Your Editor, Your Friend
This article has been mulling around in my head for a while now, and it wasn’t until today that I finally pulled together what my point actually was. I spent last weekend in St. Louis with the other divas at Penned Con 2014, and we had a fantastic time meeting a ton of writers and hanging out with some authors we’ve worked with or are working with. And as we were all laughing and having a great time, I kept thinking how much I enjoyed these ladies. And then today I got an email from an author friend I’m editing, and it all came together. Your editor can be your friend.
Now let me clear; I’m not saying your friends can “edit” for you… Please, hire a professional editor who has some experience, can give examples of books she’s worked on, and knows where commas go. (Hint: not where you pause when you read.)
No, what I’m saying is you can have more than just a cordial working relationship with your editor—as I wrote about here—it can even be downright friendly. But that relationship begins with you. First, you have to choose the right editor because obviously you’re not going to create a friendly relationship with someone you don’t click with or someone who doesn’t share the same values. So take your time and do your research. Check out multiple companies, ask your friends, see who other authors use, and read editing blogs. Like ours! 🙂
Then, you’ve got to trust her. This doesn’t come instantly—you have talk to each other, get to know what the other is about. But you’d be surprised how quickly you can establish some basic trust. Trust that she’s got your back, she’s got a sense of humor, she’s got time for you, and she’s always going to look out for your story. Oh yeah, always hire an editor with a sense of humor. Is it a requirement of the job? No… But it makes the process so much more fun.
Once you trust her, let her do her job. Yes, she’s going to tell you that parts of your story don’t work and that you’ll need to revise them. She’s going to suggest you remove extraneous words, phrases, and scenes that slow down your action or could potentially bore the reader. She’s going to ask you to add more here and there to show back story or characterization. She may ask you to consider how the reader might react to something you’ve written so that you can see it from a different perspective. But above all else, she’s going to be honest with you. That’s what a real friend would do—not blow smoke up your skirt, but admit that yes, those pants make your butt look just a little fat. But with that admission, she’ll have three pairs of better fitting pants that will make your butt look fabulous. A great editor is the same; she’ll give you the honesty you need but will always have several ideas about how to make it better.
Use the same editor for all your work—you’ll be surprised how quickly editors recognize authors’ tics, strengths, and weaknesses. Plus, we create style sheets for each of your books with all your style choices. If you want your books to look professionally edited and consistent from title one to title ninety-nine, find a good editor and keep her busy.
I edit for several friends. And the deal is I’m going call their baby ugly, I’m going to make them delete portions of their favorite scenes, and I’m going to tell them NO when their characters become cliché or perfect Barbie dolls. As their friend, they trust me enough to know that I love their baby anyway—all our hard work is to make their baby beautiful, after all—their favorite scenes will be better without the deadwood dragging it down, and I understand their characters almost as well as they do. Sometimes better because I have that added distance the author doesn’t. So when I leave a comment that says, “Area rug, throw, bouncer. Your guy is starting to sound a little like you! Let’s make him less girlie,” my author friend is not offended in the least. Nope, her reaction was gratitude that I had caught it before her manly man starts to look ridiculous. It’s a benefit of our friendship that helps me recognize when a little too much author is seeping into her character.
So, authors, do your research and find the right editor for you. Establish that good working relationship first and then build the trust until your editor is your friend. Keep her busy with book after book and never lose your sense of humor. You won’t regret it.