Feb 26, 2013

The Myth of Editors

I was recently listening to a 2-part episode of Fear The Boot which was about the process of getting published. Fear The Boot is actually a gaming podcast, and easily one of the best shows out there on the topic. I strongly urge any of you interested in gaming to check them out.

They do special episodes from time to time, which branch into different areas. Since many of the hosts and regular listeners have an interest in it, they decided to do a show about getting published.

One of the things which came up, since all the guests on this episode are self-published, was the idea that books published traditionally would be subject to major changes. Words like "shredded" were used, and in general I felt there was a big fear among the people on the show that a writer has to give up a huge amount of creative control if they choose traditional publishing.

I wanted to address this today. This is an absolute myth. Or at least, if you have a good editor, it is a myth. A publisher's submissions editor is not going to offer you a contract if your manuscript is in such dire need of re-writing that drastic changes would happen in the editing process. Of course there will be things that need to change. Editors know the industry and the market far better than you, and they know what the average reader is most likely to enjoy. When you're in the editing process, your manuscript has already proven itself to be something a reader is likely to pick up. Your editor's job is to make sure that when that reader has finished it, they want to read more of your work.

Working with an editor is a partnership. There's a lot of back and forth discussion about what you're trying to say in a given scene, and whether you can find a way to say it better. The image of the editor as a harsh taskmaster, returning your manuscript with red lines drawn through swaths of your work, demanding that it be cut or changed so that it's "more commercial" is something I have never experienced.

I have had two amazing editors in WiDo. Kristine Princevalle, who started me on my editing journey for Locked Within, and Amie McCracken, who took over when Kristine left WiDo and is still with me for the sequel. I have learned more about the craft of writing from these two women, in such a short space of time, than I have in all my years reading and keeping my work to myself. A good editor is equal parts partner, critic, and teacher. I would advise anybody who is wary of dealing with an editor to let go of those fears. Whether you have a publisher who assigns you one or you hire yourself a freelancer, your editor is going to be your best friend when it comes to your work, believe me.


  1. Your description of an editor's job sounds a lot more sensible than the evil dragon with the red pen people seem to expect. :-)

  2. This is so true, Paul. A good editor is truly a best friend