As an editor, I’m also in the position to criticize and alter other writers work, especially when they submit to my anthology. I go out of my way to be accommodating, not only because I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, but at thirty-three I still look thirteen. Experienced authors find already-painful edits even more difficult to handle when it came from a middle-schooler. Or so I assume.
For the most part, however, the authors I’ve dealt with have been a real delight to work with. We haven’t seen eye-to-eye on each story point, but I tend to concede to the authors when they argue passionately. So long as it’s not flat-out wrong. There have been a few instances where I had to give an impromptu grammar lesson. Those instances are rare, however, and it’s often a grammar foible that has dogged an author for years, often without their knowledge.
Not all authors are keen on edits, however. Their ways are right, and the editor is clearly an idiot. I don’t necessarily disagree… The editor may very well be an idiot, especially when it’s me, but most editors are trying to make a story the best it possibly can be. Some slack would be nice. However, for anyone who it feeling stung, a bit upset, even condescended to, here are a few tips when dealing with an editor.
Editors are human too. In the course of edits, fingers slip, caffeine wears off, and deadlines loom. We make the occasional error too. Try not to point them out with too much relish.
Disagreement is fine, and welcome. If a change in some way detracts from your vision of a story, say so, and clearly. After all, it’s your name appearing on the piece. Editors are virtually invisible to the reading public.
Be respectful. First of all, it’s just objectively better to NOT be a raging asshole. If the social contract means nothing to you, however, there are self-serving reasons to be nice to your editor. They can drop you. Sure, it may breach a contract, but unless you’re a best-selling author, I’m pretty sure most publications can spend you into the ground.
Keep an open mind. This is probably the hardest part of taking criticism and edits. It’s always hard to admit that you are wrong. But it does happen. Even to you with that sunshine pouring out of your arse and into your word processor.
Stand your ground when you mean it. There is a chance that the editor made a mistake. Or missed something. Or just doesn’t share your vision. If a change makes or breaks a story for you, or an editor rips its soul out, then don’t be afraid to say so. With respect, of course.
These four simple rules will make dealing with an editor much smoother. Break these rules, and that editor could very well turn on you. Unless they are consummate professionals, even editors get flustered. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. And we arbiters of taste and literature have very high opinions of ourselves, whether its warranted or not. We will smite your ass – often with a smile our our faces.
But it’s not all bad. Yes, it stings when an editor eviscerates that polished manuscript that you re-wrote fifteen times using nothing but a knitting needle and your own bodily emissions. With an open mind, however, this pain can become metamorphoses. Some of the most brutal attacks on my writing has been both brief and life changing. (“This isn’t very good,” comes to mind.) But with tenacity and a certain intellectual masochism, a writer can survive the editing process and come out the other side a much better writer. I’ve passed through this crucible several times in my career as a writer, and I hope to pass through it several more. I wish upon you the same painful enlightenment I’ve experienced.