Editing. We all do it. We all need it. It’s part of the writing process I actually like: looking at what I’ve done, revising, snipping, polishing. Those of us who are unpublished will probably might rely on our own aptitude or take ourselves along to a group where critical friends will see the howlers our own familiarity has missed. If we’re self-publishing, we might pay for a professional editing job. After all, no one wants to go the market without a serious attempt at quality control. Of course, when we’re snapped up by a publishing house, an editor will be thrust upon us, one whose decision may be final. And just how will that make us feel?
My own first experience of having an editor was relatively painless. Thornberry gave A Kettle of Fish a thorough proof-read but asked for no material changes. I think I was very lucky in this respect and I’m grateful to my beta readers for ensuring I had done a thorough job before the book went out on offer.
Now I’m part of a new and exciting project in which our writing group will publish an anthology of members’ work (and not just any anthology … stand by for updates!) This began a few months ago when ten of us all contributed a number of pieces for consideration and met to give critical feedback. Although we had a range of great material, it soon became apparent that we needed someone to ensure the collection woud have the right overall shape and, on the micro level, be rigorously edited. To this end we appointed from our number an editorial board of three, a unanimous decision which made us all feel we were in safe hands. The editors have now reread our contributions and come back to us with requests for edits.
This all sounds quite straightforward – and it is, but it has for me thrown up a big difference between asking for feedback and actually being edited. Looking at their suggestions for my short stories, I’m happy with nearly all of them. But inevitably there are one or two things I’m not so happy about. What can I do? They represent the combined wisdom of three writers whose opinion I trust and who I know will be equally rigorous with all of our authors. If I don’t want to risk my place in the anthology, I’m going to have to bite the bullet. I can’t even ask for a second opinion – I’ve had three!
Luckily we’re not talking complete rewrites here, and the overall shape of the stories stays the same. But it is a salutary lesson to have to ‘take orders’ on my writing, which feels quite different from taking suggestions. Love them or hate them, the edits have to be done. On the bright side, I think it represents one of those hurdles that a professional writer simply has to confront and get over. Progress, then!