Editing and Expectations is a blog series about the entire editing process, from figuring out when and how to start working with an editor to getting the most out of your edits - and everything in between. This is the fourth in the series.
One of the reasons I really love being an editor is that it’s such a dynamic role. I’m never just an editor; I’m a guide, a teacher, a psychologist, a fighter, and a friend for my authors. But what all of these roles require is the most essential thing for a successful author-editor relationship: trust.
I know that when an author puts a manuscript in my hands, they are entrusting me with it. And that’s a big deal to me, and something I don’t take lightly. You’ve invested your time and energy and labour and—not to get too hyperbolic—your soul into this manuscript. It’s a lot to hand over to someone, so I do try to get to know my authors before and put them at ease. (This is also why I insist on doing sample edits: it helps build trust.)
So here’s how I see each role working in the author-editor relationship and what both the author and the editor can do to make it a successful partnership:
Editing is about guiding the manuscript to its best possible version, and I look at the big picture to see where it has to go and how to get it there, whether it’s rearranging the route, slowing down the pace, or avoiding unnecessary detours. Editing is also about guiding the writer through the process and getting the best out of them, so I walk you through how to make your edits in the most useful and expedient way.
A teacher’s job is to give their students to the tools and the knowledge to succeed. An editor will show you how to develop your skills and help you make improvements that you can use them in your manuscript right away and keep in reserve for your next book. The best teachers push you to be better, and the best students synthesize the information they receive and apply it to other problems.
I wanted to be a psychologist as a kid, and I really feel that that’s a big part of my job as an editor. Analyzing characters and analyzing the manuscript as a whole is so much fun for me. But it’s not just the text I’m analyzing; it’s also the author. It can be an intense process, editing, in breaking down and building your story back up again. So I assess what you need in the moment. Is the criticism too overwhelming right now and I need to pull back a bit? Do you need tough love and someone to kick your ass? Gentle encouragement? A deadline to get you motivated? General excitement as you get closer to your book release? Or is the imposter syndrome hitting really hard and you’re starting to doubt everything? (I’ve been there.) Helping people through their issues so that they (and their book) can come out stronger is a really gratifying part of my work.
How is there trust in a fight? If you’re boxing or wrestling, you trust that the other person is going to give you a fair fight. So I won’t hesitate to tell you if something’s not working in your story (you’re not paying me to only tell you the good stuff – but don’t worry, I will absolutely tell you the good stuff too!), but I’ll be fair about it. I don’t expect the author to take every single one of my suggestions. I mean, I think they’re useful if I’m making them, but it’s not my story—it has to work with the author’s own conception of their work.
I always, always tell my writers to please feel free to fight me on edits of mine that they don’t agree with. This does not necessarily mean that I’m going to roll over and accept it right away – oh no. I’ll argue back if I feel really strongly about it, and we’ll debate. “But it just sounds good!” doesn’t sway me, but “well, the character actually wouldn’t act that way because of X” might. So let's fight it out, but I promise we'll be friends at the end.
I love getting to know my writers—how they write, what motivates them, what they do in their non-writery life—and we generally get to be pretty tight. It’s definitely a good thing for the author-editor relationship in that a friend will help cushion the blow of criticism (despite sounding like a hard ass as a fighter, I do really care about your feelings!) and they always, always have your back and want the best for you. I want your book to be the best possible version it can be and something you can be really proud to put out into the world—that’s really the ultimate goal of the relationship. You can expect my full support from the second you start with me, from editing advice to cheering you on through the process to publication and beyond in getting the word out about your book.
Working with authors one-on-one is a great experience for me, and I want it to be great for you too. Having open communication and trust so that you feel comfortable working with me is vital to making that experience a rewarding one for both of us.