Friday, November 5, 2010

Of Editing and Editors

Gratuitous picture of my new puppy,
Noodle.  Isn't he adorable?
 As I prepare to embark upon editing my second novel—I’ll be getting really cozy with Ivy and the Meanstalk over the next couple of months—I thought I’d reflect a bit about working with editors. As a new author, this was the part of the publication process I dreaded the most. Prior to being published, I attended a writers’ conference where a literary agent stated that the changes requested by an editor were typically “mandatory.” As in required. As in non-negotiable. As in what-I-say-goes-and-if-you-don’t-like-it-tough-cookies.

For the longest time, this statement colored my perception of what the editorial process would be like. I pictured it as a horrible, heart-wrenching dictatorship where I’d be obligated to do whatever the editor wanted, even if it meant dismantling much of a story into which I had poured so much of my time and spirit.

Perhaps some of the other authors here can weigh in with their own experiences, but mine wasn’t like that at all. It probably helped that I had a fantastically brilliant editor with an incredible sense of story, but I really ended up enjoying the editorial process. I found I had much more freedom than I had anticipated. I did end up making most of the changes suggested by my editor—because her suggestions were just that fabulous—but I didn’t feel pressured to make a particular change if I felt it just wasn’t quite right for my vision of the book. In the end, Ivy still felt like my own.

That being said, I think it’s very important for an author to at least consider every suggestion an editor makes. Remember—editors edit for a living. They’re very good at it, and if they’ve suggested a change, they’ve done so for a reason. It’s also the respectful thing to do. An editor is someone who has signed on to work on your book because they believe in it. They believe in it so much that they’ve committed themselves to working on it often for a year or more. They’re giving it tons of their time and attention, and they’ll read it over and over and over again. They’re putting a lot of hard work into this endeavor; it’s only respectful to take the time to consider what they have to say.

At another writers’ conference, this time after the first Ivy was released, I worked up the nerve to ask an editor, “How important is it that an author make every change you suggest?” How her answer would have eased my mind if I had heard it before being published. “It’s not that crucial,” she said with a shrug. At the end of the day, she pointed out, it’s the author’s name on the cover of the book, so it’s important that the author be comfortable with what’s inside.

Horrible, heart-wrenching dictatorship? Not even close.

-Dawn Lairamore


  1. Thanks for the peek into the process of working with an editor under contract. :-)

  2. I have loved the revision process. And I agree with you, Dawn. My editor always prefaces her letters with the reminder that these are all suggestions, and the ultimate decision is up to me. But I can fairly say that just about all of her suggestions have made my book stronger, so I value each and every comment. Sometimes it feels amazing that someone else is that invested in my work, and it's important to remember that good editors only suggest changes because they, too, want the best for your book. That being said, I better get back to the revision I'm supposed to be working on right now!

  3. Wow. interesting. Thanks Dawn!

  4. We both know how awesome J.A. is!! ;)
    Nothing to be scared about!

  5. Hi. Just joined your blog today. Nice to meet you, mine name is Ivy.

    Great blog. I'll be back to see what you're up to.

    Happy Writing :-)

  6. My ed never lays down the law! But she is so right on with every suggestion that I agree with her wholeheartedly on everything. :)

  7. Welcome, Ivy!! I love that name, lol.

    Tim, you should make sure your editor reads your comment ;-)

  8. It should definitely be a collaboration and not a dictatorship.

    Happy to find your blog via Twitter today. Love your Mainfesto!


Thanks for adding to the mayhem!