Editor Tip: Make Sure Your Editor Is Just That—an Editor
Recently, an author contacted me about another editor she was using, and the practices, notes, changes, and comments this editor was making. To say I was appalled, is an understatement. The author showed me notes this editor had made.
It was obvious the editor was a Opinionator-Terminator, not an editor, because she was literally in a fight with the author about OPINIONS—claiming she was right, and the author was incorrect.
The battle was not over grammar, not spelling, not punctuation, not even the functions and allowances of the Chicago Manual of Style…the arguments were forcing the author to justify why she chose to name characters what she did, and why she titled her work with that title…. She was belittling the author, and tearing apart subject matter that was irrelevant.
If an author wants their character to have an accent or lisp, then that is the author’s decision. The editor’s job is not to challenge that decision, but to make sure if the character had an accent or lisp in the beginning, they also have an accent or lisp in the end—continuity, flow, and logic.
If you are dealing with an editor who is an Opinionator-Terminator, you may feel too afraid to say anything (and fairly, saying anything to one of them may not have the outcome that you desire). This is one reason you want to have a clear and concise contract laid out before starting the editing process—know what it is you are expecting. You also need to know your rights as an author.
You—the author—are the creator and final decision-maker with your work of writing: poetry, book, short story, essay, novel, biography…. The editor is there to help you, assist you.
What should an editor change with minimal (if any) notes to the author?
What are the items an editor should leave comments for the author, but shouldn’t make the changes?
[Copy Edit or Content Edit]
Names of characters, places, cities, families….
Plot & action
Scenes / Chapters
Scenario of suspense/humor
An editor should tell the author what items are or aren’t accepted in CMS standard. Those are facts, but they aren’t laws. If the author chooses to reject a change, the author’s voice and choice still reigns supreme—YES, above the CMS, above the editor, and above all.
An author can choose to reject the standard of CMS, if they feel it will alter the readability or the understanding of the project for the reader. The author makes that decision, not the editor. The editor can leave notes, but there is no reason for an editor to attack or harshly defend their points and opinions. That is not their job. Authors shouldn’t put up with it.
An editor’s job is to make sure and find the mistakes—iron out the punctuation, spelling, and grammar. It is not an editor’s job to grade the entertainment value or the subject, or to test the humor factor. That is the author’s choice and decision—they are the creators of the work.
It is okay to challenge your editor, and to disagree with them. If they don’t allow for this, then they are not an editor, they are an Opinionator-Terminator. You need to seek out and find a real editor in order to find success.
If you are looking for an editor, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.