Friday, September 25, 2015

What do editors do and why you should care?

photo by Leanne Dyck

That editor took my story and she tore it apart. Then she forced me to make all these changes. In the end, it wasn't anything like what I wrote.

There are tons of horror stories out there. I think they exist because we, writers, don't really understand what an editor does.

Recently, authors Phyllis Smallman and Kay Stewart interviewed editors Lenore Hietkamp and Frances Thorsen (bookstore owner:  Chronicles of Crime). Heitkamp and Thorsen answered questions like...

-How can I find the best editor?
-How can I work more effectively with an editor?
-What common errors do editors find and how can I avoid making them?
-What does an editor do?

Here's what I heard...

What does an editor do?
1)an editor reads your manuscript. While she's reading she's asking herself:  What is this author trying to say? Is it working?
2)After reading your manuscript, the editor writes a report -- she points out what is working and what isn't.
3)The editor then has a discussion regarding the manuscript with the writer. The editor is okay with a writer disagreeing with her, but she want to know why the writer disagrees. 
4)Both the editor and the writer have a say as to what needs to be changed. Once this plan is finalized, the writer works on the changes.  
5)The editor reviews the changes. 
6)The editor gives the writer a final draft of the manuscript.

Two types of editing
Micro (line) editing:  Is like looking through a microscope, the editor closely examines each sentence. She looks at sentence structure, grammar, spelling, punctuation, etc.
Macro (story) editing: Is like looking through a camera, the editor looks at the big picture. He looks at story structure,  plot, pacing, dialogue, etc.

Author - Editor relationship

-should be built on mutual respect
-authors should receive feedback on what is and isn't working
-editors should respect the author's voice

How can I find an editor?

-by networking
-by type the editor's name into a search engine
-through professional organizations (not all editors belong to professional organizations and this has nothing to do with their professionalism)

How can I evaluate an editor's work?

-read book reviews of books the editor has worked on
-ask for a sample of the editor's work

Authors can help editors by providing them with a story bible
(The Story Bible:  What It Is and Why You Need One by Jane Friedman)

Tip:  a good way to tell if your story is working is to read the first three and last three chapters of your manuscript. 

Common mistakes authors make
-introducing too many characters in the first few chapters
-not doing enough research
-repeating the same sentence throughout the book
-not putting the crime in the right place
-not reading the manuscript out loud or having someone else read it out loud or recording it
-the story isn't properly paced 
Tip:  you should have the reader on the edge of her seat; then let her breathe -- and repeat.
-too many consequences
-the story isn't properly plotted
-boring dialogue -- stick with what is important

Bottom line:  The editor and author have the same goal in mind -- to produce the best book possible. Authors shouldn't be defensive. Look at your work with the editor as conversations about your book.

More:  Why Edit?
This is a guest post written by Amy Haagsma on behalf of EAC-BC, the BC branch of the Editor's Association of Canada

Next post:  Word Vancouver is so cool. There's workshops, panel discussions, author readings and so much more. I'll be attending this Saturday and Sunday. And I'm looking forward to telling you all about it.

Sharing my author journey...

September was an emotions packed month for me. 

In writing...
I sent out more submissions this month than ever before -- 12 submissions. I also received a lot of rejection letters. In fact, one day I opened the mailbox and found seven. Let me write that again:  s-e-v-e-n. It took my breath away and set me reeling, like a boxer receiving an upper cut.

Quote from one of the rejection letters...
'This story is very sweet, but I think it could use some elaboration.'

But I know acceptance is coming. All I have to do is keep writing, submitting and revising.

In my personal life...

This month I lost a fun, caring, faithful companion. Losing him was very hard, but he had lived a good, long life and lived it on his terms. 

All photos by Leanne Dyck
Three short years ago, I had three cats -- or they had me. 

Joey:  a Queen in all meaning of the word

Sammy:  a friend to all

Ticky:  a warrior, a comedian, a man's cat

Now my house is empty. There's no paws prancing on tile. No pink tongues lapping water. No cuddling little bodies to pat. 

But, I'm hoping, October will bring change.


Darlene said...

So sorry to hear of the loss of your furry companion. A great article on editing. Just be sure you don´t lose your voice.

Leanne Dyck said...

Thank you, Darlene. He lived a good long life and he had his own unique voice until the end -- an example for all, especially we writers.
You're right there is a danger in losing your author voice through the editing process. In fact, I'm guilty of attempting to help by re-writing in my voice and was only critique. Thankfully, it's been my experience, that skilled, experienced editors help you strengthen your voice.

Laurie Buchanan said...

Leanne — You're always such a great resource for writers. Thank you for so generously sharing what you learn.

I, too, am sorry for the loss of your companion animals. I hope you have another set of paws padding around your home soon.

Leanne Dyck said...

We're all team players in the same game and I'm delighted to do my part.
Boy. Oh, boy. Do I have one happily furever ending for you, Laurie. And I'm looking forward to sharing it with you in my next post. said...

I'm so glad you enjoyed the workshop. You obviously got a lot out of it. I know a publisher will grab you soon.

Leanne Dyck said...

Thank you for organizing this event, Phyllis. And for your kind support. It is very much appreciated.

Lenore said...

Thanks for writing about the event. It was fun to participate in it, and the audience was great--lots of really excellent questions.

Leanne Dyck said...

And, as I recall, very informative answers to those questions.
Thank you for your comment, Lenore.

ZR Southcombe said...

The bottom line is what matters! In finding an editor (uh, editors) my priority was to find people who were able to give criticism constructively, while still respecting my style of writing.

Leanne Dyck said...

Absolutely, Zee. And congratulations on finding editors that support your style and who offer constructively criticism. I've had the pleasure of working with more than a few and they have helped me grow as a writer.