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How to survive being edited

There’s this funny thing about publishing where many people know what happens (a nice book comes out at the end), but not many people really know what happens (what are the stages?). It’s quite an interesting journey from just writing down the words in your head to putting it into coherent sentences, paragraphs and chapters. And then, after all that hard work is done, you need to hand it off to other people to mark it up with red pen. Hopefully, I’m going to shed a little bit of light onto certain areas of publishing so the journey doesn’t seem so foggy.

For most (if not all) writers, editing is the first step. This is the moment you let someone else read your book in full, make comments and suggestions, and cringe at all the markings telling you to ‘rearrange the manuscript so the reader can understand you better’. It’s often the time when you honestly have this debate with yourself on whether or not the reader actually matters, but it always comes down to the simple answer of, ‘yes, the reader matters completely’.

In this stage of the production process, you can think of your editor as your own, personal, professional reader. These individuals have the ability to read a chapter and tell you not only whether or not the material makes sense, but whether it’s relevant, can be shortened, is in the right voice, is in the right spot in the book, needs to be expanded on, needs to be more specific, needs to be a bit more vague, and so on. The editor is aware of any concept you are trying to express in your book and this is why it is the first step. How can you expect your book to move forward if a chapter is in the wrong place? It can often be the most painful stage because each change can feel like a stab to the heart. You put so much time into this, and someone has the nerve to say that a part doesn’t work?

The only way to survive this stage of the process is to keep your ego out of it. You can’t produce a good book if the only people who have read it and liked it are yourself and a close relative or confidant. The key to this stage is like any relationship: communication. Editors are generally reasonable folk and only want what’s best for your book, so if there’s something you think is a good idea, voice it. There’s nothing wrong with making a stand, but respect their response in return.

The beauty of editors nowadays is the speed and efficiency with which we can work with them. Computers and the joys of the Internet have made passing PDFs and Word documents back and forth easy. There are also some online platforms that help with communication between two people. Find a method that works best for the two of you and finish that book!

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