Okay, first off, let me express that I love a good editor. They can find and fix the mistakes an author’s eyes overlook. However, given my experience with some publishers editors, I have to say they can also fuck an author’s writing up.
Editor’s suggestions are nothing but opinions
Shocking, right? Every editor has a different opinion (and they will call them rules). Everything from writing, em-dashes, en-dashes, elipses, phrasing – hell, I had an editor once that if I had accepted her changes would have changed my entire style of writing to hers.
As an author, you have full control over what goes out. USE THAT CONTROL.
Don’t let an overzealous editor change the way you write.
Why am I writing this?
An editor insisted there had to be a period on the end of an elipse. I’m talking she was absolutely anal about it. I knew a question mark could go on the end of an elipse, but a period? I figured it was one of the rules I didn’t know.
Turns out? Her use of it was wrong. Even using the Chicago Manual of Style which she was referring to. A period on the end of an elipse – which many people don’t think should exist – does not denote the person’s voice drifting off. It denotes, if you use it, that one is missing full sentences. It isn’t ENDING a sentence, which was her reasoning.
The problem is, she got me into the use of it. Now, two years later, I am trying to break myself of the horrible habit.
They are not gods
I think where editors go wrong is that we authors tend to give them more than their due. We kowtow to their knowledge, afraid we’re wrong when someone who obviously went to school for ‘this’ is telling us the rules. The plain fact of the matter is over time, editors heads get big and they begin to act like they’re the all-knowing god of writing.
Even worse, when editors decide that every town/city runs like theirs and tries to get you to change things to fit their view of the world. Remember, their suggestions are only opinions. Plus, if the genre isn’t something they are used to, they can really screw things up.
People discuss English vs American English. What they don’t know is they are technically talking about British English vs New York English. One has to blame the original publishing system for that. The main publishers and their editors were in New York. Since that’s what got published, it became known as American English.
Huge problem there – America is too large to only have one version of the language. Every section of the country uses different terms for different things. And yet, we’re all supposedly to use New York English as that’s what set the standard, right?
When editors go evil
A little over a year ago, I had an experience with an editor that quite honestly soured them in my mind. She had been my editor for several other books. In that particular book, she slammed my writing, made caustic comments all through the manuscript, and never tried to see that my facts were real rather than made up. It was the most horrendous editing job I’ve ever received. It soured me on her – I told the publisher I would never work with her again. It also soured me on that publisher as she was one of their favored editors. When I sent in the revised manuscript, I have to admit I felt a bit vindictive in my comments back to her with links to huge real life events she’d accused me of making up.
Learning to write again
So now I am trying to change back to the correct way I wrote before. Over the previous series she had been my editor for, she kept pushing for certain changes in the wording I used and I had finally given up and changed. In some ways, changing back to what was a better style of writing is harder than changing in the first place.
I know you’re there for a reason. And like I said at the beginning, I appreciate a good editor. However, you are not god, you do not know all, and just because you think something should a certain way, does not mean you’re right.
Take a new editor and an editor with thirty years of experience and their interpretations of the rules is so different it’s like they’re speaking a different language.
We need editors
As authors, we need editors. Yes, we can self-edit, but an editor will catch things we didn’t see. They can make suggestions that make the story better (or worse, as the case may be).
However, we should not hold them up as the pinnacle of writing. They aren’t perfect. They don’t know everything. What we need to decide is how much power we will give them.
Take their suggestions, decide if they work for you, delete the ones that don’t, and go about your next book.
I also think it’s smart to change editors every few books or so. Get a new look at a different editor’s thought processes. Take what works for you, dump what doesn’t. Remember, they don’t know everything and the way they think a book should be, may not be the right way for that particular book.
If an editor is mean? Dump their ass. If they don’t accept your writing style, walk away. However, also remember that just because you don’t like one suggestion does not make them bad. Sometimes you have to read their suggestions, walk away, and come back to the table to look at them with a new eye.
Editors and authors need to work together. However, we need more defined boundaries. Authors need to accept they aren’t always right and so do editors. Editors need to realize they aren’t the end all of writing knowledge and authors need to accept our manuscripts are NEVER perfect.
It’s a balance that unfortunately is difficult to keep up – thus why I suggest you change your editor every few books. Getting into a rut with your writing is never a good thing. Using an editor who goes along with one set of rules is a rut. You can always come back to them at some point.