Editing comes with tears

betrothed_800Geez, where should I begin?

My paranormal erotic romance, Betrothed, was picked up by Totally Bound. Cue the happy dance, pound the drums, and pop an aspirin for the stupid grin contorting my face long enough to cause pain. My editor, Jennifer Douglas is amazing and insightful and ridiculously patient.

But I had to change the title of the series. When it comes to titles, my creativity takes a nose dive. But my previous title was too close to an already-published series by Totally Bound so I changed it to Magic Matched.

Whew, okay, we’ll put a check in that box.

First round of edits. Done, not terrible, causing no distress. (Because Jennifer is awesome.) But there were a few more areas of confusion which required more editing. My own misunderstanding of what Jennifer was asking necessitated a third round. All three rounds took less than a week and left me feeling excited, absolutely certain that Totally Bound was helping me release the very best book Betrothed could possibly be.

For the record, I still feel absolutely certain that Totally Bound is going to release the very best book Betrothed could be.

But there were tears.

Final edits came around and I was assured that it would be easy, that it primarily focused on grammar. Unfortunately, grammar includes word tense and certain inconsistencies between how we speak, and how we read what’s spoken. Suggestions were made and I found myself refusing to comply. Stubborn, frustrated, confused as to why certain things had to change, I turned to the internet to find out how much an editor expects an author to change. The search engine results varied, but generally, there is no answer to my question.

One thing was for sure, I didn’t want to be considered A Problem. I didn’t want to be stubborn, I didn’t want to create a stagnant book that fell short of my goals toward perfection, and I didn’t want to be one of those people who were sure they were right and the professionals had it wrong.

So, after reading many blogs written by editors and authors, I found one in particular that helped. I really wish I’d written her web address down, but I didn’t, because I didn’t expect to write this post (surprise!) If I find it again, I will let you know, because this author was a huge help to my sanity. (If you know it, please comment and share the knowledge.)

Basically, she said wherever an editor points something out, fix it unless there is a damn good reason for not fixing it. She said editors don’t necessarily know what they want, they only know that what you’ve given them doesn’t work. And reading that, the light bulb went on in my mulish head.

I had made a list of everything I didn’t want to change. There were roughly 80 places (for a 93,000 word novel of complicated plot) where the final line editors made a comment relating to capitalization or words changes, commas, etc. I initially refused to change 14. That kind of ratio may not sound like a big deal, but I knew it was. Keeping that many things that needed to change is ridiculously pig-headed. My goal was to change at least 95% of what they asked, because I knew they wouldn’t have asked if it wasn’t a problem.

Keeping in mind that what WAS there didn’t work, and the editors did a decent job of telling me why in their comments, I changed things to something I thought WOULD work. Most of the time, it was nothing like the suggestion made by the editor, but it still fit with their understanding of what was needed.

For me to refuse to change what needed changing smacked of laziness. I am the writer, I am the storyteller, I am the lassoer of words. I am the one lost in my own head, knowing already what I meant, and they are the ones hearing it fresh, and wondering what the hell I meant. They needed a change, and it’s my job to make sure that change reflects well on all of us. It’s my job to tell the story, and if I can tell a 93,000 word story about witches and politics, certainly I can find a few more to adjust clunky sentences, or scrap some to tighten a particular scene.

I just did it MY way, in a way that reflects my voice and my story and my intent. And that author whose blog I read gave me de facto permission to do so.

You’ll find lots of places where people give advice on saying no to your editor. If you’re traditionally published or published through a well-respected company who consistently puts out good work, trust your editor. If you’re self-publishing, research and investigate until you find an editor you trust. You should be working with an editor you trust, and once you get one, sincerely consider their advice.

I trust my editor. Like I said before, they are the professionals. How dare I think I know better?

So, here’s my advice: pick your battles and be creative. Find new ways to clarify and make sure the original is really important to you if you to keep it. Be prepared to defend why resistance is necessary. In the end, I kept two things, both were word changes in dialogue that, to me, showed something important about the character speaking. 2 out of 80. Much better.

My editor didn’t write back with a scathing email about my stubbornness, or how I didn’t do what they asked, in the way the asked it. I take that to mean that I make them predominantly happy in what I changed and how I changed it. I took out the things that didn’t work and replaced them with things that did. That was my job, my final contribution to my story. Final edits are done, and release is just a few months away.