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My first experience with a book editor


paper with writing with a red pen and lots of edits

Back before I decided to jump head-first into my poetry journey, I was on a kid-lit journey. I love writing children's stories just as much as I love poetry. So I thought, why not see how this goes first?


I researched how to format a children's book. I wrote the manuscript (first on my Freewrite Traveler) and ran it by a bunch of writing friends, writing groups, and random people. I wanted to pursue traditional publishing then, so I thought it would be helpful to run my manuscript by a professional book editor before querying any agents. As a new writer, I assumed there would be some suggestions and a few critiques. But I never figured there would be enough edits to derail my querying plans entirely and tear my story to pieces.


Now, I know what you're thinking: She's about to trash editors. On the contrary, book editors are a crucial part of the publishing journey for authors. I wholeheartedly believe that no writer should edit their own work. Below, I'll cover a few lessons I learned from my first editing experience and what to do before you send off your work.


First off, is my paper bleeding?

Like most new authors, I completely underestimated the number of edits to expect from my first manuscript. I was excited when I sent my book baby off in an email. I couldn’t wait to get the edits back so I could make the changes and quickly send my query letters into the world.


What I didn’t expect was all the red. Lots and lots of red.


Lots of 'delete this', lots of comment bubbles, lots of strikethroughs. I wrote a children’s book. A silly, happy story. But by the end of the edits, it looked like my book had been murdered. That’s not very kid-friendly.


There were comments on every line, questions I hadn’t even thought to ask about my characters, suggestions that could require me to rewrite the whole book, and critiques that made my face red and my head want to explode. I thought one of two things must be true: this was either the worst editor I could have picked or my book was nothing but utter garbage.


Obviously, those are both extremes. Neither one of these statements holds any weight, not that you could have convinced my writer brain otherwise at the time. When the book you worked on for months is picked apart to the bone, you start to get a little defensive. I must suck as a writer.


The ‘cool off’ period

After reaching out to one of my favorite writers and supporters of my writing journey to date, Christine Weimer of Our Galaxy Publishing, I realized I may have overreacted a bit. Or, a lot.


She encouraged me that the number of edits I received were normal. The suggestions were spot on for what a book editor does. The questions were necessary for character development. There were scenes in my book that needed more detail or less. Even the title (which I had never questioned) was misleading; it made readers think the book was about something it wasn’t.


I realized I had a lot more to think about when it came to the story I wanted to tell, so I put my book aside. It was difficult, but I didn’t look at it or change anything. I wanted to return to my book with fresh eyes, without the influence of defensive/panic monsters in my head.


After a week, I finally took out my manuscript again. I went to the library with some essentials: A massive water cup, a large caramel latte, my lunch bag filled with snacks, pens, and highlighters, my Traveler (just in case more ideas came to mind), headphones, and, of course, my bloody manuscript. I was ready to comb through the editor’s critiques.


She was right. I had a lot to work on in my book. The concept was cute, but it could be so much more. My book could be better—way better. And the ideas for how I could do that started to flow in.


I went into this experience thinking I was open to critiques of my work. What I realized was I wasn’t, really. I wasn't open to the level of critique I asked for, the ones I needed if I wanted to become a published writer.


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Pin photo: Tips for new writers, working with an editor


Important lessons learned

Everyone is going to have a different experience when it comes to working with an editor, especially depending on what type of book you're writing. For children’s books, it’s a little easier to break apart your character and rearrange scenes than with a novel. However, some of the lessons I learned can be applied to any and all genres.


Don’t let the red scare you

Book editors are literally combing through every bit of your book with a different set of eyes. They will tell you what makes sense, what doesn’t, and what is missing from a point of view you can never really jump into. As writers, we see things in our heads that don’t always translate onto paper. Editors help us to find the holes.


Research your book editor

My editor was very clear about her critique style on her website. I literally just did not read it before I sought out her services. She advertises herself as a tough, straightforward, no-mess-around editor. Well, she was right. If I had read that before I read my edits, I probably would not have been so dramatic.


Know what type of critiques you’re looking for before you send your work. What works for one writer may not be helpful for another.


Cooling off is gold.

Personally, I thought the ‘cool off’ period was necessary. If I had come right back and started working on my book, I would not have had the same flow of ideas I did after waiting. I would have changed less, become more defensive, or possibly just deleted the entire document. Take your time; let it settle. It’s not a race.


Ask questions

When I went through my edits, there were some comments that I just didn’t get. Ask about them. Don’t assume or ask others to explain it. Ask the editor directly so you know what was going through their mind when they made the critique. It might surprise you.


Your reader is not a mind reader

A book editor is not going to know what you were thinking when you wrote the book. They are not going to see your characters as you do in your head. In fact… no one is! There were certain parts of my book where I literally thought, Well, isn’t that obvious? No, it’s not. You have to show it.


Edits are your friend

Every step of the editing process should make your story richer, more unique. I could have said Thanks lady, but I like my book how it is, started querying, and called it a day. But I don’t want any book in my hand–I want the best book I can write. I want it to be a book others talk about, not just another book to add to my shelf.


You’ll learn what you love

Just because an editor makes a suggestion does not mean you have to take it. Sure, some of the suggestions are made for marketing purposes, ones you should consider to be competitive in your niche. But others may not be as serious, more of a style preference. Working with someone who is looking at every little detail helps you determine what is truly important in your book and what you can go without.


Embrace the editing process

The editing process is slightly daunting. I’m not looking forward to going through it again when my next draft is done, but it’s part of the deal if you want to be a writer. What I will say is when my book is finally finished, and when it’s in my hand for good, I’ll know I did my absolute best to get it there.


You got this dreamer,

Shell



Disclaimer: This blog contains Amazon Affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases to help fund my dream of being a published author and poet. I love and appreciate you so much!



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The Writer

Welcome! I'm a poet, author, mother, and dreamer of creative works, sharing my writing journey for all to see. My work is raw, honest, and not always pretty. I cover the darker elements of motherhood and being a woman, finding beauty in the shadows despite the smoke screens we like to build to shield them. 
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