I got a worrying email from an author last week. He had contacted me about a year ago for a free sample edit. He mailed me back after I’d returned the revised text to say he was happy with my work, appreciated my insight, but he had decided to go with another editor because they charged less.
His recent mail details a list of issues he then had with the other editor, including missed deadlines, errors introduced into his manuscript and basic errors missed. Most troubling of all, however, was that the cheaper editor had entirely changed the first two pages of one chapter. The author had originally written the narrative in retrospect—a common technique to fill the reader in on what has happened with these characters since we last saw them—but the editor had completely rewritten this as three pages of dialogue!
I literally gasped.
That, to put it mildly, is heavy handed editing.
I’m reluctant to revise dialogue in any novel because I feel the author knows the voice of the character much better than me. Of course, I’ll offer revision suggestions and correct any obvious errors, but there is, to me, something very intrusive about editing dialogue, so I’d certainly never consider rewriting whole pages in the voices of the author’s characters.
I’m still mentally gasping as I think about this.
This is not an isolated experience, I know, although it is perhaps the most extreme example I’ve heard in a long time. This, unfortunately, is a painful reality for many authors who put their money, faith and precious words into the hands of such editors, only to be disappointed when the text comes back with their voice and style usurped by the editor’s.
I understand that editing is a major investment in your writing career, but sometimes the cheaper option is not always the best or even the most economical. Such stories are bad news for authors and editors alike as, once confidence and trust in the editing process is shaken or lost, it can take a lot of hard work to restore an author’s faith.
A good relationship between an author and editor is essential to a successful publication. The difference between a compelling novel and a mediocre one is often decided at the editing stage.
So, how do you go about choosing a good editor for your cherished novel? How can you tell the difference between someone who says they’re good and someone who actually is good? [Read more…]