Editing and the dance of criticism
“Well I see your point, but I still think it’s fine the way it is.” Ugh.
After weeks of working with Sharon to edit her manuscript, she was once again pushing back. And instantly, the phrase ‘one step forward, three steps back’ begins repeating in my head for the umpteenth time, set to a catchy Latin Cha-Cha beat.
Developmental editing is something I genuinely love to do. Rolling up my sleeves and diving into a manuscript to unearth the hidden gems. Working side by side with a kickass woman author to help bring her message to life in full color. Developing a manuscript that we are both crazy proud of in the end. I believe I was put here to do this work.
So then there’s Sharon. Repelling my earnest efforts to balance high-quality editing with relationship management. I’ve learned that with every author it becomes a bit of a dance. To help us be awesome dance partners on a project, I do my best to set expectations upfront.
I say things like ‘you understand that you are not hiring me to be your best friend’ and ‘my job is to polish your ideas and your writing to make them readable and smooth’ and ‘this is an important part of the process to make this book shine.’ Enthusiastic acknowledgment usually follows.
However, as the real work begins, that enthusiasm dims. Some authors inherently know that they need editing support, but just aren’t as open to it as they initially thought. As Ryan Holiday explains in his excellent book Ego is the Enemy, “We can’t take or receive feedback if we are incapable of or uninterested in hearing from outside sources.” Amen, Ryan.
A quick dance lesson for authors
Editing is a crucial step in bringing your manuscript to a high-quality level. In my book, 6 Things No One Tells You About Writing a Book, I share several steps authors can take to navigate the editing process successfully. The ones I’ve outlined below are just a few of my favorites from the book. And I promise these steps are easier than learning the Tango.
Open your mind Easier said than done, but it is the most crucial step to preparing for feedback from your editing team. We tend to fall in love with what we've written. I do it, no doubt JK Rowling does it, I get it. Understand that structural inspection of your writing is part of the process. Be open to having the editors kick your story around and giving you an honest critique.
Separate structure from personal Separate your personal story and experiences from the structure of the book. An editor is looking for flow, a common theme, consistency, and readability. We are not critiquing your life experiences.
Jump to collaborate Don’t jump to defend, jump to collaborate. The resources you use are invested in helping you create the best book possible. Really, we are. Your job is to create, and our job is to polish and refine.
Find the right resource Do your homework by researching editors and asking for recommendations from other authors. Choose an editor with whom you click; someone who gets you and your vision for the book. A sense of trust and connection will go a long way in making the editing dance smooth and productive.
Make the investment While you are researching editors, make a note of their fees. Yes, you will find super cheap editors out there, but the value of working with a committed professional is worth the investment. Don’t skimp on a book that will be here long after you are gone.
It’s time to tell your story. And I’d love to help you bring it to life in writing. No matter where you are on your book journey, I want to hear from you.