Please join the Chicks in welcoming Liz Milliron, author of the Laurel Highlands Mysteries. Leave a comment below to be entered into the giveaway for a copy of book one, ROOT OF ALL EVIL.
The Dreaded Red Pen
Before I was offered my book contract, the publisher had a few questions. I expected them, especially the ones about social media and marketing. But I stumbled when I got to this one:
“Would you be willing to accept editorial changes?”
My first reaction, I admit was, “What kind of question is that? Of course I’ll take feedback to make it the best book it can be.”
I wondered: do writers really refuse edits? And then, like all those ridiculous warnings we read about, (“do not use your hair dryer in the shower”) I realized the reason the question is asked is because yes, there are writers who refuse edits. Who resist even the teeniest change to their precious words.
To them I say…good luck.
I mean, I think I’m a pretty good writer. I’ve had a few short stories accepted in fairly big-deal places (Blood on the Bayou and Mystery Most Historical, from Bouchercon and Malice Domestic respectively). But even though the stories were good enough for acceptance, they benefitted from a good editor. Like the editor for “Home Front Homicide” in Mystery Most Historical, who asked how the pavement could steam in the midday sun when at the beginning of the scene I said it was early morning? Good catch.
Even editing Root of All Evil, a book I’d been over with countless people during the course of two years. I had two Thursdays. There were logic holes, albeit small ones. I had scenes where I’d said one thing, only to say something slightly different two scenes later.
Line editing found all my overused words, suggested better words, and offered “this might be more interesting if you do X instead of Y.” I always had the discretion to ignore the edits of course, but you know what? Nine times out of ten, the editors were spot on.
The reality is, the best idea in the world can benefit from constructive feedback. Sometimes this is critique partners or beta readers. But the beauty of a professional editor is this is a person who is trained to see the flaws, the holes, the places where a little tweak takes something from “good” to “outstanding.” Yeah, the writer has to come up with the idea and put in the sweat equity to get the words on the page. But a good editor is worth their weight in gold. If the writer is willing, their work goes up in quality – even when it was good quality to start with.
Now, I admit. Some “editors” change a writer’s content to match their own vision. I’m not sure those are really editors, or at least not good ones. A good editor isn’t trying to impose her vision on the story. She leaves the vision to the writer; her job is to help the writer elevate her craft. I’ve been blessed to work with a lot of great editors, including my editors at Level Best (Harriette Sackler and Shawn Reilly Simmons). I count two of them as close friends. In every case, they’ve made my stories that much better, sometimes with the smallest of suggestions.
And really, who doesn’t want to be better?
Readers, do you have someone who fills the role of “helping you be better”? Who? One random commenter will win their choice of a signed print copy of Root of All Evil or ebook (Kindle or Nook). US entries only, please.
Liz Milliron has been making up stories, and creating her own endings for other people’s stories, for as long as she can remember. She survived growing up through reading, cutting her mystery teeth on Agatha Christie, Mary Higgins Clark and, of course, Nancy Drew. As an adult, she finds escape from the world of software documentation through creating her own fictional murder and mayhem. She lives near Pittsburgh with her husband and two teenage children, and fantasizes about owning a dog – one of these days. (Headshot courtesy of www.erinmclainstudio.com)
For more information, please visit www.lizmilliron.com.