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March 1, 2013 / catherinebwrites

5 WAYS TO GET THE BEST OUT OF YOUR EDITOR

Cover design by Slickfish 

Cover design by Slickfish

“It’s improved out of all knowing.”  Said Helen, handi

ng back BURNING BRIGHT.    That’s Helen Falconer, my editor.  And this was the second edit

I smirked in a self-satisfied manner.  Then I remembered… I thought it was very near perfect the first time.  It wasn’t. There were gaps and anomalies. The moment she pointed them out I knew she was right.  So I performed the necessary surgery. It involved writing one whole new chapter and some jiggling about of the story…. but it worked! 

I know from my own editing experience that writers often can’t bear to do the surgery. They just snip bits off  the edges and the next draft is  even worse than the first.    I do understand.  After months, perhaps years in a solitary bubble, writing, re-writing and honing, an editor’s feedback can feel very harsh. 

But I’ve been on both sides of that coin so here are some suggestions.

1. YOUR EDITOR IS YOUR FRIEND

S/he is NOT a critic  who wants to seem clever by  demeaning your work.  

S/he is not the  parent/teacher /bully/boss/ who always  puts you down.

S/he is a professional. S/he wants you to succeed.  His/her reputation is invested in your success. So open your head to what they say.   

2. MEET FACE TO FACE IF YOU CAN

Being face to face makes it easier to communicate.   Better communication means you get the best from the feedback.

Failing that Skype.

Failing that telephone.

And if push comes to shove use the Internet.   But stay alert to  how easy it is to misinterpret the written word. Ask for clarifications till you’re sure you’ve both got it right.

3. LISTEN

I mean really listen.  Listening is a skill.   It’s a skill that every writer needs and not just for editing.   It demands standing back.   It demands a suspension of judgement. It demands focused attention. Only when you really listen will you know when to ask for clarification or more information.

4. NOT ALL FEEDBACK IS RELEVANT

When you really listen it’s easy to know what feedback is relevant and what is not.   When it’s relevant you feel a kind of recognition.   Like the ding of a bell.  You might remember the hint-of-a-hint of a doubt that you had as you wrote it.   (That should be about 90% of the time.)

When feedback is irrelevant you find yourself thinking, ah no, that’s fine.  If this is more than 10% of the time then you  need to start listening better OR get a new editor.

Sometimes you just don’t know.   Fine, let it lie.   Look at it again later on.   You can decide then.

5.THE EDITOR DOES “GET IT”

“They don’t get it.” cries the writer.

Yes they do!  Readers recognize problems but they can’t put their finger on why.   An  editor can.   So if s/he hasn’t “got it” perhaps you have not made “it” as clear as you thought you did.   What’s obvious to you in your head  isn’t always so clear on the page.

So take heed of your editor, cherish him, cherish her and your writing will definitely improve.

THREE CHEERS FOR EDITORS

Helen Falconer: helen@killalabay.net.

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