AUTHOR ALLSORTS

A group of published UK-based authors and illustrators of picture books, children's and YA.

How does an editor cope with being edited?

I’ve been working in children’s publishing for a DECADE. As commissioning editor at a small publisher I’ve worked with authors through every stage of the editorial process, structural, line, copy edits and proofreads and each and every brilliant Catnip author has shown me how to cope with being edited myself.

Here, for the purposes of a compiling a biblical-themed list, are my Ten Authorly Commandments:

THOU SHALT BE SELF CONFIDENT

Being edited can be a brutal and bruising process – it is essentially someone poking, prodding, arguing and examining every facet of the thought process behind creating something immensely personal. You have to have the confidence in yourself to know that all your editor’s actions are driven by the beauty they see in your words and the strength they believe you have as a writer. It’s a lot like that scene in Miss Congeniality when Michael Caine subjects Sandra Bullock to a cruel and painful make over in an airport hangar.

And then this happens: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8-VpoP-ICo4

Your editor is Michael Caine, you are Sandra Bullock. Now go and listen to Mustang Sally and feel awesome.

THOU SHALT ALSO SHOW APPROPRIATE LEVELS OF HUMILITY

First drafts are never final drafts: there’s always room for improvement.

THOU SHALT BE THOROUGH

I draw up calendars and map out events for books that I edit, so I did the same for my own. Every character has their own school timetable and a life mapped out across the nine months in which the book takes place, and everything from what a character drinks to the pets they have are followed up on somewhere – world building isn’t just for SF/F.

THOU SHALT NOT TAKE IT PERSONALLY

Every comment written in red/pink/turquoise/pencil on your manuscript is a comment on what you have written, not who you are. And, erm, the person who wrote them? It’s their job to do so, this is not a weird personal vendetta against the passive voice. (OK, it might be a weird personal vendetta against the passive voice, but it’s not specifically against your use of it.)

THOU SHALT BE PATIENT

You are unlikely to be the only author your editor is working with. Don’t expect insta-response to every email and remember: radio silence does not mean they hate you or your manuscript.

Patience

THOU SHALT BE A BIT OF A PAIN IN THE ARSE

The previous commandments suggest a passive people-pleaser is the perfect author. This is not true. Fight your corner if you don’t agree with a suggestion – usually the process of arguing your point will reveal a better way to communicate it in the book.

(BUT THOU SHALT BE A LOVELY PAIN IN THE ARSE)

Just be nice when you argue your point – editors are more willing to listen to someone who hasn’t just called them a facist grammar Nazi.

THOU SHALT PERSIST

The editorial back-and-forth has the capacity to form an infinite loop… at least until the book is the best it can be. Be prepared to do what needs to be done – even if that means writing and rewriting a particular scene until you’ve worn your fingers down to bleeding stumps and you’re weeping tears the colour of your track changes mark-up.

THOU SHALT REMEMBER WHY YOU WRITE

I write because I love it. Being edited cannot change that.

THOU SHALT NOT COMMIT TO TEN COMMANDMENTS WHEN THOU CAN ONLY THINK OF NINE

Non Pratt
Website|Twitter

Non PrattAfter playing with glitter, stickers and short sentences in the non-fiction side of Usborne Publishing (where they insisted on using her real name ‘Leonie’) Non Pratt moved to fiction as Commissioning Editor at Catnip Publishing, still playing with sentences, but not so much with the glitter and stickers.

She’s written a book called TROUBLE that will be published in March 2014 by Walker Books in the UK, and later in the year by Simon and Schuster in the US. Non is currently enjoying having someone else tell her what to do with her sentences. (As you can tell from this post.)

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About Non

Author of teen novels, TROUBLE, REMIX, TRUTH OR DARE and novella UNBOXED.

5 comments on “How does an editor cope with being edited?

  1. Isabel Thomas
    December 4, 2013

    Loved this, as I work on both sides of the red pen too!

  2. Claire Musters
    December 4, 2013

    Brilliant – really refreshing to read. I’ve been an editor for more years than I care to mention, and in the last few years have started writing more. Just been thrust into the editing process of my second and third books (taken a little by surprise as it was without warning and I’m in the middle of writing another book and editing a different one) so it is so good to be reminded that the editors are just doing their jobs – just like I usually do! (But it’s also helpful to know what it is like to be on the receiving end, so that you can handle difficult editing processes with more grace too). Thanks for this! 😉

  3. EmmaH
    December 9, 2013

    Thanks, Non. Great to get insight from the other side!

  4. Pingback: Writing advice | The "Professional" Blog of J. M. Brink

  5. Pingback: Writing about writing | You read it here

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This entry was posted on December 4, 2013 by and tagged , , .

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