Wednesday, January 4, 2017

The Editorial Critique

Photo credit: Dani Greer

I’m sometimes asked why I would hire an editor for my work, since I am an editor myself. Isn’t this a waste of money and time? 

The answer is simple: No, it is not a waste of money or time.  I’m too close to the book to see the mistakes or recognize the places it could be better. Although I will always perform a self-edit before I send it off to another editor, I know from experience that I’ll miss things.

Here is what I expect from my editor’s Manuscript Critique. First, I must recognize that it is an editor’s job to point out what does not work and where the problems are in a manuscript. They hunt for the bad stuff, so naturally they can sound negative and discouraging even though they might be positive, kind-hearted people. (I certainly try to be.)

The trick for the editor is to point out the good stuff too, and the trick for the writer is to hold on to their vision for the book in the face of the realization that it’s not yet perfect. (Actually nothing is ever perfect, not even carefully edited manuscripts.)

I expect my editor to make general suggestions and some specific suggestions about how to fix the weaknesses and highlight the strengths. I want to know if she thinks my book shows heart and humor, and its primary theme is evident throughout. I want to know if this is a fun book to read. I want to know if the end is satisfying or if it leaves the reader hanging.

I want to know if she thinks the chapters are in an order that makes sense and the story arc moves the characters and the action along. I want to know if the editor/reader gets confused at any point, and what she is confused about. I want to know if she thinks the sentences are too wordy or too long. I want to know if she thinks more dialogue is needed, or less description, or there aren’t enough sensory details.

When I get the manuscript critique back, my first reaction will probably be a bit of hurt feelings. What do you mean, my baby isn’t perfect? Then I will get over it. I’ll try a few of her suggestions, and then I’ll probably realize they make the book better. So I’ll try a few more. 

Kim Pearson is an author, ghostwriter, and owner of Primary Sources, a writing service that helps others become authors of professional and compelling books and articles. She has authored 12 books of her own, and ghostwritten more than 45 non-fiction books and memoirs. To learn more about her books or services, visit kimpearson.me.


9 comments :

  1. Very insightful and honest, Kim, a perspective that those of us who are both writers and editors well appreciate.

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  2. Thoughtfully presented, Kim. Being both a writer and an editor can make us stubborn and vulnerable because we know the very things an editor is pointing out; we see them in the manuscripts of others -- surely we would have seen such glaring problems in our own work. Hurt feelings can hamper acceptance of needed correction before the desire for the book to be the very best it can be kicks in, as well as the humility required to seriously consider suggested changes or additions. It's time to appreciate the effort she (or he) has made in our behalf, the same kind of effort we make for our own clients. Excellent post.

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    1. Thanks, Linda. I've found that working with an editor for my own books makes me a better editor for my clients.

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  3. Great reminder of the importance of working with an editor, Kim. Like you, I do not rely on my own editing for a book and hire other professionals. Too many writers skip that important step and there are books out there with lots of mistakes. Not just in grammar, etc, but in continuity, pacing and accuracy of details. One of the folks in an online reading club I belong to recently posted that she stopped reading a book set in her part of the country when she realized the author had put a road through the spot where her - the reader - had a home.

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    1. Oops! That's the problem with mistakes -- they can cast long shadows.

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  4. Welcome back to the blog, Kim!

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  5. Yes! Even editors need editing! That comes home to me every time I get a manuscript back from my publisher!

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  6. I'm not an editor, I'm a writer. And I need an editor. Badly. This is a great post.

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The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. Some of our contributors are editors, some are authors, and some are writing sheep. Yes, sheep.

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