Today it's my great pleasure over my blog to Alana Garrigues and Nutschell Windsor who are on a massive blog tour, with their book Story Sprouts. They are here to talk about how to train your editor... that's right isn't it, Alana??
Nutschell and I are so excited to be here for a stop on our Story Sprouts world tour. We'd like to thank Annalisa for hosting us today, and send a big virtual wave to all of you readers!
Today, I'd like to talk about a topic that can stir up a lot of feelings in a writer - the relationship between a writer and his/her editor. Done well, and editor can make an author's words to transcend every imagined possibility. But a bad relationship can send a writer into the depths of anger, despair and doubt - feeling either misunderstood or inadequate.
As a freelance journalist, I am fortunate to work with an editor I trust intrinsically, one who is both wise and supportive. This editor makes changes and cuts stories when necessary, but always stays true to what must be said. Every change enhances the story. Part of that is a relationship based in trust and respect for one another's contributions, and part of that is my responsibility, as a journalist, to morph my style into that of the newspaper or magazine I write for.
In the beginning of my writing career, I did not realize the impact an editor could have on a story, nor did I realize that the red pen mark-ups would not be sent back to me for final review. I did not know that my story could, and generally would (particularly in the beginning), be published with a brand new title - sometimes even a new lead paragraph. It surprised me in the beginning to see my name on a piece that was 80% mine, and 20% edited.
Three years in, the percentages have inched closer to purely my words (about a 98/2 split), but I am no longer surprised when paragraphs are altered slightly to clarify or add pizazz, and generally, I nod my head and agree that whatever change lies in my story was the right decision.
The writer looks at craft; the editor looks at readability. Two vastly different skill sets, both important. I am fortunate to have experience as both, in large part thanks to my Publications Editor board position with the Children's Book Writers of Los Angeles.
As the co-editor of CBW-LA's Story Sprouts: Writing Day Workshop Exercises and Anthology, I recognized that for many of our contributing writers, this would be the first time submitting a piece for publication … and their first time having someone edit their words. Initially, I planned a pure copy edit of their pieces.
However, as I read through the submissions, beyond misspelled words and improper grammar, I noted run-on thoughts, accidental changes in voice, confusing side story lines, and structural issues that could be fixed by simply moving paragraphs around.
The stories were so strong, beyond these minor imperfections, so brilliant for one day workshop submissions, that I wanted to help the writers shine while remaining true to each of their voices.
As Nutschell and I reflected on the acceptable amount of editing, she agreed that as our author's first publishing experience, it was of utmost importance to remain true to their voices, while exposing them to the real world of publishing, edits and all. As educators in the world of publications, we agreed that an authentic experience meant editing the pieces as any magazine or publishing house would.
I knew that if I edited the pieces and emailed them back to the writers, as suggestions, a banter would open up that could go on far beyond our three month publishing schedule - and it would give them a false sense of the publishing world. I also knew that for the writers to be exceptionally proud of their work, which was being presented to a wider audience, some editing beyond my planned copy edit was necessary.
So I set to work, making notes on my print-outs of each submission, tweaking and massaging, until stories came out the way the writer would have intended if they had been granted another hour or two of revision time. I didn't change anything to look like they had months or years to write - each submission is still clearly raw and in the moment - but it looks just a little bit more polished and refined than the original. At the same time, each author's voice is authentic and true; each piece is uniquely individual.
My hope is that each author looks at his/her piece, and sees that same improvement that I see in my own writing post-edit. I also hope that as each of our writers continues on their journey, they, like me, will find editors they trust and see the extent of editing shrink with experience.
Clearly, the relationship between a writer and editor varies between freelance writer, staff writer, and author. Expectations also vary greatly when looking at indie publishing versus traditional publishing.
The closer you are to producing content for an audience determined by the traditional publisher - whether that is a news organization or a publishing imprint - the more you will turn over control of the final edits. Many books you see on the shelves have entirely new titles and some heavy internal edits. By the time they have been published, the author's idea has become a group project, for better or worse.
Indie published authors who work with editors have more control over the relationship with the editor, with the author in a position of power to accept or reject suggested changes. Sometimes, this can be a detriment to an author, particularly a new author. Inflated with pride over having finished a first book, s/he may reject excellent feedback from a line or content editor whose advice is sage. However, the relationship also has the potential to be transformative when the author and editor respect one another and take each others' style and voice into account. Indie authors should look for an editor who is a chameleon, familiar with the genre in question to offer valuable market feedback, but able to adapt to the author's individual style. Set expectations. How long the edit will take, payment terms, how feedback and commentary will be relayed (comments built into Word are convenient to accept or reject), whether you prefer to speak and check in over email or over the phone, whether it will be a line, content or copy edit, or some combination of all three. (It makes more sense to save the copy edit for after any line or content edits, as those will affect the structure of your story and may result in major scene rewrites.) Ask for a first page edit to see how the editor works, and if you feel good about the relationship, make a contract. Then, trust them and take their advice.
The relationship between writer and editor must be rooted in trust, and once you find an editor you love, reward them with word of mouth and repeat projects.
Cheers, and best of luck finding just the right editor to help you pop! Be sure to share your favorites in the comments, if you found an editor you'd like other indie authors to check out. They'll appreciate your support!
STORY SPROUTS: CBW-LA WRITING DAY EXERCISES & ANTHOLOGY 2013
STORY SPROUTS 2013 ANTHOLOGY STATISTICS:
· 19 Authors
· 38 Combined Anthology Entries – 2 per Contributing Author
· 6-hour Workshop
· 10 Writing Exercises (included in Story Sprouts)
· Dozens of Photo, Character and Conflict Prompts (included in Story Sprouts)
· 240 pages
What happens when linguistic lovers and tale tellers workshop together? Inspiration. Wonder. Discovery. Growth. Magic.
Brave and talented, the writers featured in this anthology took on the challenge of dedicating one day to the raw and creative process of writing.
A rare view into the building blocks of composition, Story Sprouts is made up of nearly 40 works of poetry and prose from 19 published and aspiring children's book authors.
This compilation includes all of the anthology writing exercises and prompts, along with tips, techniques and free online writing resources to help writers improve their craft.
Find Nutschell at: Find Alana at: