Rebecca Graf is a seasoned writer with nearly a decade of experience and degrees in accounting, history, and creative writing.
Working with an editor can be an experience. I've had good experiences and not so good. A lot of how my success is found comes from what I say to my editor. I have discovered as a writer and an editor that the following are great ways to improve the relationship between writer and editor.
#1 I Don't Understand
It will happen. Your editor writes a note next to a passage, and you just don’t get it. There’s nothing wrong with that. Everybody has times when they don’t get what someone is saying. Again, there is nothing wrong with that. But don’t act like you get it and go on without getting it done right. That’s not going to help get your book finalized and published in good quality.
Until you really get to know your editor, there will be times you feel this way. The more you get to know them, the more you'll understand their editing language and style. Never be afraid to ask for clarification. A good editor will work with you.
#2 How Does This Sound?
Editors love to hear a writer make a change and then ask how it sounds. It shows that they feel good yet know it just might not be quite right yet. And it does take several attempts to get some sentences just right. It also shows humility in asking for another person's opinion.
Asking for your editor's opinion helps you build a good relationship with him. It shows that you see it as a team effort.
#3 Give Me Suggestions
When an author is stuck and can’t figure something out, it is great to ask the editor to give you some suggestions. It could be that you don’t fully understand their comment on a sentence or section. Or maybe you have an idea but you need a little push in the right direction. By making this request, you keep you and the editor on the same page.
I know too often I am too caught up in the story and can't see the forest for the trees. My mind has created these walls I need someone to take my hand and show me the path around the walls.
#4 Show Me Examples
This is very similar to the one above but is more specific and therefore will get more detailed answers. This is precise. The editor then should respond with detailed examples that you can choose to copy or just copy the style. This is really good for people who have to see it to get it. I’m one of them. No shame in that. I'm a visual person. Once I see a good example, I got it. Then it is a matter of getting it into my own unique style.
Examples can be a way to just prompt your mind to move past its barrier. It's not that you are lazy. You just need a little bit of a hint.
#5 I Will Try
Nothing makes an editor jump for joy as much as hearing that the author will try to follow the suggestions. Too many authors, well anyone for that matter, want to argue over everything. The best thing anyone, including editors, can do is have a little humility and give it a try. You might find that your writing does improve with the suggestions given.
Even if you don't agree with the suggestion, give it a try. In the end, you still might not agree with it, but you might find inspiration to create a better scene, a stronger character, or an idea to improve your writing.
#6 How About This?
Make an attempt to correct the section the way the editor suggested. Show them and your publisher that you are willing to try and willing to improve. If it doesn’t work out, find another way to fix the problem. There is always another way, remember that!
Ask for feedback. Communicate. Let your editor know what you are thinking and when you are lost. By asking this one question, you are giving them a chance to communicate back by showing them what you have done.
#7 Here's Why I Feel This Way
If you really feel passionate about something the editor is asking you to change, then tell them that you feel that way. Explain it. If you do that, they understand you better and can help you keep what you want and still have a better piece of writing with the same message.
I have had authors not tell me how they felt and why. That made it very hard to finish the edits. As an author, I have found that when I say this to my editor, our relationship improves as our communication becomes more open.
Communication is vital! Be humble and willing to work with your editor instead of fighting with them. Ask them questions. Give them information. Explain yourself. If you have a good editor, they respond in kind.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
© 2017 Rebecca Graf
Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on September 29, 2017:
Your article and also Heidi's comment are very sensible. Thanks for these very helpful pointers. They make a difference.
Heidi Thorne from Chicago Area on September 25, 2017:
As an editor, I would love it when my author clients say these things, especially "I don't understand." But I have to say that many authors are fearful of their editors. Sad, because they treat us as if we were their teachers, holding their academic fate in our hands. Nothing could be further from the truth! I call it "quality control." Thanks for this great post! Sharing.