When Is Your Editor The Biggest Pain In The Butt?

My first book was edited by five people. Not everyone has that luxury. I think it’s a luxury because you get to see your work through different eyes – and you get to make the final call by reviewing the options and choosing the ones that make the most sense for your plot and characters.


I can honestly say that all five of my editors contributed something meaningful to the final published work. Some of the editing was tedious, but I found the overall process invigorating and frequently enjoyable. It was extremely helpful to have them point out areas that warranted a second look. I would review the section in question to determine whether or not it would pass muster with a broader audience; in some cases a reference was too obscure or a joke too lame. I’m not sure I would have caught those weaknesses on my own.

My second book is not going as smoothly. So far I’ve had three editors, and they all seem to get caught up in their own lack of knowledge of my genre. They’re not contributing anything meaningful. It’s frustrating and it feels as though this book will never get out. I write comedic murder mysteries. They’re so hung up on making comments like “why would that character tell her so much when she’s not even a real detective?” Oh for god sake – get over it! Have you never read Agatha’s Christie’s famous Miss Marple? Did you never watch Jessica Fletcher solve every mystery on Murder, She Wrote?

Even under the best of circumstances editors can get under your skin. But a good editor is worth their weight in gold. Aside from the outlay of cash, the biggest potential risk to self-publishing is not making the effort to get good editors reviewing your work. I was convinced my manuscript was perfect on the first day it was submitted – it became so much better over the 18 month editing and proofing process.

Even though in hindsight I am so grateful for the editors of that first book, they still managed to frustrate the hell out of me. I think I shortened and lengthened the same sentences three or four times, and I know I moved commas out, over and back into the same places. Some of their comments were stupid and dated – but I knew enough to ignore those – albeit not without angst and bugging my publisher for permission. I think I was high maintenance!

As I look back on the experience of my first book – I would not trade the value my editors brought to the project even if I never had to move a comma. And even though my second book has not yet met with a successful editing experience, I still cannot emphasize the importance of good editors – now I just have to find some!

Donovan heads Bozell Books, a division of Bozell designed to help authors and budding authors from inception through promotion of their published work. She has authored a novel entitled: Is It Still Murder Even If She Was a Bitch? www.rldonovan.com, and the second in her Donna Leigh Mysteries series : I Didn't Kill Her But That May Have Been Short Sighted,  is currently being published.



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  • Thanks Kristen. Even though I'm jealous of your editor (I lived in Connecticut for many years) your comma comment makes me feel better. This time I am my own best editor - which is not ideal - but I'm tougher than I would have been last time - and I'm the best I've got! 

  • Kristen Elise

    Robin, she's truly fantastic. A lawyer and former senior editor of the Connecticut Law Review, she's now more interested in doing novels. I'm happy to say that mine was her first. When it comes out next month, you can take a peek and decide if the editing is what you're looking for. As I mentioned, she's a joy to work with and I only hope she doesn't become too busy to do my next one!

    And yes, you're right about commas - I think if it wasn't for commas, my novel would be out already! 

  • So true, Grace. I've learned a lot about editing and clearly I have a lot yet to learn. One thing I know though, no matter how many "professors" read my manuscript - no one is really sure where to put the commas - apparently myself included! 

  • Grace Peterson

    I've worked with several editors through the years. They're as unique as their fingerprints, aren't they? The editor of my newspaper garden column is very low-key. She doesn't mess with my work. But I'm meticulous to the point of anal before sending it to her. Out of the three anthologies pieces I've published, only one editor kept coming back to me for clarification and alterations. My book editor Deb was great. She saw so many things I missed.

    I enjoy the editing process. However, of the two, I prefer writer over editor. I don't envy them their work as much as I appreciate it. 

  • Kirsten you are making me so jealous! I didn't know such editors existed. How do I find one of those?

  • Kristen Elise

    I absolutely adore my editor, Cyndie Duncan. Not only does she have the eagle eye for detail that every author dreams of, but she's also able to offer every single criticism in a way that makes me think "wow, this is a great suggestion!" rather than taking it personally and getting offended. I think the latter skill is every bit as important as the former.

    Good luck!