Tuesday, April 5, 2011

This week I wanted to take some time to dispel fears by showing the heart of an editor. I would assume that most editors would feel this way. Though I’m sure there are some tough guys/gals in the editing world, Jamie, at least, is not one of them. What a relief!

Regarding the editorial letter she sent me, Jamie says. . .

Just between me and thee, I AGONIZE over this letter. It’s been read and reread and reread by the time the author gets it from me. It’s so easy to hurt someone’s feelings and once you’ve done that...well, you’re done. I NEVER use the word “problem” in editorial notes, and I try not to use “change” (“tweaks,” yes; sounds less daunting). (OK, please don’t show me if I used “problem” in your notes, Sandra. Just let me have my illusions.)

One of the things I appreciated about Jamie’s comments in the letter was the way she eased me into things, as evidenced by this snippet in an email she sent shortly after sending out her editorial letter.

I always make a few minor changes in the first pass (ALWAYS USING TRACK CHANGES) when I am working with an author who doesn’t know me, just to see how they’re going to take it. :) I once worked with an author who returned that ms with EVERY SINGLE CHANGE I’d made rejected. Hahahaha. (And I’m talking about single words.) By the end of the process, though, this author came around and understood why I’d suggested the changes I’d suggested, and used them. The way you compose a sentence is subjective; there’s probably more than one way to construct it to accomplish what you want to get across. But I’ll never change it just because I think my way is better. I will change it for clarity or rhythm or lyricism.

One of the things that worried me was Jamie messing with my voice. If you’ve ever read a LaTisha mystery, you know her voice is unique and not to be messed with. So how does a developmental editor deal with these types of issues?

You probably SHOULD fear me changing your voice (ha) but I try really, really hard not to. And if you say, “But Jamie, so-and-so would NEVER say that,” my answer will always be, “OK!”

Last of all, what if I happen to disagree with Jamie’s comments? I know all too well the folly of being stubborn and disrespectful in my response to Jamie if I don’t agree with something, but what does an editor expect?

I always expect pushback. Some things I feel really strongly about and others I don’t. The letter includes suggestions that * I * think will make the ms a better book. Don’t for a MINUTE think that I’m the final word. You give the same ms to 5 different editors you’ll get 5 different opinions! So mine is only one opinion. My attitude is “we can work it out.” I view the author/editor relationship as a collaborative process. On occasion I’ve been a guest speaker for groups of authors and was shocked (shocked!) to learn that authors expect it to be an adversarial relationship. I so, SO don’t want it to be that! My goal is that my suggestions will sound like your own great ideas, that my tweaks will be in your voice, and that after we’ve tidied everything up, you won’t even see my tracks.

As for myself, I want to be easy to work with. In the early days when I clung to every word and guarded my manuscript against any bit of perceived criticism, I was really shooting myself in the foot. Please understand, I know it is hard to put your “baby” out there for all to see and criticize, but it is the only way you will learn and grow, so embrace the process instead of eschewing it.

Oh, and last week I left you hanging. Just what was it I realized after receiving Jamie Chavez’s editorial letter? That it would be very, very easy to get overwhelmed by the suggestions and recommended changes. How do you keep from exploding with stress? Stay tuned. . .


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