You are God.
Nifty, huh? You speak from on high and characters dance to your every whim. Princesses marry peasants, spaceships travel trillions of miles in an instant—the universe is yours to command.
And then someone tells you to scale back. To fix your perfect design. To rewrite the third act. You kick, you scream, you cross your arms and stand in the corner, but in the end they’re right. There’s something flawed in your world, something to fix. You couldn’t see it because you were too close.
We need editors.
We need them because we are an imperfect god. A god who misses details, who drops comma instead of periods, semi-colons instead of hyphens, blue-eyes instead of gray. The best writer in the world is still a flawed creator.
But what do you do when the editor is wrong?
Step the First: Make Sure You Know What You’re Talking About.
Not that I don’t trust you but…really? Are they wrong? Really?
Okay, okay. Sheesh. They’re wrong.
But here’s the thing, assuming you have a good editor (you do have a good editor, right?), most of these folks really know their stuff. It’s fine if you want to ignore commas because it’s your style, but make sure that’s the actual reason. (Hint: because Stephen King does it is not a valid reason.)
An editor has a reason for coloring your prose—they’re trying to make it better. First time I saw an editor take a red pen to one of my babies my knee-jerk reaction was to put my fingers in my ears and start singing. It was ugly.
But let’s say you do know what you’re talking about, and that poor editor is in fact the Wrong Master of Wrongingsville. That brings us to…
Step the Second: Check With Someone Who Knows Their Shit.
Your editor just told you to cut the sub-plot with the lascivious marmots. You love that damn sub-plot. A marmot’s love is not to be ignored. In your heart you’re sure you’ve done the right thing, you know it, you feel it…but how to be sure?
Check with your beta-readers (important corollary : if you’re at the editing phase and you’ve never shown your story to beta-readers, stop, get in the car, drive to the nearest coffee shop, grab a white chocolate mocha–cause mmmm….good–then get some beta-readers).
The editor is only one person, after all. Sure, their job is to make your turd-patty shine like an aftermarket cubic zirconia, but they’re not omniscient. See what your fellow writers/readers think about those lusty marmots.
And if you can’t find a single person to agree with you…well…you’re just not looking hard enough.
Step the Final: Talk to Your Editor and See if They’ll Change Their Mind.
Editors are people. Just like agents and publishers, if you cut them they’ll bleed. If you tempt them with delicious scotch they’ll drink to excess and fall into a pile of their own sick. We’re all human, right?
Email your editor and see if they’ll entertain the notion that maybe, just maybe they’re wrong. Talk it out. Get where they’re coming from and mull it over.
(Are you mulling? Yes? K, we’ll move on.)
Nope. Editor is still wrong.
Well, to get back to the original point, this is your story, and in the end you’re the one held responsible for its success or failure. You’ve got to ride with your gut, my friend. Those instincts have been honed over years of whisky binges and rejection tears. Time to use them.
Now it’s your turn to share your stories below. When you have you ignored the editor?