How to Be Edited Without Freaking Out

I think I can write about this with at least some amount of credibility, seeing that I’ve had newspaper articles and short stories edited – and have now written a book that’s up for editing.

In the initial stages of working things out with my publishers, Indireads – after the contract had been signed and we’d decided to work with each other – I was asked to send them my storyline – a rough outline of what I envisioned my book looking like. My editor told me she’d give me her feedback once she was done, which I didn’t really worry about, because,  after all, what I’d written and thought up was perfection, how could they not see that?

So I was, understandably, a little surprised that I got a page full of ‘editors’ notes’. My initial displeasure faded away the more I read, though, because I realised that my editors had caught some things that just had not occurred to me, in my enthusiasm to get the story down onscreen.

A little after this, my short story was chosen for publication by Reading Hour. There was a little back and forth between their editor and myself, about word choice and changes she’d suggested.

One time, I was a little late replying to an email from my editor, and she was worried I’d gotten offended that she’d edited some sentences and suggested changes to the plot of one of my short stories.

It had amused me, and I remember I wrote to her that if I was the kind to get offended by such minor things, I doubt I would be able to continue writing!

How to Be Edited Without Freaking Out

Maybe I had such a ‘zen’ approach to it because I spent a little while on the other side – I did do some editing, even if it was for a still born ‘youth oriented’ magazine – and the experience has stayed with me. The contributors were all college students, and it was my friend Amul and I who had taken on the task of editing them – telling them when their ideas were half baked, or their language was just plain lousy.

I remember being given a book review that had the words ‘…I was dwindling away…’ I was totally confused, wondering what the writer meant, but reading the next few sentences made it clear the writer thought ‘dwindling’ was another word for ‘whiling away’ – as in, ‘…I was whiling away my time…’

Though the project died at around the same time that Amul and I decided to quit, I still have nightmares about those days. Mostly because, to a one, the contributors weren’t prepared to accept constructive criticism. They automatically saw anything other than enthusiastic approval as an attack on their writing and their creativity. The worst thing was their insistence on clinging to their opinion, even when we proved that we were factually correct.

I mean, grammar and spelling isn’t a personal choice. There’s a reason they’re called grammar rules.

So I guess I was lucky enough to see it from the other side before my writing was ever edited. Which is not to say that I’m an expert on ‘being edited’, because I’m really not. I’ve only had a handful of experiences of having my writing edited, and luckily for me, they’ve all been unanimously pleasant.

So how do you learn how to be edited without freaking out?

When you send your work off to your editor, remember:

  • Editors want you to succeed. They want to see your work published, almost as badly as you do. They just want to make your work the best it could possibly be.
  • Editors read your work like your readers will. Any flaw they point out would be something your readers would see – and criticise – because they don’t want to send out a flawed book, any more than you do.

I start reading, and when I come to a word or whatever that makes me stop, then I think, “Okay, there’s a problem.” Because any time a reader stops — whether it’s because they didn’t understand something, or the word is an odd choice and it throws them off, or a character does something slightly out of character — then you have to stop and say, “This is a problem. How do we fix it?”

–  Chuck Adams, Algonquin Executive Editor
Source: From Good to Great: What Editors Do for Authors

  • Editors will, depending on your work, do developmental editing, copy editing, or proof reading. That’s a lot of work for one person. For a great post on what the difference is between these three, go here.
  • Editing is necessary is you want to avoid looking stupid for making these kinds of mistakes that make you seem like an amatuer. (Moats for motes, heal for heel, etc.)
  • And most important – just because someone suggests some changes to your work, they are not attacking you, or your value as a person. You are not a misunderstood genius, nor do you need to switch editors because they ‘don’t get it’. If writing is difficult, so is editing.
  • If all else fails, take up meditation! Your blood pressure will thank you!

2 Comments

  1. Hey SS!
    Great post, it’s something I think most people don’t appreciate.
    I know the feeling of being on both sides, though mine was probably not that long a stint as editor either, but I’ve always held a healthy respect for having decent language skills – written and spoken both.
    You are absolutely right about some people not being able to take any criticism, though I think that MOST can’t take it. I’m always open to it and do ask for it and take it but I admit that as most in my position then would feel, even when it’s good feedback, it stings no matter what simply because your stories are strangely like your kids and you feel so protective of them.
    Nice blog, noticed you’re on Indiblogger too.
    Anyway, take it easy.
    Cheers.

    • Thanks for reading, glad you appreciated it. =)

      Yes, it does happen that even though all of us want to improve our writing, criticism (in the sense of critique), no matter how constructive, does sting. I guess it’s because we writers put so much of ourselves into our work that we want everyone to like it.

      Another thing that really galls me is that it’s always easier for me to find spelling/grammar errors or stylistic problems in other people’s work, rather than my own. So it annoys me a little when someone else spots an error in my stories that I couldn’t catch. =)

      I’m on Indiblogger and BlogAdda, as well! =)

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