I have worked in the Technical Writing industry for eight plus years as both a contributing writer and a Senior editor. The relationship between writers and editors can be likened unto a romance, a terminal illness, and a business partnership. Writers and editors can be both friends and foes, and usually everyone is happy if a satisfying product is produced. From my own experience there are a few tips for both writers and editors that can assist the process of producing written works and that may help keep the metaphorical daggers off of the table.
When working with editors:
Always send your best version of a “clean” copy.
Draft, draft, and revise BEFORE the editor sees your work.
DO NOT take edits personally.
Refuse edits you do not agree with, sometimes you will be correct.
Negotiate your refusals; DO NOT dictate.
Show appreciation for those who increase the value of your work.
Remember you are working with a writer and not just copy on the pages.
ADMIT to occasionally making a mistake.
STAND YOUR GROUND; you are an authority.
Never re-write work that belongs to another writer (unless asked and agreed to).
CHECK YOUR FACTS.
Edit more than once.
These are just some of the tips that, put into practice, can ease the strain between creating and crafting. Wearing both the writer’s hat and the editor’s eraser, I have come to respect both roles as necessary together for truly top-notch writing.
In my time in the writing world I have encountered multiple horror stories. And I am hoping that sharing some of them with you will help you avoid these pitfalls in the future. As you may have gathered I am militant in my march against people that are selling their services for massive prices without offering comparable worth.
I got one of my first freelance contracts because I rejected a query (when I worked with Divertir). No joke. And when I rejected that query it began a dialogue with the author regarding the editing that had been done on his book. Ultimately, the author told me that I had given him more help in those few emails (and in working on the first chapter of his book for him) than the editor he’d paid thousands of dollars to in order to edit his work.
I was floored.
This has not been the last instance of this happening that I have encountered. Recently I began working with an author who had paid an editor twice what I was asking to edit only half the book. That “editor” mangled it and left not only word choice errors and so on, but failed to catch major grammar problems like runon sentences and capitalization mistakes. I don’t blame the author for these – that’s what editors are supposed to catch.
And these poor authors paid thousands of dollars for this trash. Needless to say my blood was (and is still) on fire. I don’t charge an egregious amount of money to edit a manuscript, but by God I edit it properly to the best of my ability. And I believe that authors deserve that kind of integrity. It would be like someone editing John Lennon out of a Beetles album because they thought it “sounded better that way” when they have never so much as listened to music.
I think my biggest problem has to come from so-called “editors” that actually have no idea what they’re doing. They’ve done a lot of reading and may even be writers, but that doesn’t mean that they are capable editors. Editing is its own art. It’s liked inexorably to writing (because if you don’t understand and have a firm grasp of the mechanics and craft of writing you can’t edit), but they are absolutely not one and the same.
Being able to edit effectively (and I don’t mean proofread for your buddies) takes years of practice, study, and hard work. Almost anyone can eventually do it, but it isn’t something you can just pick up and do because you got good grades in English. It requires a passion and sensitivity that easily equals an author’s. You need to be able to tend to that author’s voice like a garden. You weed it, water it, and fertilize it. Then you watch the flowers bloom after your hard work is done. Writers are like flowers; they will bloom and provide staggering beauty time and time again if properly and lovingly tended. Some of that tending requires pruning and other things they may not appreciate at the time, but it becomes worth it when the end result is a spectacular display.