One of the best things about having an agent is that when conflicts arise with your editor and/or publisher, you have someone to represent your interests. Most people assume those conflicts are mostly contractual, and certainly negotiating a fair and equitable contract is among an agent’s top priorities. But just as important is playing peacemaker and advisor when differences of opinion arise over the stories themselves.
Otherwise known as revision
These disagreements between editor and author often surface during the revision process. The editor delivers the notes, and the author balks. Now, all writers balk at revisions, at least initially. And usually the only sound strategy is to pour yourself a stiff drink, read the notes again, sleep on it, and then get up the next morning, bite the bullet, and make the changes requested.
Because more often than not, the editor is right. And you know it.
But sometimes it’s not that simple. Sometimes writers get contradictory advice from the different types of editors—the acquisitions editor says one thing, the production editor something else, the copy editor something else—and all of this advice flies in the face of what the beta readers had to say.
Or the advice is crystal clear and consistent—and the writer hates it.
This is usually where I come in. As a former acquisitions editor as well as an author, I understand each perspective; I’ve been there so I truly appreciate the frustrations and difficulties associated with both jobs. My job is to assure everyone—editor and author—that a solution is within reach.
Then I talk to my client.
The truth about editor’s notes
Editors know when something is wrong—that’s their job, remember, to edit—and they usually have ideas about how to fix whatever they think is wrong. Unfortunately, often these solutions won’t work, at least not well. Worse, when more than one editor is involved, these solutions may contradict one another. Even when they don’t contradict one another, their solutions are rarely elegant solutions.
The best person to come with elegant solutions for your story’s problems is you. Think about what your editor(s) has to say, think about why that may or may not work, and then think about how you would fix it your way.
You can come up with something better because you are the storyteller. The editor is the midwife; you are the mother. If you settle for the editor’s solution and don’t improve on it, then you are letting the midwife take the baby away from you.
And don’t worry that your editor will hate you for it. In 20 years in publishing, I have never heard of an editor complaining about an author coming up with a great fix for a problem plaguing a manuscript. Ever.
I’d like to thank my editor…
The editor’s job is to identify all the issues compromising your story, so be grateful for that eagle eye. Don’t whine about the revision notes, think of them as the gift they are—and embrace them. Then use them to rethink your story, and brainstorm solutions that not only address the problems the editor has raised, but actually transcend them, ultimately making your story as strong and compelling and praiseworthy as it can be.
Because the next set of notes you get will be from reviewers, but that’s another shot of whiskey and another blog….
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