Taking Offence at your Edit

I discovered, pretty quickly, that one of the problems with running a group of generous and kind authors prepared to edit other authors' work for free (like, say, The Authors' Editing Co-operative) is that those not used to having their work edited can very easily take offence at what they see as "criticism" of their work.

It's very easy to see why. You send off a manuscript you have laboured hard over, honed and polished until it gleams, filled with characters you love and lines you are, frankly, very proud to have penned. Two weeks later it comes back with every little mistake, typo and misspelling brighly highlighted in bold red. Comments  may say "this sentence is unclear", or "this word is redundant" or (if it's anything like my first manuscript) "POV" many, many times.

It's heartbreaking to see your precious manuscript torn to shreds.

Here's what you need to remember:

  • Every manuscript has errors. Usually many, many errors. As the author you're too close to see them, which is why you need an editor. A lot of corrections is not the sign of a bad manuscript, but of a good editor.
  • The corrections don't mean your editor hates it. On the contrary, he/she may love the story, characters and technique. But it's not the job of an editor to gush - it's his/her job to point out the mistakes.
  • If the editor has given you that service for free then they have done you a huge favour and you should be very grateful to them. It usually costs over £700 to get a full-length novel edited. Your fellow author who has acted as an editor for your book deserves your thanks and appreciation.
  • If you disagree with anything the editor has said, don't do so publicly. Politely, discretely and respectfully (through email or a private message) ask them to clarify the point. DO NOT take issue with them in any public forum and DO NOT take offence. 
  • Some people, including your editor, may not like your book or may not think much of your writing abilities. If you can't live with that, you're in the wrong business. Writing is all about rejection so get used to it.
  • It's your manuscript and it always remains entirely your choice whether to accept or reject what your editor has suggested. I like the Oxford comma, my editor doesn't. She may remove it, but I can select "Reject change" if I choose to. Ultimately it's going to be your name on the cover, and you can overrule your editor. In fact, he/she probably cares very little whether or not you take up the suggestions made and keep the changes and corrections.
Editing is important--too many potentially good books are published before they are really ready--but I hope there are not authors out there who are resisting having their books edited because they are too fearful of what the editor might think of their work. The world really doesn't need more bad books, and a poorly edited first effort could badly harm your chances of selling copies of your second book.

So new rules for the Authors' Editing Co-operative: Editors should be able to comment freely and openly without any fear that you, the author, will have a meltdown or in any way give them grief for their honesty. And you, the author, will understand that comments on your manuscript are not in any way a personal attack or intended to cast aspersions on your writing ability, but are to help you make your book as good as it can possibly be. You will not use the group wall to comment or in any way contradict what your editor has said. Any posts I see which are not entirely friendly and happy and edifying will be removed immediately. 


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