- Karen Frost
Editing is . . . Not so Bad, Actually
Updated: Feb 5, 2020
Sarah Glenn Marsh wrote in the Acknowledgements of her book "Reign of the Fallen" that she'd re-written the book multiple times before it was published. Rewritten? Multiple times? One of the great mysteries to new writers who have never had anything published before (like me!) is what "editing" looks like. Is my book going to be re-written by the editor? Am I going to have to make major changes? Am I going to have to re-write my book? Multiple times?
When I turned "Conspiracy of the Dark" in to Ylva Publishing, I was told that the norm was for Ylva's editors to do three rounds of edits: two rounds of content edits, one round of copy edits. Since I had no idea what content editing would be like, I cavalierly told the editor in my opening email, "Go ahead and slash and burn. I know the introduction is too long." Look at me, totally chill with turning over creative control to an expert! I won't fight any edits you make! I legitimately thought the job of the editor was to take my just-mined mineral and polish it into a semi-precious gem. I mean, she must be a good writer, right? So she'll just smooth the edges, add some sparkle, and the end product will be good!
In fact, that's not what content editing is (or at least, not with Ylva. I really can't speak for anyone else). In content editing, the editor will point out potential story or character inconsistencies, suggest places where the exposition runs long, etc. and then it's the author's job to come up with solutions. The editor may write only about three or four sentences in the entire book. This means that everything you're reading comes directly from the author. It's not a literary Frankenstein that's 75% the ideas and writing of the author, 25% the contribution of a clever editor. As a writer, that's really cool. Everything that gets published is there because you thought of it, wrote it, and approved it. You never relinquish creative control.
Of course . . . if you're a perfectionist like me, nothing says "opportunity to do better!" like edits. So yes, I rewrote about a third of the words in "Conspiracy of the Dark" and half of the words in "The Darkness Rising" during the editing process. BUT it was my choice and I know it made both books a hundred times better. Ultimately, it took almost half as long to edit the books as it did to write them, but the end result is something that I'm really happy with, and that shows how professional editing can really elevate writing to the next level. So if you're an aspiring writer but you're worried that an editor will commandeer your baby and start making huge changes, don't worry! Listen to what your editor has to say, think about it, and then make the changes you want to make.