Over the years I’ve written for four different publishers. You would think that would mean I’ve had four different editors, or maybe five since I wrote for two different lines for one publisher. In truth, I can’t even remember how many editors I’ve had. I think it might be fourteen.

Why so many?

No, I’m not that difficult to work with. At least I don’t think I am. In my case, the editor-turnover was primarily due to the editors themselves either leaving the company or being promoted to a new position that required lessening their editing responsibilities. The most difficult situation I had was when my line editor quit before my book was actually published and the copy editor made changes that went beyond her (I believe it was a she)
responsibility. (She actually added dialogue.) That was when I realize how nice it is to have a line editor on your side.

Some of my editors looked like they’d just graduated from high school, much less college, but when I heard how much they were paid  (barely above minimum wage), I realize why so many were young and why, after  some had children, they had to find better paying jobs.

Most editors don’t do it for the pay but because they love (and want to help develop) good books. All of my editors were enthusiastic and helpful. They wanted my book to succeed just as much as I did and were willing to work with me to make it do well.

Over the years, an editor’s work load has changed, mostly because large corporations have gobbled up the major houses (At last count we were down to 6 corporations that own most of the major publishing houses) and staff has been cut to improve the bottom line. Whereas I could sell a book on a synopsis and three chapters when I first started writing, a finished manuscript is now required. Editors now want that manuscript as close to perfect as possible. (They simply don’t have the time to teach or correct grammar and spelling,
and they’re not going to spend hours figuring out what needs to be cut or added to your story to make it a page turner.)

I think the most important lesson I learned when I started writing was editors don’t know everything. As a new writer, I thought if I made a mistake, the editor would correct it. Well, when it comes to sentence structure or spelling, that’s probably true (that is, if the editor isn’t in such a rush she or he misses it), but when it comes to factual data in your
story, it may or may not be true (and usually it’s not true).

Copy editors (they look at your ms after it’s been edited and approved by your line editor) do check facts, but they don’t know everything nor do they have the time to learn everything. I had a copy editor who asked me to verify that the plants I had my hero and heroine surviving on in LOST AND FOUND (now available as an e-book) would be growing at that altitude in the Sierra Nevada at that time of the year. Once I sent the information, she okayed the book. I appreciated her attention to detail, but that was years ago. Lately I’ve read some books where I wished the line editor or copy editor had paid
more attention to detail.

As a writer, it’s my job to create a story that will catch a reader’s attention and hold it until the end, to make sure my writing is clean and my facts are correct. An editor’s job, in my opinion, is to make sure I’ve accomplished what I set out to do, that the writing is clean, that my characters stay true to character, that the conflicts are resolved, goals reached, and the ending is satisfying. A good editor makes me a better writer, and so far I’ve been lucky…all of my line editors have been wonderful.

You can find the ebook LOST AND FOUND at http://www.amazon.com/Lost-and-Found-ebook/dp/B0064TKHPE/ref=sr_1_28?ie=UTF8&qid=1340198865&sr=8-28&keywords=Maris+Soule

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9 Responses to EDITORS

  1. Judi Romaine says:

    Our writing experience mirrors mine (or mine mirrors yours) – three publishers, but six editors – due to editors quitting, getting fired, disappearing – I say ditto on all you said. I love having a great editor – each one has gotten better with each publisher. And like you, I finally figured out I don’t need to argue with them – they are there to make suggestions and I don’t have to accept every one – but often they are right (but not always). Where we differ is they are looking from the genre and publisher’s requirements for the book; I am looking from writing what I love that includes deeper and deeper characterizations and details, not necessarily fitting into the genre. This where we sometimes take separate roads.

    • Maris says:

      I agree, Judi, some of the changes the editor suggested were due to house style or the line’s requirements. Sometimes I simply hadn’t made what I was trying to say clear enough. In those cases, a little rewriting allowed me to say the same thing but in a way that we both agreed upon. And there were a couple of times when my editor was wrong. As you said, no need to argue. I simply provided some proof that I was right and what I’d written stayed.

  2. I feel I learned something from every editor I’ve worked with, but my favorite editor was the one I had for most of the years I wrote for Woman’s World. She really taught me a lot and was my biggest fan! I actually had I think 4 different editors while writing the magazine stories. I think an editor can either be a writer’s best advisor or worst nightmare. I feel fortunate to have had mostly the helpful kind.
    Very informative post today.

  3. Vicki Batman says:

    Very good post. I had 3 editors quit before they even saw my work. Crazy! But one worked it good and made my story the best. I’ll always be grateful. Now if it had sold more…lol, another story.

    • Maris says:

      Vicki, with some publishing houses the turn-over of editors is almost a joke. Obviously, if those three quit before even seeing your work, their quitting had nothing to do with your story. I’m glad you ended up with one who stuck around and helped you make your book one you’re proud of.

  4. I’m going through the publishing process for the first time and it’s been wonderful. I LOVE my editor! Even my line edits were awesome! I’ve learned so much and the experience has been a good one. I’m happy to hear you’ve had great editors, Maris! It makes writing so much easier!

  5. Diane Burton says:

    Good post, Maris. Makes you appreciate it when you get a good editor.

  6. Editing isn’t easy and letting someone edit our work isn’t easy. Finding an editor who can work with your voice and style is awesome.

    Good post.