Authors often contact me asking my opinion about their editors’ advice. “Do I have to follow her suggestions?” “She’s trying to change my voice, what shall I do?”
Some of my own clients question my recommendations. And that’s okay. I always tell them, “It’s your manuscript. You make the final decision.” Of course, I explain the reasons for my suggestions as I am a teaching editor. And I can only hope that they will do what is truly best for their book projects. I encourage them to lead with their heads, not their emotions.
I urge clients and other authors who resist an important editorial suggestion, to do some research. Read other books similar to yours to discover whether or not the suggestion makes sense. Just because a seasoned author uses a unique technique in his writing or the organization of the book, doesn’t mean that you can pull it off. I advise authors who want to try something clever, to study the masters and make sure that what they are attempting really works in their manuscripts.
Authors of fiction sometimes become jealously attached to what they consider their voice. I hear from authors, and work with some, who constantly complain that I (or their editor) am changing their voice. It is obvious that many of these people don’t know what their voice is. Most of them haven’t been consistent in presenting their voice and when the editor attempts to repair the damage, the author hollers, “You’ve changed my voice!”
I was once told, after a session of editing, that I didn’t understand a particular culture. Well, my editorial suggestions actually served to validate and strengthen the author’s attempt at representing the culture as she had wandered far off of the path. She had inadvertently inserted some dialog and phrases that were inappropriate to the ethnic group in that time period.
It’s easy to get out of character or to flub up on the integrity of your story. That’s one reason why you hire an editor. Her eyes are trained to notice these things. I also recommend, in some cases, that the author ask friends to read the story or the nonfiction book. While friends may not be able to help you with the intricacies of editorial work, they can:
• Give you their impression of your story or nonfiction book.
• Point out areas of confusion.
• Note where the story drags.
• Tell you where you’ve contradicted yourself.
• Find a mistake or two in spelling, etc.
Your job, then, is to embrace their comments and those editorial suggestions by your professional. Make the changes you agree with. And where you do not agree, step outside of yourself long enough to do some research on your own.
• Read similar books by other authors and honestly compare yours with these. Have you actually achieved your goal in your book? Or is your editor right, your writing isn’t advanced enough to attempt something too creative and unique?
• Get other opinions. Your editor could have a bias or isn’t qualified to edit a manuscript of this type. I always recommend hiring an editor who is knowledgeable about publishing and who is familiar with your genre/topic.
As you can see, there’s more to working with an editor than is obvious at first glance.
If you have a manuscript ready to go, contact me for a free editorial evaluation. I will look at 20 pages and report the types of errors and problems I see (if any). If you want me to evaluate whether I believe it is publishable or not, I charge $100 for 150-175 pages. My editing service is $50/hour. I can provide an estimate upon seeing your manuscript. PLFry620@yahoo.com