Respecting the Author’s Voice in Editing

Respecting the Author's Voice in EditingAn editor’s work on a manuscript is something that should never be obvious to a reader. In fact, the only time a reader should even think about editing is when it isn’t there or isn’t very good.

When an author who is shopping for editorial services contacts me, one of the points I stress is my commitment to respecting that author’s voice.

Whether you’re a seasoned professional or you’re venturing into publishing for the first time, your voice deserves respect. As your editor, my job is to help you remove confusion, suggest improvements, and polish your words—not rewrite your manuscript.

An editor’s work on a manuscript is something that should never be obvious to a reader.… Click To Tweet

The second item on that list—suggesting improvements—can be challenging for an editor, especially during content or line editing. In theory, a manuscript is well structured by the time a writer is ready for that phase; in reality, I often work on projects where more developmental work is necessary, and sometimes it’s tempting to urge a writer to change direction,  improve a plot line, or rewrite a character.

Editorial advice can be a turning point for a writer, an “aha” moment that allows the writer to see something she didn’t see before that helps all the pieces fall into place. But sometimes, too much input can spell disaster because too many cooks really can spoil the soup.

A case in point is author Laura Lanni. I had the honor of working with Laura on her debut novel, Or Not to Be, which will be available on November 11, 2014. I wasn’t the first editor Laura worked with; the manuscript had been through multiple drafts, revisions, beta readers, and professional editors before I was hired.

Or Not to Be front cover galleyThe amount of previous editing the manuscript had been through was obvious from my first read: the plot was tight, the characters intriguing, the descriptions detailed yet crisp. I was excited to work on a manuscript that was so close to being ready for publication.

And when I learned the back story of Laura’s writing journey, I was a bit surprised that she was willing to trust me to “play with her words” because doing so previously had set her down a dark path.

Laura writes:

When I found out the magic formula for getting my story ready to publish, I looked for my team. I found readers, a critique group, a small press, an agent, another small press, a cover designer, an editor, another editor. The number of people who touched my book before it was ready to publish was astounding. Now I understand better how my favorite books were polished and buffed before they landed in my hands.

There was a pivotal time when I took my book back from the team. Something felt wrong. Too many hands in the pot, molding and changing the story. Too much change, reorganization, loss of voice. That was a challenging time—when I was finally strong enough to recognize that my judgment was vital for this story which was born in my mind.

The next revisions were solo. I cut and reorganized, and found the kernel of my love story. I carved away parts. I worked more on scene order. More revisions followed. Some submissions. Some interest. Some heartache. The story went back to my first readers and then off to the fresh pair of eyes of a new, handpicked editor.”

Yup, that new editor was me, but at the time, I didn’t know everything that happened before I began working on the manuscript. I did make some suggestions for changes, and Laura, who by then knew exactly what her book needed to be and where it was going, said yes to some and no to others. The end result was a collaborative effort that allowed me to help her polish the diamond until it sparkled while giving her the final assurance that the story she would soon publish was the one she’d dreamed of.

*****

Woo hoo! My copy of Or Not to Be Arrived today!
Woo hoo! My copy of Or Not to Be arrived today!

Lucky me—a special gift arrived in the mail a few days ago: an advance reader’s copy of Or Not to Be! If you’ve published a book, you know how exciting it is to hold a printed copy in your hands . . . well, it’s exciting for your editor, too, believe me!

I’m so excited that I have to share a sneak peak, and you can also read the first three chapters on Goodreads here (and sign up for the first Goodreads Giveaway) or on Laura’s blog (post title One More Month).

In a universe where time and space are limitless, where each person has one deathday per year, and where the deathday is a two-way portal, Anna finds herself suddenly on the dead side, facing the choice between death and life.

About the book: 

Alive, Anna considered leaving her husband. Dead, she naively believes she has escaped this difficult choice. How cruel for relationship problems to tag along to the dead side.

On November eleventh, Anna Wixim, mother of two, number geek and palindrome seeker, finds herself dead at forty-four. While wandering the universe and watching her family grieve, Anna learns that the two-way portal between her life and death remains wide open. Still, Anna hesitates to return to the man she loves. She has many reasons, real and imagined, to hesitate. The universe is full of wonder; time is boundless; she doesn’t have to do laundry. And her husband doesn’t want her back.

Based on his own experience in crossing a yawning space-time gap, her husband, Eddie, understands the rules of the universe, including Anna’s free choice to come back to him. He also knows that she doubts his love because he forgot to say that he loved her—for twenty years. On top of that, he wasn’t even nice for the last two months of her life. Don’t judge. It wasn’t fair for the universe to reveal Anna’s deathday to him. Eddie couldn’t function, couldn’t have a conversation or take a full breath, faced each year with the relentless approach of November eleventh.

Available 11/11 on Kindle and in paperback here.

About the Author:

By day, Laura Lanni teaches organic chemistry and oversees her undergraduate research laboratory. When not teaching or writing, she can be found working with writers in her critique group, running, hugging her grandchildren, riding a jet-ski, blogging, and baking.

*****

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.

9 thoughts on “Respecting the Author’s Voice in Editing”

  1. Sounds like an interesting story!

    Everything you’ve said here is so true. One of the things I like best about publishing my own work is being able to choose the right editor who respects an author’s voice (and being able to accept or reject any suggested changes). I’m so glad Laura found you. Congratulations to both of you on almost-relase!

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Kate. I agree with you—one of the best parts of choosing to self-publish is maintaining control and being able to make the choices that are best for you and your book. Thanks for the kudos, and I hope you’ll have a chance to check out Laura’s book—it’s truly a winner!

  2. Your initial point on respecting the author’s voice is so important. I’ve run into a number of writers who fear the editor will gut their manuscript and try to rewrite it. That’s why it is so critical to talk to your prospective editor to make sure she understands the role of an editor. Once that trust is secured, the editor is the writer’s best friend.

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