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When to reject an editor's advice

BWFoster78

Myth Weaver
How did you select an editor?

Found the most qualified person I could who would do the work I wanted for what I could afford?

The important thing is that I'm learning a lot about building tension. My writing from here forward is going to be much better from what I learned. It's a painful process, however.
 

BWFoster78

Myth Weaver
If the editor doesn't get what you're trying to convey, then you have to ask yourself if you're doing a good job conveying it.

I think there's no question that I'm doing a less than stellar job of conveying my story. The questions she's asking alone are making me focus it much better.

I just wish the comment were, "you need to convey this better" rather than "I've got an idea, let's have your character do this for this reason instead of the way you have it."

If a comment tells you to change a story drastically, you're going to have to decide if it's for the better or not. If not, then ignore.

I emailed her tonight and told her I just don't feel that these two particular suggestions were for the better.

When my choices are challenged, I ask myself if my choices are as interesting as I think they are. If they are, then I ask myself if I've set them up well enough. Also sometimes doing the expected can open up more interesting paths. It's like sometimes a revealed secret is better than a kept one.

I definitely needed to set my choices up better. That's what I'm working on now.

Thanks!
 

BWFoster78

Myth Weaver
It is said, go not to the editors for advice...for they will say both no and yes.

I have worked with numerous editors over my three published books (all published by small publishers) and I simply refuse to make fundamental structural or character changes. This is not to say I wouldn't be open to making changes on the basis of a superb suggestion - in fact, I made two pretty big changes to my latest book on the basis of suggestions from beta readers - but the instant I suspect that the editor doesn't 'get' the book then that's it. I can't work with someone who hasn't paid enough attention to my precious work to appreciate what I'm trying to convey.

Having said all that, I've been writing 20 years and am now completely relaxed in my style. I know people like what I do (not huge numbers yet) so I'm happy to continue doing that. I just want editors to point out obvious errors, repeated use of words/phrases, over-explaining and anything else that can be cut because it just isn't need.

To give an example, when my first book was accepted, it was 230k words and the publisher said: I really like it, but I'm only publishing 160k words. So the main task I had (working with two different editors) was cutting it down. Anything that departed fom the spine of the story was cut, and we got it down to 190k.

The story was much tighter, but nothing important was changed.

You are in a vastly different place in your writing career than I am. I'm still on the steep part of the learning curve and trying the find out exactly how the crap to do this.
 
Don't know about 'vastly'...I haven't been THAT successful just yet.

But my point was, I had the confidence to ignore editors' advice from the start if I thought it was wrong. If you or a publisher are paying for the editor's time they should at least do you the professional courtesy of reading it and trying to comprehend your vision before imposing their own.

Mind you, despite the rant, I gather that you are learning a fair bit from the editor about pacing and structure, so...that's good. The relationship might be worth continuing into the future and working closely from an earlier phase.
 

BWFoster78

Myth Weaver
Don't know about 'vastly'...I haven't been THAT successful just yet.

But my point was, I had the confidence to ignore editors' advice from the start if I thought it was wrong. If you or a publisher are paying for the editor's time they should at least do you the professional courtesy of reading it and trying to comprehend your vision before imposing their own.

Mind you, despite the rant, I gather that you are learning a fair bit from the editor about pacing and structure, so...that's good. The relationship might be worth continuing into the future and working closely from an earlier phase.

If I didn't think she was really good and I wasn't learning a lot, it would be a lot easier to reject the advice.

As a sanity check, Ankari and I chatted about it last night (he's one of my main beta readers and has read all my editor's comments). He feels I need to do a bit of work to better convey what I want but that I'm justified in rejecting her advice.

That makes me feel better about my decision to reject the advice.
 

BWFoster78

Myth Weaver
As a further sanity check, I posted a portion in the Showcase. I'd appreciate some more opinions.

Thanks!

Brian
 
C

Chessie

Guest
I hope things go smoother from here with all this clarity you've gained now, BW. I'm sure your book is great.
 

BWFoster78

Myth Weaver
New rant. Please bear with me as the saga continues.

My editor and I exchanged many, many messages over the past several days. I told her that I was not going to make the two changes that I shared with this forum earlier. She fought me hard on it and only grudgingly agreed to let the matter drop.

I could tell, however, that she wasn't pleased about it at all.

In a recent message, she asks (paraphrasing), "Are you doubting my advice because you don't believe me or because you're afraid to face the hard choices?"

I pointed out that, for just one example, I made the "hard" choice to completely rewrite my Chapter 6 because I believed her suggestion was far superior to what I had. I went on to say, however, that she's done some things that undermined my confidence in her. For example, this:

Xan relit his torch. “I’ll take care of it. You two stay here.”
Brant’s face reddened while Lainey’s expression turned sympathetic.

Her comment: How can we see this without any light?

I figured they could use the light from Xan’s relit torch!

In response, she spouted some junk about maybe she copied the text over wrong because her version was different. I copied/pasted the sentences I sent her from her marked up copy!

She is infuriating me! Her whole attitude is, "I have experience with a Big 6 publisher. I know all, and what I say is the only way for your novel to be any good." She couples that attitude with an absolute refusal to acknowledge that she could possibly, conceivably be wrong in even the smallest matter, even when I point out an out and out error on her part.

Going forward, I still think I can learn from her. She's really good at showing me where my tension is lacking, but I told her to just send me her comments without any more back and forth.

/rant

Thanks for listening.

Again!

Brian
 

A. E. Lowan

Forum Mom
Leadership
Honestly, from my background as a head hunter (recruiter) my first question when I see independent editors describing themselves as having experience with major publishing houses is, "Ok, so why aren't you still there?" And exactly what was she experienced in? What were her responsibilities? I can say I was an office manager for a multistate entertainment agency, which is absolutely true. What I'm leaving out is that I managed strippers over the phone in 4 states out of my employer's home.

It sounds to me like she's over-booked herself and is skimming your work rather than actually reading it, then lying to cover it up. That wouldn't fill me with confidence. Toss that in with your feeling that she has no experience in the genre and I think you have a recipe for sad panda.
 

BWFoster78

Myth Weaver
my first question when I see independent editors describing themselves as having experience with major publishing houses is, "Ok, so why aren't you still there?"

I'll be honest. I've had the same thought.

It sounds to me like she's over-booked herself and is skimming your work rather than actually reading it, then lying to cover it up.

I don't think that's it as much as she get something fixed in her head and won't let it go. She reads something and sees exactly one way to fix it. That's it. Nothing else can possibly work, and she can't possibly be wrong about either the problem or the solution.

It's kinda like I'm helping myself edit the thing, only the other myself doesn't agree with me :)

Thanks for the response!

Brian
 
I don't think that's it as much as she get something fixed in her head and won't let it go. She reads something and sees exactly one way to fix it. That's it. Nothing else can possibly work, and she can't possibly be wrong about either the problem or the solution.

Anyone who sees only one way is wrong. (Oook, kind of a contradiction...)

You said you learned a lot from this editor, so she seems to have some good ideas between her slipups. But if she keeps pushing the worst disagreements to the level of drama, you do have to stop and say "Am I being stubborn? (Thinks honestly about it--) No, I think this really is what's best for the book, and for my career."

And it's always best to make sure that, in the end, you're still free to follow another great sage and "Know when to walk away. Know when to run."
 

PaulineMRoss

Inkling
My editor and I exchanged many, many messages over the past several days. I told her that I was not going to make the two changes that I shared with this forum earlier. She fought me hard on it and only grudgingly agreed to let the matter drop.

I could tell, however, that she wasn't pleased about it at all.

She wasn't pleased? She fought you hard? She only grudgingly agreed to let the matter drop? Does she fully understand her role in this business arrangement? She's the hired help, she doesn't get to be disgruntled. Now, if your doctor says 'I really think you ought to...', then, yes, you probably ought to. Or at least get a second opinion. Your lawyer, yes. Even your accountant. But your editor? The one *you* are paying for?

Her role is to bank her fee and smile sweetly. This is your book, your story, your characters, your plot.
 

BWFoster78

Myth Weaver
She wasn't pleased? She fought you hard? She only grudgingly agreed to let the matter drop? Does she fully understand her role in this business arrangement? She's the hired help, she doesn't get to be disgruntled. Now, if your doctor says 'I really think you ought to...', then, yes, you probably ought to. Or at least get a second opinion. Your lawyer, yes. Even your accountant. But your editor? The one *you* are paying for?

Her role is to bank her fee and smile sweetly. This is your book, your story, your characters, your plot.

I know. She seems way too adamant.

An editor in my writing group never does the back and forth thing. Instead, just issues comments all at once and is done with it.

On the plus side, my writing is improving. I'm going through a scene this morning and thinking, "I wrote this? What the crap was I thinking?" Less than a month ago, I thought it was just fine from a tension/emotion standpoint.
 
C

Chessie

Guest
I'm sure not all editors are like this, but the ones that are really need to get off their high horse. Sometimes things can be worded in a way that's easier to understand, or perhaps there are typos you didn't notice, but to try and change your work is too much. Is there any way you can find another editor? Because by the looks of things, your story just might end up being completely different if things continue this route.
 

BWFoster78

Myth Weaver
I'm sure not all editors are like this, but the ones that are really need to get off their high horse. Sometimes things can be worded in a way that's easier to understand, or perhaps there are typos you didn't notice, but to try and change your work is too much. Is there any way you can find another editor? Because by the looks of things, your story just might end up being completely different if things continue this route.

I think it's going to be okay.

I'm not going to do the back and forth any more, and it's getting much easier for me to disregard any advice I feel takes the story in the wrong direction.

What I am changing is making the story much stronger, including some pretty major rewrites. If the story needs the rewrite, it should be rewritten. And I was never very happy with some of my early chapters. She was able to point out in quite a few places ways that I was robbing tension.
 

SineNomine

Minstrel
My generalized advice is just that, if it is at all possible, put your feelings aside and try the advice given to you. You can end up being pleasantly surprised by a change that you were completely against originally when you see it in action. There are absolutely times where you just don't have the right perspective as the author and will never see the value in a potential edit until you are face to face with it. Because, ultimately, if it doesn't work then all you have lost is a little bit of time and energy and you've explored an avenue you otherwise wouldn't have. Even when it doesn't work, it can sometimes spark other ideas. We're writers, you give us a creative inch and we take a creative mile.

That being said, it depends on how much you are being asked to change. A complete rewrite is just way too much work to do "just to see if it works" for example. Some major changes are just too all-encompassing to play around with when there is a chance they won't add anything.

Ultimately, an editor's most important trait is discerning what story the author wants to tell and it's relation to the story already there on the paper. Their advice on how to bridge that gap is certainly a plus, and that is how the greatest editors distinguish themselves, but the "advice on what to change" cart should never be put before the "understanding of what the author is trying to accomplish" horse. Your editor should ALWAYS make it clear what exactly they are trying to fix before telling you how you may fix it. This allows actual dialogue and frequently leads to great compromises. Identifying it is their job and fixing it is a job for both of you, working together. A good editor doesn't care if their advice is followed or not as long as the problem is dealt with in some way. Pride has no place in it.
 
Excellent point, SineNomine. The author has the final say in things, but the process ought to be more organic than that. And sometimes --sometimes-- the things we resist the most are just the biggest blind spots we have about what the story could be... if we were to take a wider look at what other approaches there might be to it.

The rule of thumb could be that the writer has to find the solution (or the editor would be writing it herself) but the editor's an expert opinion on what hidden problems and opportunities are there.

Of course, when an editor goes beyond confident and inspiring to confrontational, nobody wins.
 
I don't doubt the validity of Sine Nomine's advice in a goodly proportion of contexts, but sometimes the editor's advice is so wrong that it needs to be ignored completely without wasting any time on it. The first book I had accepted was a crime novel in which the main character is an aging goalkeeper (39) who decides to follow his dream of playing professional football in England. He winds up playing for a non-league team which is really a legitimate business front for the Irish mafia and soon finds himself in all sorts of terrible trouble. The football and crime/mystery threads gradually all twist together in a wild conclusion, and the ending is partly happy, partly disappointing.

The first editor I was given (by the publisher who had already accepted the book), read the book and suggested that the goalkeeper ought to be about 17, play for a really big and famous club, and win the FA Cup final.

Can you guess what I said to him?
 

Steerpike

Felis amatus
Moderator
I don't doubt the validity of Sine Nomine's advice in a goodly proportion of contexts, but sometimes the editor's advice is so wrong that it needs to be ignored completely without wasting any time on it. The first book I had accepted was a crime novel in which the main character is an aging goalkeeper (39) who decides to follow his dream of playing professional football in England. He winds up playing for a non-league team which is really a legitimate business front for the Irish mafia and soon finds himself in all sorts of terrible trouble. The football and crime/mystery threads gradually all twist together in a wild conclusion, and the ending is partly happy, partly disappointing.

The first editor I was given (by the publisher who had already accepted the book), read the book and suggested that the goalkeeper ought to be about 17, play for a really big and famous club, and win the FA Cup final.

Can you guess what I said to him?

Yeah, I can guess. And I'd rather read your version of the book than what the editor was proposing. That sounds truly awful.
 

pmmg

Vala
:zombie:

Reading through the effort above, I think the best comment is to ignore it whenever you just disagree with. Its yours after all. But we must accept the risk of that.

I only comment on this old one to say. I think the best method of appraising and editor, especially one you are having a hard time accepting, is to get another opinion. Ideally, would be to get three editors and try them all out. If two or three agree, you may have to give up the ghost on stubbornness, but if they don't agree and come with different takes, maybe they can more easily be ignored.

Since very few have recourse to more than one, and unless you are really good at researching, your earliest editor is likely to be along the lines of a shot in the dark, I think all you can do is trust where it makes sense, don't trust where it doesn't, and if you are wondering if they are really a match, try a different one for the next effort and compare.

It might be useful to ask here, or elsewhere, from people in the same boat as you, and may know your story, if they know of an editor that me be a good match. I little less of a shot in the dark that way, and you have at least one reference.
 
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