“Finished” Products

My dad is turning out to be a terrible client for my new editing venture (sorry, Dad, but it’s true). Since this is my first time on the otherside of the writer/editor divide, I’m learning a lot about why editors get so frustrated with writers sometimes. We aren’t the mean baddies that I people make us out to be.

The issue with my dad, and perhaps with a lot of writers, is that he doesn’t know how to let his work be finished. Before he sent me his manuscript, he told me he was giving it a last thorough looking over and he was done with it. I would be able to work my editing magic on it and send it back with the changes. I began reading shortly after I received the book, on my birthday. He texted the next day that he was changing the opening of one chapter to add in some things. DAD! NO! When you submit it to the editor, you are supposed to be finished–ish.

From what I have gathered about this process, through reading blogs and other helpful resources, along with reading his manuscript, is making sure the chapters are correctly organized, word choice is superior, content flows/ is structured correctly from one point to another, transitions are smooth, and there are no gaping holes in the content. The only rewriting that should need to be done is to clarify or expand where necessary. I can offer suggestions, but I’m not writing the book, merely editing. I consider myself to be a literary nurse; he’s the doctor. Apparently, he’s one of those doctors who is always interrupting the nurse as she checks vitals to do another surgery (I don’t think such doctor’s exist, but it’s possible).

I have a hard time letting a piece be finished myself. I’ve talked about that here. However, there has to come a point in time when you decide you’ve taken the piece as far as you can without another set of eyes on it to read for clarity, continuity,  fluidity, and word choice. I submit to you that the time to be finished is before you send it to an editor.

But then, maybe I’m wrong on what an editor does. Maybe I’m making this too simple or too complex. Tell me about your experiences with editors, and when you consider a piece you are working on finished. I’d love to hear your thoughts!


5 thoughts on ““Finished” Products

  1. I understand your frustration. And believe me, I can completely sympathize. When you send your work out to an editor (be it a professional one, or someone you’re asking to help you edit it) you need to send out as complete a version as possible. If the writer rewrites the first chapter after sending you the manuscript and you beginning the process you have to start over again and will never get beyond “Chapter 1”.

    As editors, our job is, indeed, not to “rewrite” the book. If we have to rewrite the whole thing start to finish then likely we shouldn’t be considering the book for publication. Brushing up word choice, asking for clarification or expansion here and there, giving more explanation to bits of plot, all are perfectly acceptable editorial requirements. However, if the entire story needs to be juggled about, no company would consider editing it.

    As a friend / relative of an author in process, I can understand the pressing need to be willing to help. My father (oddly enough) is also writing a manuscript and I can’t count the number of times he’s come flying into my room to show me his latest changes. At one point I told him that I didn’t want to read anything else he’d written until he was finished with the book because I was sick of reading the same three pages over and over with different window dressing.

    Now, as a writer, I write until I feel the piece is finished. Then I sit on it a little while, think about it, re-read it, and decide if it’s done. If I decide “Yes, I think that’s just about right” I send it to a few friends. If their reactions are positive I’ll send it in for publication.

    Doubtlessly after the point of sending it in for publication, I am finished putting my grubby mits on it until the editor gets back to me with what changes need to be made. If they don’t include the changes that I think are important (say I realize that I’ve left out half a chapter explaining the nature of doohickeys that show up later) I ask them, “Should I add this?” and if they say “No!” I let it ride.

    Letting your baby be done is always difficult, it’s like being a parent watching your children grow up. The truth is that’s part of the reason many actors and actresses never watch the movies they’re in. It’s also why once I’m done with a story I generally put it down and don’t read it again. I’ll find mistakes or things I’d change and drive myself into a frenzy. While I’m very much in favor of being perfectionist when writing, once it’s done and you decide that “The End” is truly finished… don’t touch it until your editor tells you to.

    • Yes, this is exactly how I feel about it! It’s so frustrating to have him changing things at the last minute. I know how hard it is to let go and say you’re done, but it has to be done at some point in time.

      I was supposed to be sending out a short story of mine to be considered for publication, but I am holding off while I work through whether or not to add in something. I haven’t even sent it to my writing buddy yet for her feedback, because I’m not “done” (even though I thought I was!). It wouldn’t be fair to send it and then change it all around. I’m sure that no publication would accept that, either.

      Good luck with your dad’s manuscript and your writing! Thanks for commenting. 😀

  2. Pingback: To submit or not to submit « Dragonfly Scrolls

  3. Pingback: To submit or not to submit | Kim Koning

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