The truth about evil editors

I’ve noticed that when I talk about writing with people who aren’t writers, many ask about the role of editors in the book-making process.

“Doesn’t it upset you when an editor wants you to change something in your book?”

Sometimes, when I say no, people say, “Hmph.”  Like I’m lying, afraid the evil editors will find out if I tell the truth.  I think they’re picturing editors as power-hungry monsters, waiting for unsuspecting manuscripts with red eyes and red pens.  But I haven’t met any editors like that.

This weekend, I’ve been revising two picture books with feedback from two really smart editors.  One is my picture book that’s under contract with Chronicle, OVER AND UNDER THE SNOW.  The other is a new book that’s out on submission now, and an editor has suggested some revisions so she can decide if she’d like to move forward with it.

In both cases, I’ve been amazed at the depth of the feedback in those editorial letters – feedback designed to strengthen the heart of the story rather than change it.  This weekend, I’ll be:

  • Cutting bits of dialogue – and a handful of proposed spreads – that aren’t absolutely essential to the heart of the story.
  • Streamlining a plot so it doesn’t meander.
  • Adding more evocative, sensory language to one particularly vivid scene.
  • Switching two spreads to better foreshadow a coming event.
  • Researching some more to add new details.
  • Changing an ending to make it more organic to the story.
  • Looking for a new title. (It probably seems like I’m always looking for a new title, but that’s a post for another day.)

Interestingly enough, both editors appreciated connections in the text that I made subconsciously while writing but hadn’t thought to develop . I love it when that happens, and I’ll be building on those connections, too. 

So does it upset me when an editor wants to change something in my book?

Nope. It thrills me that someone cares about it enough to want to make it stronger. And while a book may start out as mine, by the time it’s been helped along the way by a village of loving literary aunts and uncles like writer friends and agents and editors, it’s not just my book any more.  It’s our book.

The editors I’ve been fortunate enough to work with don’t have red eyes, and they use email attachments more often than red pens.  They don’t say, “What you’ve done here is all wrong.”  They say, “Look what you’ve done here that’s so right.  Build upon it.  Finish it.  Make it shine.”

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