An Editor’s Skill Set, Part III: Feedback

editor feedback

Anyone who writes appreciates how much work it is—in fact, the better the writing, the more likely that writer has spent many hundreds—even thousands—of hours working to hone his or her skills. Yet, no matter how experienced the writer, one skill in particular that must be honed (but is often undervalued) is the ability to learn from constructive criticism. Unless your writing is hidden away under lock and key, you need a thick skin: as a writer, you need to learn how to deal with feedback.

In this final part of a three-part series on an editor’s skill set (If you missed them, here are Part I: Research, Observation, and Brevity and Part II: Accuracy and Honesty), I’ll share my thoughts about how your resilience as a writer relates to the editing work I do.

In my humble opinion, a writer writes because he or she has no choice but to write.

If writing is your passion, if you can’t survive without it (even when the words don’t want to come), if writing is your lifeline/hobby/therapy/getaway/drug of choice, then you must write. Plaster affirmations around your writing area to motivate yourself when you have writer’s block, and find someone who believes in you to give you pep talks when you need them.

Most of all, believe in yourself, even if you aren’t yet good enough to be published. If you write, you are a writer, and you don’t need a publishing contract or a book to prove that to anyone.

If you write, you are a writer, and you don’t need a publishing contract or a book to prove… Click To Tweet

My job as your editor

When I put on my editor’s hat, I keep in mind what has gone into writing the manuscript I’m working on. I didn’t agonize over those words for days or weeks or months—you did that, and I have a great deal of respect for your creative process.

But you hire an editor to help you make those words the best they can be, so part of my job is to let you know when I think something doesn’t work.

I know as well as anyone how difficult it is to hear criticism of your work. But it is important to be open to new ideas if you want to produce the best work possible and grow as a writer.

When I give you my editorial opinion, it is just that—my opinion—but it is influenced by my experience as a professional editor. That’s why you decide to hire an editor in the first place, right? You’re not paying me to merely issue a stream of compliments (though I do love to give them whenever they are deserved)—you hire a professional editor to help you see things you didn’t see, offer ideas you might not have considered, and polish your work.

But I get it: knowing that doesn’t make criticism—even constructive criticism—any easier to swallow.

My advice to writers when they get back their edited manuscripts is to take a deep breath, read through the edits with as much emotional distance as possible, and remember that your editor wants your work to be the best it can be. Suggestions—whether to restructure a scene, delete a character, add a sentence, or change a word—are all made from the educated viewpoint of a professional who has a good understanding of what works and what doesn’t.

 You can please some of the people some of the time, all of the people some of the time, some of the people all of the time, but you can never please all of the people all of the time.”—Abraham Lincoln

One of life’s most difficult lessons is that not everyone will love you or what you do—and that’s okay. As a writer, take the constructive part of whatever feedback you receive and learn from it to become an even better writer. When I work with you, I consider myself a member of your writing team, and team members have the same goal: to create the best possible product.

When your product is something as personal as your writing, it can be difficult not to take criticism as a personal affront, but the beauty of working with an editor is that you have the opportunity to polish your writing with someone who is rooting for you and offers constructive feedback, not criticism. Work with your editor or writing coach to understand how making those changes will strengthen your writing, and you’ll find yourself growing as a writer. That’s money well spent!

Happy Writing,

—Candace

Image courtesy of Theeradech Sanin / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

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Candace Johnson is a professional freelance editor, proofreader, writer, ghostwriter, and writing coach who has worked with traditional publishers, self-published authors, and independent book packagers on nonfiction subjects ranging from memoirs to alternative medical treatments to self-help, and on fiction ranging from romance to paranormal. As an editorial specialist, Candace is passionate about offering her clients the opportunity to take their work to the next level. She believes in maintaining an author’s unique voice while helping him or her create and polish every sentence to make it the best it can be. Learn more here.

For more great writing and publishing information, check out Change It Up Editing and Writing Services on Facebook, where I share interesting articles and links about writing and publishing.

7 thoughts on “An Editor’s Skill Set, Part III: Feedback”

  1. Wonderful post. I think it’s very hard for newbies to take criticism and also to cotton on the concept of hiring an editor. I think there is the magic aura that surrounds “the writer,” and they think (I know I did), that if my ms needs that much editing I must NOT be a writer. Real talented writer’s don’t need that much editing. Such a fallacy. Thanks for letting us know what you do and how kindly you do it! I hope all those self-publishing and pre-published authors are listening!

  2. I might have said this before here, but even when you don’t agree with a criticism, you can usually find value in it on some level. For example, if you think your editor or beta reader missed the point in a passage of text and that the resultant criticism is off-target, it could still mean that the passage needs to be reworked for clarity.

  3. For me, constructive criticism isn’t so much an affront to my ego as a death warrant sentencing me to more hard work. That’s probably the wrong attitude, but we all know how difficult it can be when you’ve made the words the best you can to be told that you must do better – particularly when you don’t know exactly how to make them better.

    Candace did a manuscript evaluation for me last year and took a look at some revisions I had made to the first chapter after that. I KNEW her notes were right, but they were pushing at the bounds of some of my preconceived notions and I had a really hard time figuring out how to make my writing what it needs to be. I studied her edits over and over, but I don’t think they really sunk in until I stepped away from the manuscript for a few months. After that time off, not only have I latched on to some concrete ways to improve, but I have also regained my enthusiasm for the story.

    It sucks to see your pages marked up with red and realize you have more work to do, but those red marks and the hard work all help you and your story grow stronger.

  4. This was a great series, Candace. I think growing a thick skin is essential, and in most cases it only comes as a writer gains experience. I’ve found the more I share, the easier it becomes to accept criticism. Even if I have to return to the critique weeks or months later before revising, that’s what I do to establish some emotional distance. By then my skills have developed a bit more, the piece is not swimming in my conscious mind, and I can see it for what it is.

    Do you think you could do a post sometime on the value of critique partners or beta readers? I know what I think, but I’d love to learn from your professional editor’s POV.

  5. Great advice, Candace! I like your perspective on editing. I once heard an experienced editor compare the editor role to that of a midwife. You need to remember that the manuscript is someone else’s baby (not yours) and that it is precious to them. At the same time, you are there to make sure that the delivery of the work is successful, so you need to provide constructive criticism. (And hope that the writer considers your advice!)

  6. When I was young, my mother told me something that you touched on in your post. She told me, “not everyone you meet life will like you, but that’s okay…just be yourself and you’ll bring the right people into your life.”
    I’ve never forgotten her advice and it’s carried over into my writing.
    I agree with Eric’s comment that if you don’t agree with a comment from a critique partner, perhaps more work is needed for clarity.
    Great series, Candace!

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