I am asked – often – how to deal with editor’s notes. Whether they are big-picture, copyediting notes, or a mix of both. It’s a good question, especially because the first few times through an edit can be daunting. Do you change everything the editor asks about? Nothing? Somewhere in between? How do you know how Change A will impact the midpoint of the book? What about the Black Moment?
The simple answer is this: every little change you make will change following aspects of the book in ways you can’t know. Some changes will improve your writing voice, some will alter the overall story, some will create stronger characterization. How you approach these edits is, of course, up to you, which is why I asked a few friends to weigh in on how they approach editor’s notes. Here we go:
Heatherly Bell, author of The Wilder Sisters Series
I approach my editor feedback like a big girl. Usually I will read through the editing notes first. Then I’ll read through the MS and all the comments which takes me about a day. I take a day to digest it. After that, if something still doesn’t ring true to me, I’ll make my own note in the comments next to hers. I’ll try to explain, for instance, why my hero has been deeply affected by such and such. Or I’ll explain why this or that makes sense to my heroine.
Occasionally, if I’m confused by a comment, though I’m always able to email and ask, I find I usually “get it” a day later. Most of the time, my editor’s notes are spot-on! Maybe I’m lucky, I don’t know. But they always seem to pinpoint those areas where I know I need to dig deeper. Why does this matter? Why does my character care so deeply about it?
Or in the instance of my latest proposal, when my editor said: this ending doesn’t work for me! To be honest, it didn’t work for me either, so it was just confirmation I needed to re-work that ending. My Harlequin editors are wonderful. They never try to squelch my voice. They just want to make sure I’ve gone as deep as I can and they’re right most of the time.
Nan Reinhardt, author of the Four Irish Brothers Winery series
After the initial feeling of overwhelm, I try to remember what my editor says, “Sometimes you just need to change or add a sentence or two, or even just a word or two. Turns out with the latest WIP, I ended up adding an entire chapter and an epilogue, but it did make the book better, no question.
Claire McEwen, author of Sleigh Bells in the Snow
I always find feedback a little bit terrifying. So as soon as I get it, I read through it once, then put it away. I’ll then spend a day or two just sort of processing the general ideas included in the feedback. Once I get used to them, I’ll go back through the feedback in detail and make notes about how I plan to address it.
I believe that my agent and editor know what they are doing, that they can see things I can’t because they have more distance
from the story, and that their feedback will make my story stronger. I think it’s important to let go of my ego and really take their advice with an open mind and heart. I’m saying this because I have met authors who seem very suspicious of feedback and don’t seem to want to take it.
I would offer this advice. If you don’t agree with the editor or agent’s specific suggestions, try to think about what they are saying in general. I recently had an experience where the editor wanted me to strengthen the conflict, but her ideas about how to do that just weren’t resonating with me. They were good ideas, but they didn’t speak tomy heart. It took a few days of thinking really, really hard, but then I had a big ‘aha’ moment. I changed the entire backstory of my hero and heroine and upped the conflict significantly, in a way that satisfied both the editor and me.
Liz Flaherty, author of The Dark Horse
Here’s where I’m a Weird Person. I love the feedback even when I hate it, because then I know what he wants rather than guessing at it. If I’m hoping to sell the story, I have to be willing to share ownership of it. This isn’t always easy, and I’ve made changes that to this day I think were mistakes. However, at the end of the day, he’s the editor and I’m not, and the publisher still signs my checks.
There you have it, friends, a few new ways you can approach editor feedback – to make your book the best it can be. If you have another tip, share in the comments!