Dancing with Your Editor

Relationships must be earned and the one with your editor is no different, because all relationships include baggage of previous experience mixed with expectations for a better one.  I call this The Dance.

New writers bring in baggage from their school experience to their encounters with editors.  Whether their writing got high marks or low ones, the writer has baggage the editor knows nothing about.  I’m assuming editors have their own baggage, but not being one, I can’t speak about it.

One way to slice through the muck of such personal baggage is for the writer to get really clear on what they want from the editing experience.

Some writers, especially new ones who haven’t experienced critiques in writing groups, are like little children who want to be seen as “a good writer” and therefore bristle at any feedback, including comments and the red slashing of editorial corrections.  In my experience, that’s a painful posture to hold.  It certainly isn’t conducive to creating the best final product.

Others want to dump their work on the editor, expecting miracles in the editorial process.  Understandable, because I’m betting every writer has gotten to the “enough already” point.

I’ve been both of those writers and everything in between.

But I’m more experienced now, especially after this latest dance, and have finally chosen to do what it takes to create the best product I can.  That means letting go.  Giving the manuscript to the editor without strings.

I want an editor who will help me do that.  Now I see my editor as a partner.

I had the idea; I created the writing; I’m the one who knows what I want the product to be, to do.  My ideal editor reads through the entire piece quickly without a pen to get the gist of the story – just as I did when reading my students’ papers.  Then s/he makes comments asking for more or less content – specifically, comments that elicit clarification, justification, or exemplification to improve my work.

Those comments reveal my story through a professional reader’s eyes (the guy between me and the publisher years ago) and give me a different perspective.  I find it easier to continue editing myself – to make the story flow more smoothly, to tighten up my writing.  When I’m finished, my ideal editor makes my prose sing by maintaining my writing style as s/he applies his editorial expertise.  We’re on the same team, trying to produce the best product possible with the raw materials I’ve provided.

Achieving this vision of my ideal writer-editor working relationship required the dance.  I got to dig in my heels about my precious words.  He got to demonstrate his understanding of my feelings by explaining to me what he was doing to my precious prose and why it was more effective.  (He taught me!  And learning is my thing!)

Because he’s secure in his expertise, he danced with me without exploding. And next time we’ll tango!*

A Peek at My Dance with My Editor

I read through his comments, agitated as a cat in a roomful of rockers.  After working with other editors and being so disappointed, my defenses had galvanized into solid steel armor. Letting down my guard to allow his expertise in took almost a week – while he continued to work on my manuscript.

Finally… the brilliant flash of understanding opened my heart.  Everything he suggested was meant to improve my work.  He was not being critical of me or my work.  He is in my corner!  He’s FOR me!  He respects my work and wants, as I do, for this book to be the best it can be!

We had mixed communication issues.  I changed my mind about the feedback I wanted – more than once.  High-strung, anxious about time, my life now a tumble on the downside of the mountain, I reached my limit, and took off for a week — secure in the fact that I don’t use a cell phone and had no laptop to be tempted by email– just as he completed editing the project

Upon my return, I reviewed a few chapters of the final edits but saw no changes! Sure, there were comments in the margins, so I worked with those, just figuring he’d had enough and that’s al I was going to get.

But he said he would do Track Changes. And I couldn’t see them.  I got the napping writing teacher downstairs to come see if he could solve the problem.  He couldn’t.  Cornered, there was nowhere to turn but back to the editor who thought he was finished.

I told him I’d gotten only comments, could not see the red marks I expected with Track Changes.  His response, “You’re missing 90% of my work” was both reassuring and frustrating considering I’d spent the day working with what I had, what I could see.  He said he’d look into it.

A short while later, he had figured it out with an online search and sent me two chapters to test.  I opened them and could see the colored slashes.  I’ve never been so happy to see red marks on my writing!

After the Dance

This dance with my editor has been intense and challenging, and allowed a major break-through for me.  I admire his expertise and totally trust him.  If he’ll have me, I’m hoping he’ll do the next three books in the series! And, because I’m more secure now, have found someone I trust, I know it’ll go faster and be a smoother ride for both of us.

Please note that this kind of editing isn’t inexpensive.  I came to that website because I was referred by a fellow writer.  People seeking freelancers post a job with a dollar amount; freelancers reply, sometimes with a counter offer.  The dance begins with negotiations.

The writer who referred me said she had paid $50 for proof-reading for her 98-page piece.  Mine was almost twice that size at 152 pages, but I agreed to the $250 counter-proposal by the editor because I was enchanted by his bio and somehow knew I had to have only him.

I gave him a $50 bonus for his excellent work on my project (and with me).

That online agency solicits feedback from both parties when a contract is completed.  We gave each other 5 of 5 stars and wrote comments.

Here’s what I wrote about my editor:

“Robert is a well-read, well-educated, experienced editor. Working with him was a new experience for me – so different, in fact, that I wrote a blog post about different approaches editors take and used our work as example.”

Here’s what he wrote about me:

“Pam is a challenging but fun client to work with. She cares deeply about her work, as any good writer should. She wants to know why you’re doing what you’re doing to her text. She wants communication. Meanwhile, in the process of editing her text, you get to see inside her head, which is an interesting place to be. I’d do it again.”

Contact This Editor:

In my neck of the woods people like to protect good things by keeping it under their hat.  Lucky for you, I believe in sharing the good stuff.

Robert Armstrong can be reached at  Ask for his bio so you can be dazzled, too.

Tell him about your project: genre, elevator-pitch (brief) story line, and length.  Include return time if that’s an issue.

Tell him what you want – is it help with the development of the story?  Or is it only line-editing or proof-reading?

How do you expect to see his completed work — as an edited MS with no red or comments? (fastest way for him) OR as your MS with comments in the margin?  OR as your MS sliced and diced with Track Changes?  Or…

Be clear in communicating what you expect; you’re more likely to get what you want. ;>)

Give him some pages and ask for a sample edit.

If you’re a match, ask for an estimate and turn-around time.


*for those who are not dance enthusiasts, the tango is regarded as the ultimate dance experience.

More re’ my Weird Indie Publishing Project:

Till next time…

Be kind with everyone you meet for we all have our hidden sorrows.”  ~Pam

One response to “Dancing with Your Editor

  1. Pingback: The Big WHY in editing Memoirs | skatingthru2012

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.