One of my darling new authors emailed me this:
I hope I recognize my writing when you’re done editing!
At first I thought he was kidding, but then I got to thinking that he may have been quasi-serious. I can understand the fear. Here you’ve put your heart and soul into your book only to release it from your clutches and hand it over to a perfect stranger [at least I like to delude myself into believing I'm perfect, but the beagle tells me otherwise].
The imagination takes hold:
- What are they going to do to my work while it’s in their clutches?
- Will my story look anything close to the way I wrote it?
- Do I have any say in the editing process?
- What if I hate what she’s done?
- Oh GOD! Why didn’t I become a painter like my mother suggested?
Now you’ve lost sleep, lost weight, and your cat begins to avoid you because you’ve begun to ignore your personal hygiene. R-E-L-A-X and remember one thing:
Editors buy stories because we love them. This means we love your voice. Your voice is what makes the story come alive, so it’s the last thing we want to destroy.
Ah, but what about your content?
I have an author whose agent took a meeting with a Big Gun. Oh, they lurved, lurved, lurved the book. Only could they please take “some stuff out” and put in “other stuff”? The agent was mortified. Hell no, you can’t! The “stuff” you want to remove is the friggin’ meat of the story! End of meeting to the absolute miffery of the agent [to those who love to edit me, I do realize "miffery" isn't a word. No need to comment, ok?].
Yes, the manuscript needed work. Lots of it. But in no way did that book become “my child,” because that isn’t what I, or my cohorts do. They don’t rewrite. They suggest, they recommend, they insert possible examples [with the author's ability to reject the insertion].
Did you read that? They do not rewrite. That is the author’s job.
Furthermore, editors do not switchy changey the manuscript and turn it into something else without your permission.So even though the Big Gun publisher wanted to seriously mess with the story’s foundation, they most certainly weren’t going to do it without discussing it first.
So bless my author’s buttons for being nervous about the editing process, but he’s biting his nails to the quick for nothing. Yes, he’ll see a lot of red things – where I fixed a passive sentence into an active sentence, or removed a dialog tag. Or maybe I put one in. What I’ve done is akin to cleaning up the kitchen. But I do not dare presume to cook the meal [something my family heartily approves, the ingrates].
Where I feel something needs further development, I insert a comment and say something like “expand this idea so the reader understands this paragraph.” Or maybe there’s a POV switch and I insert a comment bubble telling the author to rewrite the section in the proper POV. See? I’m not cooking the meal, so it’s impossible [and incredibly stupid] to interfere with the author’s voice.
And this is why authors really have little to fear from the editing process. Sure, there may be a lot of rewrites, but so what? Presumably…ok, hopefully, you trust your editor enough to know what they’re doing and that their decisions are going to yield a much more marketable book.
I appreciate how difficult that is because you don’t really know your editor. But, hopefully, you’ve read some of the publisher’s books and can see the quality of their work.
I had an author who was scared out of her wits to be edited. Then she waltzed into a book store and bought one of our books – wise soul that she is, she chose my novel, Donovan’s Paradigm. She emailed me saying that after reading my book she felt a “whole lot better” about my fingies dabbling about the verbs and nouns of her manuscript. Awww…
Trust is vital in the production process, and we realize it doesn’t come easily. But, really, the story you handed your editor will still be the same story that comes out of editing. Or better. But not without your knowledge or approval.