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Does everyone need an editor?

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Incanus, Oct 17, 2017.

  1. Sheilawisz

    Sheilawisz Queen of Titania Moderator

    In my case, I do not need editors in order to do what I do with stories.

    It's not my work to please the readers, or to seek a market. My work is to get my stories told, as best as I can tell them. I have to be loyal to the story that is with me, without changing anything in it no matter what, and that's all. Some people like my work, others do not and I don't care. That's what I mean when I talk about the artistic side of writing.

    If somebody enjoys a story of mine, great! If not, well they have to read something else.

    In the other hand, if I wanted to get into the industry then yes, I would need agents and editor. That happens because the market is a very different environment, and they are the ones that know what the tendencies are, which publishers would be the best for a story in particular and how to market said work towards a specific audience.

    If a traditional publisher wanted one of my stories, the price would be very high.

    I have sometimes wondered what the experience and the final result would be like. I believe that my most commercial story would be my Joan of England trilogy, and I am almost sure that the target audience would be teenage girls and young adult women.

    The publishers would surely change or remove the most personal aspects of that story, like the Aylar scenes and many jokes that perhaps the readers would not find funny. I have a feeling that the Medieval parts of the first Joan novel would be shortened so the narrative moves to the modern world faster, the constant underage drinking would be removed too and perhaps some of the bloodiest scenes would be scrapped as well.

    Most likely they would come up with a more attractive name for the trilogy, and other people would work on designing a book cover as beautiful and attractive as possible.

    I think that the biggest problem would be my pretty extreme political ideas, which are central to the plot of the entire trilogy from start to finish. Entire chapters (I mean real chapters, not the mini chapter format that I worked with in the Showcase) would have to be removed and replaced with something else, and that would personally hurt me a lot.

    Would I be happy with the finished market product? Perhaps yes, and perhaps I would hate it.

    I think that I would choose the Independent path and publish electronic books in Amazon, if I wanted at least some income from my works. There are authors there that manage to do reasonably well and they never hired editors. However, I am not interested in selling and that's why I am in Wattpad instead.

    I would like to say that when Stephenie Meyer started to seek publishers, she was sending them unedited samples of her Twilight story. Many people rejected the material, but one day this very fortunate person liked the samples and she asked to read the first three chapters. Soon after that, she wanted to read the entire thing.

    After that, they indeed worked together to edit Twilight but the search started with unedited material.

    Working with the right editor helps a lot to get you started in the world of traditional publishing, but at least some very successful authors have managed to get started without it.

    I wanted to say something positive about the world of traditional publishing, since I fear that maybe I am giving the impression that I hate it. I love the fact that they produce books, real books of paper and ink. Real books have a special magic that electronic equivalents are never going to match, there is nothing like holding the book in your hands.

    It is thanks to those publishers that many books that I love (stories and also other kind of books) have reached my hands, so I thank them for that and I hope that they will keep making real books for as long as this world lasts.
  2. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    All respect to SheilawiszSheilawisz. Her approach to her writing is perfectly consistent. I'll offer a different personal perspective.

    I was writing along with Goblins at the Gates when another story broadsided me. It was set in Altearth, but it was in a period I never intended to write about. I wrote it, did my best. It was a short story, about 8000 words.

    More or less on a whim, I decided to submit it to magazines. The main purpose was to get a feel for what the submission process was like. I submitted to every type of mag I could find. One accepted.

    But not without changes. The magazine has a set of readers, and they came back with questions and suggestions. I did not take all of them, but I took some of them. A couple were definite palm-slaps. Some were ones where I shrugged and decided it really didn't make any difference to me. A couple were ones I disagreed with. I think we even argued a bit over one or two.

    I wound up with a story that told the story better than the original. Not hugely better, and probably still not as good as it could be, but I could compare A/B and see the improvement. And here's what's relevant and important, to my mind: the improvements are ones I never would have seen on my own.

    Now, this wasn't really news to me. I've been in academic for forty years. I already knew the value of having someone critique my work, and knew how to accept criticisms with a critical eye. But it was the first time with fiction, and I was surprised at how tender I was about it. I really had to call on my academic experience to remain objective and put the story before myself.

    It's been a few years now, but I'm pretty sure that the improvements were not in the nature of "here, do this" but rather "this is confusing or inconsistent, you need to fix it." In other words, the writing was still mine. The fix was mine. The end result is still mine. I never worried a moment about artistic integrity. And I certainly was not thinking about marketing. I was just trying to do right by the story.

    Do not imagine I am saying to do otherwise is not to do right by the story. This is simply to recount my own experience. Take away from it whatever you find useful and relevant.
    Sheilawisz likes this.
  3. Incanus

    Incanus Archmage

    I really like that this thread got a sort of meta-discussion going pertaining to this subject. But for the most part, I’m going to talk about my specific situation.

    Largely, I think I’m headed in the right direction. I’m going to relate a little story about where I’m at now; I’ll try to keep it brief.

    At the writer’s conference I attended this April, I won a prize: a free 3-chapter critique from a professionally published author. She doesn’t write a genre I’m interested in, and vice-versa, but I welcomed the opportunity.

    First, (following a suggestion from a crit partner) I sent those three chapters to my little crit group so that I could do some polishing on them before sending them out to the author. After this, these three chaps are now my most polished bit of writing to date.

    The new and improved version went out to the author, and I specifically asked her not to go easy on me, that I could take a good hard crit just fine (something I’ve learned to do).

    I was a bit surprised at the response. She apologized for not having very many comments to offer, saying the chapters were well written and engaging, and that she wanted to know what happened next in the story. In the body of the crit, she suggested a number of small, copyedit type of fixes, many of which I agreed with. And that was it.

    While it was only one person’s opinion, I found it pretty heartening. The lesson: Keep doing what you’re doing.

    I think I’m capable of getting my writing up to a pretty good level of quality, but I have no illusions that I can do everything myself.

    Anyway, that’s my story (and I’m sticking to it).
    skip.knox likes this.
  4. Russ

    Russ Istar

    I have immense respect for people who can write in this way. Unfortunately I don't have nearly enough confidence in my subconscious to trust it to guide me well enough.

    Also, unfortunately, I tend not to learn much at all about story when I am reading. I am an ideal buyer and reader for books, I get totally immersed and carried away with a good story. But when I get to the end of the book I say to myself "that author did amazing stuff" but I have no idea how they achieved it. Perhaps I should read those books a second time with analyzing it in mind. I find that I catch what writers do by asking them, reading books about writing and taking courses on it.

    But if you can view the craft in other people's published work and still enjoy the read, that sounds about perfect.
  5. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Istar

    I rather envy that, I am the worst kind of writer/reader, LOL. I might be able to get my editor brain down to 5 mph, but I can't shut off the engine, and if I'm coming down from editing my own stuff? Fergit about it. I have a helluva time reading a whole book these days. A made it through Red Dragon months, and am in the middle of... umm... errr.... 5 or six? Of course, I also have time to either write or read, not both for the most part (this will change in the next six months) so my editor/writer brain is always screaming to write when I try to read. During Red Dragon my editor/writer brain wasn't turned off, but the writing fit my taste well enough I could roll with it.

  6. Chessie2

    Chessie2 Staff Article Team

    RussRuss: learning to trust your subconscious takes practice. I haven't always been this way.

    For ages, I tried to plot. I ultimately credit those outlining experiences with helping me learn story structure. But for me, nothing can stand in the way. Meaning, outlines and any information going in is a distraction. I still get stuck, yeah. I might...miiiiight...brainstorm if I've been stuck for days. It needs to be fairly organic or else I feel constricted.

    Some think this produces a draft that needs a lot of fixing but the truth is my drafts are fairly clean in one or two sweeps by the time they make it to the editor/editing process. It's taken me years to refine this way of doing things but it's produced some of my best stories to date.
    Russ likes this.
  7. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    I mentioned before that I am hiring an editor for A Child of Great Promise. I'll post over in the Writers Work forum my experiences with that. We're scheduled for editing to begin in February, so it's a ways off yet.

    As with others, I believe I produce a fairly clean manuscript (though it takes me a few passes to get there), so it may be I find the editor is not worth the money. I intend to find out and not merely assume, one way or the other. I also would not be surprised to learn that an editor who is valuable once is not necessarily valuable every time and, conversely, that just because this work did not much benefit from an editor a subsequent work would not either. Authors evolve, so do editors, and so do the stories themselves.

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