I guess the best way to intro my guest this month is: “Hello. Her name is Faith Freewoman. You have a manuscript. Prepare to be edited.”
I’ve been working with Faith since I started my self-publishing journey 3.5 years ago. She is wonderful and I hope you enjoy her words of wisdom!
And the flamboyant master swordsman, who says, (several times, as I recall) “Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”
One afternoon I was skimming through my favorite indie author discussion group when I came across this email from popular author Deborah Kinnard, describing her editor, Michelle Levigne:
“A beta reader and an editor do different jobs. With a beta, I want a customer’s reaction to the book, or as close as I can get.”
“With my editor, I want her to wield a red pen like Inigo Montoya wields a sword. I want her to show no mercy.” [italics mine]
Deborah continued. “I’m blessed with a good one who’s about to handle the sixth project of mine she’s edited. She knows all my bad habits by now and doesn’t let me get away with anything.”
I understand why authors get very nervous when they send their manuscripts off to me because, even with the ones I’ve worked with for five years or more, they know they just opened the door to a session of no-holds-barred Tough Love.
Authors have to have someone they can trust to tell them the bald, unadorned (yet encouraging) truth. It’s great to have cheerleader beta readers and fellow authors, but when you’re about to creatively stub your toe or, worse, take a header over the falls…
Honestly, wouldn’t you would feel safer if you had someone you could count on to say Watch out!!! You’re about to fall flat on your face…and here are some ways to fix that.
The other crucially important element of your relationship with your editor should be mutual respect. I’ve heard a few stories about editors and story consultants who are perfectly willing to shred their clients’ work, and even their clients. Maybe it might even be worthwhile to tough it out through one experience like that if you can book time with someone who has been highly recommended by a lot of successful authors.
But for the day-to-day business of creating and then either submitting or self-publishing the best book you can write, you need a friend, a professional who “gets” your story, and who is willing to roll up her or his sleeves and slog through the nit-picky details, question your assumptions, poke holes in your plot, spot sagging middles, point out weak or inconsistent characters (or over-the-top-emoting), count your knee-jerk and go-to words and make you fix them, and make sure your language, your use of words, is smooth, tight, moving, and beautiful, as well as accessible.
Not every editor is right for every author. All of us have preferences and blind spots, and, though it took me years to accept this, it’s a miracle when a totally, truly error-free book is published…whether it’s an indie published book or one from the Big Five (or however many are left). So none of us are perfect.
Here’s what I offer, in case you’re looking for an editor yourself:
First and foremost, I love to read. I read instead of watching TV, and I have a real passion, as a reader, author and editor, for fiction of all sorts — especially romance, romantic suspense, historical romance, paranormals, thrillers, fantasies, and mysteries.
I have four gifts/skills that I believe make me an exceptional editor:
• I notice errors even when I’d rather not.
• I am endlessly fascinated with the nuances of the English language, and its music and rhythms. I especially love investigating the subtle differences that can make one word choice merely okay and another exactly right.
• I can, and do, “tell it like it is” without trampling your author vulnerabilities.
• I’ll let you know if I think personal bias may be part of my reason for believing a character, plot point or aspect of your author voice needs work. And then I leave the decision to edit, omit, or leave it as is up to you …
… because, when all’s said and done, it’s YOUR story, and your sensibilities have the deciding vote about how it should be told.
You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can check out her website here!