Do I need to hire an Editor? – Part 2

Every wonder what feedback from a professional editor looks like? I began this topic (Do I need to hire an editor? – part 1) by talking about why I think having an editor look at your MS is a good idea.

editorIn this post, I’m going to share feedback I’ve received from different editors that have looked at my manuscripts. Some of it is funny, some of it is tough, but all of it is valuable. Keep in mind, I did a lot of up front research to find editors I knew would be tough, fair and honest. An editor that just lauds you with false platitudes doesn’t do anyone any good.

The biggest benefit of having an editor look at your MS is they are looking specifically at your MS. You get direct feedback on your story and writing style. This isn’t an abstract exercise where generic concepts like show don’t tell are discussed. The editor is looking at your MS and pointing out areas you need to improve. It’s like having show don’t tell explained using your words as the example. A very enlightening experience I can assure you.

The following snippets are actual feedback I’ve received in the past. I thought it would be interesting for people considering an editor to see what they can expect. Of course, not every editor is the same and if you are seriously looking into an editor, ask if they can provide a sample critique of your manuscript (a few pages should be enough). That way you have a good idea if they are what you are looking for.

Here are some sample comments from my own manuscripts.

Oscar’s feet no longer hurt from walking, but the dryness and the dust remained the same. Editor comment: Dry voice, not just because you’re describing dryness…

His back was still sore from the night before on the wagon floor. Editor comment: A triple internal rhyme!

The king’s eyebrows arched in confusion; his anger temporarily derailed by the absurdity of Matty’s accusation. Editor comment: Telling about emotion, clunky description

The morning light slipped down through the long branches and thin needles of the pines and cast broken shadows over the wagon and the two boys trapped inside it. Editor comment: A lot going on for one sentence. It’s okay to take a break.

He leaned his elbows on the table and buried his face in his hands. How had he ever gotten into this mess?  Editor comment: Some good internal conflict brewing! I would’ve personally chosen the plush couch, though…I do my best brooding in comfort. J

The sickening stench of searing skin filled his nostrils. He cried out. Editor comment: Go deeper into a reaction. As Kurt Vonnegut said, the excrement is hitting the air conditioning right now.

And my favorite editor comment of all time:

Old McToady could get so hopping mad, his bald head would swell up like some giant bullfrog.  Editor comment: Fun fact – over a couple days in April 2005, about a thousand frogs exploded in Germany.

I immediately googled that one out. No spoilers, here. You’ll have to go look for yourself.

You can see from the range of the comments there is a lot of feedback – not all of it pleasant to swallow. But it’s a necessary part of becoming a better writing better. In addition, most editors will include overall thoughts on your manuscript and they are very open to follow up questions. In fact if you don’t take advantage of follow up questions you are really missing out.

After one particularly brutal edit, I sent back like a dozen follow up questions. It’s important to keep in mind these questions were meant to improve my understanding. They were definitely not questioning the actual edit itself. Don’t do that. It’s not professional. Doesn’t mean you have to agree with everything the editor says, but there’s no need to get confrontational. If you don’t agree with a particular comment, just leave that part alone and move on to the next thing.

However, editors love it when you come back with well thought out questions to help your own understanding. For example, remember this comment?

The king’s eyebrows arched in confusion; his anger temporarily derailed by the absurdity of Matty’s accusation. Editor comment: Telling about emotion, clunky description

You might want to give the editor your rewritten version of this specific sentence. Ask if you correctly identified where the “telling” was and if your new version is better? (By the way: can you see where the “telling” is? For one thing I’m telling the reader the king is confused, rather than showing it.)

The point is, by following up with specific examples (and your fix) you can validate whether you are on the right track to better writing. Editors are very open to this and as long as you are courteous with them, you can get a lot of extra mileage out of a post-edit back and forth discussion.

Ok, I think that’s it for this post. I want to leave you with this one last thing. As I said, I’ve survived a couple of edits and after each one I often wonder if these poor editors bring their work home with them? And more importantly what that looks like for the people in their lives who aren’t into this whole writing thing.

Here’s a short little link to a conversation I dreamed up in my head between an imaginary editor and her husband. Hope you enjoy it.

And as always, I’d love to hear any feedback you have.

All the best,
JD

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