Happy Weekend, WG2E-Land!
It’s time for our next Ruth Harris Report…Part Three in her Series on Editors and Editing.
You can catch the first part of this fabulous and informative series right here:
And the second here:
Take it away, Ruth…
This is the third part of the RH Report series on editors and editing. We’ll cover getting references, sample edits, whether the writer is compelled to accept the editor’s suggestions and, now that plagiarism has been in the news lately, whether a writer can feel secure about not having his/her ideas stolen.
Do you provide references?
Sherrie Holmes: Yes, references are on my Web site and I can provide additional references on request.
Matt, The Edit Dude: I have testimonials on my website and I would be willing to put potential clients in touch with authors I have previously worked with.
Meghan Ward: Most writers ask me for a sample edit instead of references, but I’m happy to provide references. I also have testimonials from authors I’ve worked with on the editing page of my website.
Do you offer sample edits?
Jodie Renner: Yes. It’s important to get a sample edit from several different editors. Many editors offer a 10-page free sample edit, or will edit several pages or your first chapter for a small fee. You should get at least 5 pages of your work edited as a sample.
Be sure to send each editor you’re considering the same chapter—and your original, not one another editor has already gone through! This way you can see how each editor would handle your work. Also, if your spelling and grammar skills are a little rusty, get that aspect of the sample edit checked over by someone you know who’s good at that.
It’s important to be open to the possibility that your novel is not yet ready for the copyediting phase, as it may have some “big-picture” issues that need to be addressed and fixed first. It would be a waste of money to pay for copyediting when whole chapters need to be rewritten, rearranged, or even deleted, and your plot and characters might need to undergo fairly drastic changes, in order to make your characters more multidimensional and charismatic, your dialogue more natural-sounding, and your novel more compelling and sellable for the genre.
Sherrie Holmes: Yes, within reason. A few pages, yes. Fifty pages, no.
Meghan Ward: Yes, usually about 10 pages.
Matt, The Edit Dude: I ask for a sample to edit on full-length manuscripts. This helps both parties decide whether or not we will make a good team.
Does an author have to accept all your edits?
Matt, The Edit Dude: I can’t make someone accept all of my edits. If an author is uncomfortable with a suggestion, I’m willing to discuss other options.
Sherrie Holmes: Absolutely not. I’ll give them a professional edit, but they are the ultimate decision maker. It’s their manuscript, so they have the final say. I do strongly caution, however, that ignoring advice on critical issues may jeopardize their chances of getting published. I want the writer to understand that our goals are mutual. I’m not the enemy. I’m here to help. That’s what they’re paying me for.
Jodie Renner: No, the author always has the last word – they’re the writer, after all! That said, I do expect them to accept all my spelling and grammatical corrections, and I hope they’ll take most of my style advice, as I do know the style and pacing expectations for the genres I work with. Also, as an author, you’re paying for the expertise of a professional freelance editor, so it’s to your advantage to seriously consider all their suggestions. If you reject any, be sure it’s for a good reason, and not just because it’s how you wrote it in the first place. Also, as your freelance editor, I represent the reader, so if something confuses me, it’s very likely that it will confuse many of your readers, too.
Authors have come back to me later and said things like, “My agent (or acquiring editor) also said I should condense or delete chapter 4, as it didn’t drive the plot forward or advance characterization. I should have listened to you when you said the same thing!” Or “I’ve had readers contact me to take issue with the very thing you flagged. I guess I should have listened to your advice on that.”
I’ve had one or two occasions where the writer rejected important changes, which resulted in an amateurish manuscript full of errors and sloppy writing. In one case, the author didn’t speak English well and didn’t understand the North American idiom and casual, everyday expressions. They insisted on keeping it in stilted language and awkward phrasing, so I asked them to take my name off the credits for the book, as I didn’t want my name associated with the final product. Needless to say, I would not work with that author again.
Meghan Ward: An author not only does not have to accept all my edits, but shouldn’t. Writing is subjective. I would hope an author would accept most of my copyedits, but some authors may prefer not to put commas before coordinating conjunctions because they want the narrative to have a fast-paced feel. That’s a style choice.
As far as developmental edits, I make my suggestions in comments that the author can either follow or ignore. I do all line edits using Word’s Tracking Changes, too, so again, the author can choose to accept or reject individual edits.
I’m worried about plagiarism. If I send you my manuscript how do I know no one will steal my ideas?
Meghan Ward: I have a freelance editing contract that I’m happy to sign for anyone who is concerned about plagiarism. The author signs it, too, which guarantees that he/she will complete payment for my editing services within thirty days of completion of the project. But I’ve never heard of an editor stealing an author’s ideas. It’s usually other authors who steal authors’ ideas.
Sherrie Holmes: I hear this question all the time, but the reality is that that chances of this actually happening are pretty slim. For one thing, I don’t discuss client manuscripts with others. For another, I have so many plot ideas floating in my head that I don’t need to steal from a client. Besides, that’s just plain wrong. This seems to be a universal fear of newbie writers and a nonexistent fear of experienced writers. If it were as rampant as some fear, nobody would enter writing contests, join a critique group, or hire an editor! As a writing contest judge for over 20 years, I’ve come across many manuscripts that had similar plots, but each story was so unique as to render it totally different from similar plots.
Matt, The Edit Dude: I suppose there is no way to know that for certain, but it is a matter of being professional and ethical. I also think that if an editor was stealing ideas from clients, it wouldn’t take long for them to acquire a negative image.
You can find out more about our editors at their websites—
Next time, in the fourth and final part of the Editors & Editing series, our editors will answer questions about the details of manuscript submission, how much time to allow for the editing process and how much it will cost.
Until then, I want to thank our editors for their time and for sharing their expertise.
It’s Your Turn, WG2E-Land: Let us know your thoughts and questions when it comes to Editors and Editing…
The Best of Editors and Editing Wishes — Ruth Harris
NYTimes Bestselling Author