The other side of the desk

I’m in the midst of mapping my book in preparation for a master class on plot with Cheryl Klein, so this week’s post is more of a thought. I came across this blog post while skimming ICL’s “Children’s Writers eNews” – and combined with my growing pet peeves about poor editing and copyediting, I had to read it.

I’ve always been heartily in agreement with the idea that writers who self-publish need to hire an editor. Self-editing – for publication at least – is definitely one of the roads to hell. You mean well, but it’s nigh impossible to catch all your quirks/typos/bad habits yourself. And it’s not fair on your critique group to expect them to do that kind of heavy lifting. Advice? Yes. Support? Yes. Major bad habits, glaring plot holes, etc? Sure. But no, you cannot expect your critique partners to act as your editors. Especially for free. (Not cool.) Hiring a freelance editor just makes sense. A thing worth doing is worth doing well.

The CarolRhoda post makes an interesting point, though. If the writer is paying the editor directly, does that influence the editor? Can that person be truly objective when the distance between the writer and editor is removed?

Professionalism and ethics aside – let’s not go there, ok? – obviously, the relationship does become more fraught. But isn’t that part of the relationship between an editor and writer anyway? Does it really make it so much easier to redline long passages of crap – or self-indulgent passages of great writing that don’t serve the story – if you’re being paid by someone else?

Commenters on the original post rebutted the idea that if the writer doesn’t agree with the editing, they won’t pay by obtaining a significant deposit on the job upfront. Makes sense to me. It protects the editor and ensures the writer is committed to the process.

But – and this is a big BUT – the editor should state upfront what their role is. I’ve seen too many self-published books that were edited by a professional editor with glaring problems. Usually copyediting. I won’t hold the editor responsible for plot/theme/character – there’s no way to know what the original issues were, if the writer followed their edits, etc.

Poor copyediting is easily fixed, and I have a hard time imagining a writer saying, “No! I can’t fix that! I meant every typo, misspelling, and punctuation error.” If your brief as an editor does not include copyediting – which really is a skill, and one that seems to be dying these days even at the big publishing houses – please say so. Let the writer know that copyediting isn’t your forte, or costs extra, or whatever. (And for fans of copyediting, Fancy Nancy author Jane O’Connor has a cute mystery series starring a freelance copyeditor.

I know – more costs for the poor writer trying to self-publish. This is a big reason why I haven’t chosen to self-publish. I’m in awe of those that do. Doing it right means a huge investment of time and money, and I barely have the time to write.

I’m stepping off my soapbox now – but do sit down on the other side of the desk and take a peek at their perspective. I’m hoping I’ll be able to answer these questions for myself with my own editor someday.


3 thoughts on “The other side of the desk

  1. I think you would have to hire two editors. First, a developmental editor to check the plot and uncover holes. Then you would have to edit again. I suppose you can dispute this work – but you do it by choosing how to incorporate the advice. Then you need the copy editor to do the final punctuation/grammar etc work. This really isn’t disputable – as long as you agree upfront on style rules.
    But I suppose any editing is better than none!

    1. You’re spot on, Lauri – on all fronts. πŸ™‚

      On Mar 9, 2014, at 11:42 AM, Rear in Gear wrote:

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