I know, I know. “But E,” you say, “Your Monday blog is about publishing industry stuff! What sorcery is this!” Well, this week I wanted to talk about something more writery (it’s a word now, hush) than just regaling you with tidbits about my setting. Instead, I kind of wanted to discuss what it was like having my work edited by another professional editor. In case you’ve never had it done before, this is what it’s been like for me.
First, I want to say as a disclaimer, my editor is my friend Mel. We joined the publishing industry around the same time, and we’ve worked together for most of it, so I knew what to expect from her mostly. I’ve seen her work before, but we haven’t really done a lot of work together. Her blog is mostly her art, but you might see some writing here and there. She’s a delight. Go see her stuff! We’ve been friends since college, so I also knew without a doubt I could trust her. Plus, she also works at my publishing company, so when she’s ready to publish her book, I’ll be working on it.
My imposter syndrome keeps needling me and telling me I don’t really know what I’m doing. That nobody will like my book. That nobody will care. It’s this constant mantra playing on loop telling me I am going to be nothing but a disgrace.
Now, as someone who has been editing other people’s writing for over a decade, I can safely say I’m an expert at it. It’s not new to me. But being edited? I’ve not had that much. Plus, it gave me exposure to how another editor might work differently. It’s been an interesting experience.
Before I sent Mel my manuscript (teehee, alliteration), I self-edited it twice and then ran it through PerfectIt and SmartEdit, which are my editing programs. They obviously didn’t catch everything, but I sent her the cleanest manuscript I could have, so the majority of her edits were her asking about continuity errors, catching places where I overused a particular word (“though” is my nemesis), and catching the occasional typo or punctuation error.
We did tussle a little over some of my writing habits. I like starting sentences with prepositions and have a bit of a choppy writing style. At least with this series. The main character is often confused, and things happen quickly. As a result, the choppier style works. I will also admit fully that I am heavily influenced by Jim Butcher’s writing, and he does that a fair amount. But anyone who has read much of my writing in the past would not be surprised to learn that.
Overall, however, it wasn’t the humbling experience I feared. Not because Mel is unkind or overly critical or anything, but because my imposter syndrome keeps needling me and telling me I don’t really know what I’m doing. That nobody will like my book. That nobody will care. It’s this constant mantra playing on loop telling me I’m going to be nothing but a disgrace.
I know it’s not true, but that doesn’t stop the brain weasels from whispering to me.
In fact, Mel’s editing being light and mostly focused on the spots where I made silly mistakes (or leaving jokes in the margins) helped reaffirm the fact that maybe I do know what I’m doing. That maybe I’m not an imposter.
Of course, the reality is that I studied creative writing in college and started writing as soon as I was old enough to hold a pen. I’ve taken a number of creative writing courses and studied with several incredible mentors whose critiques, edits, and encouragement have helped me a great deal over the years. I’ve been studying writing intensely since 2006 when I started taking classes at SNHU, my alma mater. While my degree is in European history focused on the Renaissance, I was only a few credits shy of having my minor in creative writing when I graduated.
While it’s a pipe dream of mine to go back to college for my MFA in writing, I doubt that will happen due to financial and physical constraints. But hey, a girl can dream.
My novel, which is due to release this December, is the culmination of decades of work and experience. And that shows. Now, do I expect my first book to be a huge bestseller, topping charts, getting me interviews on Oprah? Definitely not. For one, I don’t even know if Oprah has a show anymore. But regardless, it is the fulfillment of a dream I’ve had since I was very, very young. And now, at thirty-five, I’m taking my first steps toward fulfilling it.
Going through my book line by line with a good friend whose expertise I trust has been incredibly helpful for my confidence because, not only is she my friend, she is my peer. She actually enjoys my writing. Which is an incredibly exciting thing to be able to say. She makes silly jokes about my characters with me, and she is looking forward to seeing what comes next. That kind of support is invaluable.
Is there the instinct to stick out my chin, dig in my feet, and say ‘No, I said what I meant to say!’ Of course. We all have that. But the reality is that I trust these people. I wouldn’t have asked them to edit my writing if I didn’t.
Not every author is as blessed as I am to be able to work with a dear friend as an editor. However, I can say for sure that working with someone you can laugh with, share jokes with, and who you feel comfortable with makes the process easier. Not everything about having your work edited is fun. There are times when I’ve really had to hit authors upside the head with a clue-by-four and tell them they needed to fix something. It can sting. Mel convinced me of a few things I was iffy on, but ultimately I decided she was right. If you trust someone and hear their advice for what it is (a genuine desire to make your work succeed), it takes a lot of the sting out.
Sure, nobody likes getting told they have parsley stuck in their teeth, but I’d much rather have it pointed out to me before I go out in front of everyone else. And that’s what this process is. Mel is finding all the things that could be embarrassing mistakes before I show things off to the public. Heck, even my blogs have another set of eyes on them. My friend Josh (hi, Josh!) is helping me clean them up before you folks see all my typos. He, too, is an editor.
Last week he made some important points to me about mentioning some things in my blog regarding religion in my novel. It was good feedback, and it gave me an angle I hadn’t considered before on something. So I accepted that I needed to fix it and went back to do so. Is there the instinct to stick out my chin, dig in my feet and say, “No, I said what I meant to say!” like a petulant child? Of course. We all have that. But the reality is that I trust these people. I wouldn’t have asked them to edit my writing if I didn’t. So if I trust them, I also have to set my ego aside and consider what they’re saying. Also, they’re both professionals, so I at the very least ought to give them the respect that deserves.
I know Josh is reading this, but if Mel does: thank you. You really are as good as I keep telling you, you are. And if anyone needs a good editor, she’s definitely someone you can trust to work with. I know I do. Josh? You’re amazing also. Honestly, he’s really good at picking out things that should be phased differently with regards to sensitivity reading, and his knowledge of pop culture can be very useful in avoiding sticking your foot in blunders. (Even if I am still naming my main character Cassiel, to heck with Supernatural.)
E. Prybylski has been in the publishing industry as an editor since 2009, starting at Divertir Publishing and eventually partnering with her close friend Richard Belanger to begin Insomnia Publishing.
Ever since childhood, E. has been an avid reader and writer of fantasy. The first chapter book she remembers reading is The Hobbit, followed swiftly by most of Anne McCaffrey’s Pern series. In high school, she perfected the skill of walking while reading without slamming into anyone. Mostly.
When she isn’t reading or writing, E. is an active member of the Society for Creative Anachronism and has a B.A. in European history from SNHU. In addition to her many historical pursuits, E. is a musician of multiple instruments, a cat mom, and a loving wife to her husband, J. E. also speaks out for the disability and chronic illness communities being a sufferer of chronic migraines and Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome.