Really—you should. If you don’t hate your editor at some point, someone’s not doing her job very well.
Let me explain.
This weekend was tough. I edited a Shift in the Air for Patricia D. Eddy. Patricia is an author, and she’s also an editor. My editor, as a matter of fact. Not only was I honored when she asked to work with me, I was also kind of thrilled. I mean, she reads my shit drafts before they’re finished, so day-umm, I must have something good going on, amiright?
Let’s hang onto that hope for now.
It’s one thing to edit for someone who values editing and knows you can help them. I’d be lying if I said you don’t feel a bit like a divine being, guiding the author out of the shadows to discover the bright light of their story’s sun. It rocks hard, and I love the moment an author sees something incredible that they can further develop in their book.
Editing for someone whom you respect and admire so much you trust them with your own written work?
Not for the faint of heart.
This job isn’t easy. You weigh your own subjective opinions against sort-of objective truths of story growth, character development, and narrative mechanics. You evaluate tone and themes based on the author’s previous work, the current reading climate, and the expected genre tropes. And when you finish your analysis, you have to craft a letter that explains your feedback and offers concrete reasons to take it seriously, all while not insulting or confusing anyone.
Standing before a firing squad might be preferable, some days.
I could have gone easy on my editor. I could have told her that a few things needed to be tweaked, glossed over some minor issues, and made her smile. She’s got a great smile, so believe me—that would have been preferable.
Instead, I told her the truth to the best of my ability as an expert in my field. I gave her some tough feedback—it’s never fun to be criticized. Less so from someone you want to see your best work. And this isn’t an easy story to write–it’s complex with previous stories and rich lore to weave in. The characters are nuanced and damaged, with real pain and terrifying odds.
She took it like the professional I know her to be. That doesn’t mean it didn’t sting or that she didn’t want to rail at me. I’m pretty sure I saw a wild gleam in her eye a time or two…
But she didn’t hire me to flatter her ego or poke a few sticks at her story. She didn’t ask me to give it a look-see and let her know if she should improve anything. No, she picked me because she wanted me to take a dang water hose to it and see if anything leaked. To smack it around and check if anything knocked loose. To review it with my harshly critical eye and be honest.
Did I mention I love my job? Because giving someone I truly value that feedback didn’t feel all that great. And I was suddenly very glad we live on opposite sides of the country.
However, it was a timely reminder that we don’t pay our editors to love us, no matter how friendly we are with them. We contract them to kick our asses. To be brutal and straightforward. To save us from ourselves…and from harsh reviews from readers.
Essentially, we hire people we’re going to hate down the road. At least for a little while. Because once the pain wears off, the ache to fix our stories sets in. Our egos take shaky breaths and peek over the fortifications. Our imaginations shrug off the blow and get to work.
And amazing things happen. Our stories get better—like, way better. And the sun shines like a beaming ray of approval on our novel, and we know without a doubt, we wrote something incredible.
It’s okay to hate your editor—really, we can take it. If detesting us helps you create awesome, we’re got effigies available for you—just ask. Because I promise you that every editor I know would rather you not like them during the rewrite, than wonder what the hell happened when the bad reviews pour in.
So really, hate me when you need to. I’d be worried if you didn’t.