As I set up blog articles – I am transferring some of my favorite posts from my other blog platforms (written by me over the past few years).
If you ask for beta or reader feedback– supress the ego and listen! If you ask a question, be prepared for honest answers.
Editors must have a rough time of it—working with authors who feel pushing the grammar boundaries is an expression of unique, personal technique, rather than lack of writing knowledge. I know I’ve beta read for a few writers who tried to excuse their run-on sentences and poor grammar and punctuation as “it’s just my style.” Nope, it was poorly-written tripe (I’d like to think I was more diplomatic with my feedback). Sometimes, the author isn’t looking for honest criticism; they’re looking for “yes” people to confirm their baby is beautiful.
Friends, I’m here to tell you, all babies are not beauties. Some are damned ugly—unfortunately, I’ve beta read a few of them. As a reader it’s hard to tell an author—especially one hoping for confirmation of their brilliance, not real feedback—their work needs more work. I can only image how difficult life must be for an editor, who puts hours into polishing a manuscript, to find out the author has an inflated sense of their own importance and has no intention of making changes.
Finding an editor you trust AND will listen to when (s)he tells you “you MUST change [something]”, is important. I’m still pouting about my (overruled) preference for single quotes, which I’d like to think are a matter of technique, but my editor reined me in with a firm hand *sigh*. When the editor refuses to compromise, then I know the change isn’t a suggested tweak, it’s a downright flaunting of the Law of Words (also known as CMoS or “The Elements of Style,” my editor’s two bible’s of word usage).
In order to break the rules, you need to know the rules, and your editor should be your combination angel-on-the-shoulder, voice-of-reason, and ruler-wielding-nun. As writers, we have a right to argue our point, but we also need to listen to the feedback we are paying someone (our trusted editor), or trusting someone (proof readers) to give us. I love the fragmented sentence– it’s consistent and appropriate with my dialog-driven writing style—this is how people talk, after all. But, in order to break this rule, I needed to understand what I was doing and why. As importantly, when to bend to the Editor’s Will when my personal style becomes lazy writing.
While the linked article isn’t as specific as I’d like, I want to remind my fellow writers, your editor should be your trusted collaborator. What’s more, if you can’t listen to their suggestions, you don’t either have the right editor (they don’t know what they’re doing? or, they’re not doing what you need from them?) or you need to take a look at yourself– have you let your ego and a mistaken ideal of not “losing your writer’s voice” blind you to some stellar advice?
Don’t be so sensitive when the editor tells you “you should [make a change or deletion]”. Instead, step back and look for a compromise- the editor is not your enemy, they are a trusted ally trying to help shape your book to its best possible presentation. You don’t want to lose your unique voice, but you also don’t want to foolishly produce a piece of garbage because you’re too stubborn to back down and listen to a professional.
This blog post was inspired by an article I read today. Thanks to Writer’s Circle for the idea.