Monday, January 04, 2010

The Editor as Black Hat and Sometimes, White Hat.

In very old western movies, the bad guys were easy to identify and were known as black hats. Sometimes, editors must be bad guys. I wore my black hat on Boxing Day weekend when I took on the role of gunslinger/editor and shot down long confusing sentences. They were not my sentences but it was not an easy task. I feared I would be ambushed by the obscure jargon which lurked amidst the already complex language thickets of a long report. I was also afraid that my client wouldn't accept all of the many changes I had made. Fortunately she accepted almost all of them and I became the good guy, white hat, this time.

It is far easier to edit other people's writing, especially non-fiction writing than it is to edit my own fiction. Some of the fiction rejections I received recently have offered comments. My first reaction to any negative comment received in a rejection letter is always anger. Yes, I know, that's not the way to respond. I'm working on it, and I'll continue to work on my stories too.

It's a new year and there is hope.


Angela Addams said...

I recently worked with an editor to get The Temptress into shape...I respected her suggestions a lot and was very humbled by the experience. Although I have yet to deal with the kind of editing suggestions that involve plot or character changes I really feel that the job of an editor is a very important one. What is key is that the person doing the editing is someone who's opinion you value...whether it be someone you hire or someone working for a have to understand that they are coming to you in a professional capacity...and not as a personal attacker.

I, too, have felt that sting of anger when I first encounter a suggestion for change...whether or not I discount it depends on how valuable the source is to me. That's how I get through it.

Michelle said...

Generally, I'm past the anger part. I might totally dismiss a beta reader's comments, but I don't really dwell on them anymore.

I guess I get more frustrated than anything else. One person will love something, the next hates it, the next might want to reword everything I've done. It's speculative.

I'm reworking the early chapters of a book for an requesting agent now. He wants a slower approach in the early chapters where a couple of betas thought it was fine. My crit partner agrees with the agent. I'm fine with it. Just wish the MS would land somewhere, LOL!.

The Writing REALTOR said...

Think of criticisms as part of a writer's growing process and you might be able to stop being angry, and conversely might stop holding your breath when you have to criticize others.

Simply dismiss those you don't agree with (there's no need to defend yourself) and think about those comments that make even a little bit of sense. Ultimately the choice to change or not to change is up to you. It's important as a writer to not give up that creative freedom.

As long as a "change" doesn't totally screw up the meaning of the story (be it fiction or non-fiction), it might be worth considering :)

Julie said...

I'm pretty good about accepting criticism... My thought is, if it can make it better then tear it apart. Doesn't mean it isn't hard to take, just that I make myself do it.

I don't like editing other people's stuff, except in the context where I know they are expecting what I will give them. Then it's all right.