Kootenai River in NW Montana, near Canadian Border

Kootenai River in NW Montana, near Canadian Border
photo by Gene Tunick of Eureka, Montana

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Tip O'Day #389 – Kill Your Editor?

Guest blogger Feather Stone discusses finding a critical eyes for your manuscript.

Until I actually hired one, I believed it was an editor's job to make the corrections, make my novel perfect. I had researched the list of editors and selected five whose interest was in my novel's genre. After interviewing each one, I selected the editor who I believed best suited my needs. We seemed to be compatible and her price fit my budget. We signed a contract and met after she read my masterpiece. I was prepared for glowing comments.

"It's going to take a lot of work," she remarked without enthusiasm.

I slumped in my chair. Crestfallen, I listened to the list of issues with the characters and the plot. She pointed out important areas that I had glossed over leaving the reader confused. And, she hated the ending.

"But otherwise," she brightened, "it is well written. It's got intrigue and a lot of potential. I'll work with you if you're willing to put in the work."

Okay, my naivety just got a kick in the pants. I'd spent five years creating something that came from my soul. I wasn't about to give up. My editor and I met once a month. Each paragraph was dissected mercilessly. Everything from the time of the sunrise in Acapulco to details of each scene, action, and dialogue had to be in synch with the whole.

When the editor told me to reduce the manuscript by half, I sat speechless. "If an action, character, dialogue, or scene does not add to the plot or the climax, get rid of it," she insisted.

She was right. All of my instructors had been clear that publishers are reluctant to accept large manuscripts from unpublished authors. The toil of deleting paragraphs, sometimes entire chapters was painful. Not just because beautiful scenes were being cut, but that process was complicated and exacting. If a scene or action was deleted in one area, it likely affected scenes before or after. Another two years of rewrites went by.

Then came the assignments. The shocker was to write a detailed biography of each of the main characters. At this point, I checked the contract to find the "kill the editor" clause. However, it was probably the best advice she gave. Through this process, the characters became alive. Their birth, education, goals, drives, weaknesses, sins, strengths were spelled out. Some of these traits never actually appeared within the story. However, I was able to more instinctively know what and how each one would react, say, feel in all their circumstances. The result was the reader had a more intimate experience with each character. After another year of continuous rewrites, the manuscript was ready to send to a publisher.

The education I received from my editor was worth every penny, and more. My grammar still needs improvement. But I'm now more aware what words are typically over used. And, if something can be said in one sentence, it will have more impact than said in an entire paragraph.

There are hundreds of websites that provide support to writers. Other authors are often happy to offer guidance. Find a support group of writers who will critique your work. Be sure to check your ego at the door. They can be just as tough as a paid editor. But, in the end, that's exactly what you need. A critical eye will polish your work, making you the author of the next best seller.

In the end I'm glad I didn't kill the editor. Besides, it would have looked bad on my book's author bio.

Here’s the link to Feather’s novel The Guardian's Wildchild. Also, check out her website.


  1. A well written post from the heart. An editor can certainly make or break a book. Keep on writing, and I enjoyed your post.

  2. Thanks, Dixon, for posting my article. I am so grateful to my editors, both the first one and the editors at Omnific, all who performed magic and made my book shine.