You’ve written that last sentence and completed the manuscript you have been working on for seven years. You submit to your dream publisher and a few days later you get THE publication offer. Dreams do come true!
The email comes from your editor with some details about the contract, royalties, information about cover design and the sentence, “I made some notes.”
Notes, of course, you think, I must have missed a few typos. Still on your high from all the wondrous things happening you open up the attached manuscript with “some notes” and need to blink a few times.
Are you sure about this title?
Her green emerald eyes stared up at me from the pillows on the floor. (How did they get on the floor?)
My heart stopped. cliché, get creative!
My advice to you at this moment: Breathe. Read the comments. Then, read the comments again. Sometimes there is praise amidst the notes, comments and corrections!
Editors are not out to destroy you work. In my experience it is never our intention to do so. The reason we offered you a contract is because we saw a spark of genius in what you sent us. We want the book(s) to succeed just as much as you do, so make sure to review all comments with an open mind before discarding the changes or the comments.
There will be some instances where you want a particular sentence to stay where it is. Instead of demanding that it stay there, support your reason why it needs to be there. Occasionally, a great sounding line just isn’t properly placed, or needed. If you can’t defend the line’s necessity, reevaluate if it really adds anything to the story. Get familiar with the: Kill your darlings phrase. Does another line before or after this absolutely gorgeous line say the same thing? Does it paint a picture, or tell us what is happening? Editing is not just typos, grammar or elimination of overly used adverbs. It comes down to the nitty-gritty of the plot, character development, believability.
Make sure to pick your battles – and this goes for the editors out there, too! For example, I dislike the Oxford comma. I’ve had writers who LOVE the Oxford comma. Is it grammatically incorrect either way? No. Will I delete every comma and tell them it can’t be in there? No. I pick my battles.
I battle when I know the author has more in them then: The handsome man turned and stared at her. What do you mean by handsome, how was he staring? Or maybe the timeline doesn’t add up enough – and changes need to occur there. The note I most often make, is when a character starts losing his/her voice – a gentle reminder to the author to strengthen that character so he/she doesn’t fade into the background is something I’ll fight for as an editor. But if, as an editor I make changes and alter the voice into something not like the character – the author should say something, kindly so that we can assess the situation.
Open lines of communication are essential. Writers, this is your story and the editors want you to tell it. But choose your battles – the comma in paragraph four on page ninety-four is not the end of the world, normally. But if it is, be able to defend it!
(House style may trump the writer, so make sure to discuss that with your editors.)
Keep your wits about you as you enter into the editing process, it is long and grueling, and your only ally is your editor.
Corinne is an editor at Ink Smith Publishing. Since her first trip to the library when she was a toddler, Corinne has been collecting books, recommending her favorites and providing commentary on the less-than-stellar. Her belief is that if you have a problem, it’s nothing that a good book can’t solve. Currently, she is pursuing her MFA in Creative Writing at Lindenwood University, editing for Ink Smith Publishing and hoping that her blog posts here will help writers improve and publish their work.