Working with an editor can be a funny thing. Often, a writer will send work to an editor, ostensibly understanding the purpose of the editorial process—that is, to make the work tighter, clearer, better.
But then, once the editor returns the work, the writer is appalled to find that it’s different from what he or she submitted. The editor has made changes to the text! What audacity!
Of course, if the editor didn’t make changes, then there wouldn’t be much point to the editing process at all. Still, seeing your manuscript marked up with red ink can be a little vexing; you obviously have an emotional attachment to your work, and while you want it to be the best it can be, you also want it to hold true to your original vision.
So what should a writer do upon receiving significant changes from an editor? Here are our tips.
Coping with Editorial Changes
First, analyze the changes. Take some time to really go through the revisions and to consider why they were made. You may even need to give yourself a day or two of distance, to get your emotions in check. What you’ll probably find, though, is that the changes were made to render the work clear and concise. Your editor is on the same team, after all, and just wants your writing to shine. Chances are, the changes made don’t alter your original message; most are probably relatively minor things that just make the work that much better.
Choose your battles. With that said, you don’t want to go to war with your editor over every tiny revision made to your manuscript—but if you feel like the changes actually alter the message or spirit of your work, or miss the point of it altogether, that’s when you should push back—gently! Which brings us to…
Be kind! No need to blow your stack and send the editor a nasty email. Instead, be polite and clear in articulating why you’re not comfortable with the changes. Explain your intention with the work, and then how those changes compromise your vision. More likely than not, your editor will be able to work with you to find a good place to meet in the middle.
Remember that an editor’s revisions are suggestions, not prescriptions. It’s still your work, and nobody’s forcing you to accept changes you’re just not comfortable with. You can graciously decline a piece of feedback that you feel misses the point of your work. With that said, if you find yourself declining every suggested change, that may be a sign that you’re not getting the most out of the writer-editor relationship.