece of writing that’s just going to be tossed out. They want to see you published as much as you do.

Tip 2) Editors want to sell your work.

Have a look at your edited copy. Does it sound like an advert? Do the changes make it seem like every character is screaming “Hello target audience! I’m your sympathetic character! Follow me and let’s go see the big bad! Hello big bad! You look a lot like that reader over there, don’t you?” Maybe your editor is a little overzealous. Or maybe your editor is trying to get you an audience. Have another look at your work. Have you actually appealed to anyone? Consider putting some hooks out there.

Tip 3) Editors have to actually read your work. All of it. Especially the bad bits.

Take a look at your original work, before you sent it to your editor. Are there huge blocks of text? Do you use different punctuation every so often? Do all your characters need long introductions? Are there copious numbers of minute descriptions of forests, cities, people, toasters, grit between fingernails? Yes? Bad writer. No biscuit. Your editor is trying to help you grow, but first they have to wade through all your baby vomit and crayon scrawls on the walls. If they seem overzealous in their changes, try to compromise, and don’t forget to thank them for putting up with all the sleepless nights.

Tip 4) Be intelligent, polite, and good-humoured.

Easier said than done in some cases. So, maybe the editor has suggested changes that you really don’t like. Maybe your beloved main character has been replaced by a talking cat for interest value. Maybe you’re being told to write like you’re Stephanie Meyer’s identical twin, just because you mentioned the word “vampire”. Don’t get nasty. Editors are trying to help, but they don’t always know what kind of help is helpful. All they have to go on are your contact details and whatever manuscript you’ve shoved in their direction. Expect them to make mistaken assumptions. Don’t get snippy or start flouncing around your credentials. No one will be impressed. (Especially not the editor – they’ll have a great laugh about it with other editors). Laugh it off, explain what you really want, and see what they have to say in response.

Tip 5) Get another editor.

It’s just not working out, too many creative differences? Get out. There are loads of editors out there, plenty of different publishing houses, journals, magazines, fanfiction sites etc. Get your work out there and see what other people think. If they are all saying the same thing, maybe you should take a hint. Alternatively, publish the next Harry Potter.

editor cat

To summarise: Editors are only nasty if threatened, are easily appeased with agreement to their suggestions and polite, good-natured challenges to changes. Listen to them to get far, or to make sure that you don’t publish something horribly embarrassing. Good luck!

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