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What if I disagree with my editor’s feedback?

Last week, I shared a blog about how to make sure you and your editor are on the same page. If you missed it, you can read it here.

Although the tips I shared in that blog are helpful in ensuring:

  • your editor knows what you are looking for; and
  • you know what to expect,

it is still possible that you won’t always agree with your editor’s feedback.

So, what do you do if you don’t agree with your editor’s changes?

The answer is “it depends”, and here are tips for navigating that situation:

Recognise their expertise but retain your authority as the author.

You are working with your editor for a reason. They are there to support you to bring the best possible version of your book to life.

As such, it is important that you remember they have expertise that are valuable to you, and their advice is worth taking into consideration.

However, this doesn’t mean that you defer to every suggestion your editor makes. As the author, it is your name on the cover, so you need to be completely satisfied with the content of your book.

When I wrote my book, I asked my editor to identify any sentences that came across as too academic. I was mindful that I had spent a lot of time doing academic writing and it was likely that, if left to my own devices, I would lapse into academic-speak.

As requested, she identified a few phrases that could have been deemed academic. When I considered her feedback, I decided that:

  • I agreed with her that the phrases she had identified could be considered academic; BUT
  • I wanted to leave them as they were.

By choosing to leave my phrases as they were, I wasn’t saying that my editor was incorrect in identifying them as potentially “problematic” (according to the criteria I had given her).

Rather, I appreciated her pointing them out to me, so I could evaluate them from the perspective of, “They could come across as academic to the reader, is that ok?” And for me, it was.

Here are some ways to decide whether or not to accept the suggested changes, or leave your work in its original form:

  1. If the change/s relate to rules of punctuation, grammar, or structure:

Check which style the editor is using. It could be that their point of reference is different to yours, so a simple clarification around this issue will be helpful.

As your editor, they are duty-bound to identify any breaches of writing convention.

However, if you have your reasons for over-ruling them: it’s your book, so it’s no problem (they won’t have their feelings hurt, I promise!).

For example, as an editor, I will always identify breaches of writing convention, such as beginning a sentence with “And” or “But”.

However, as an author, sometimes I like to go against those conventions, as that is the way that my idea is best expressed.

In this instance, if my editor pointed out that “technically” I shouldn’t begin my sentences in this way, I would gratefully acknowledge their suggestion, and unapologetically ignore it.

2. If the change/s pertain to idiosyncratic characteristics of your writing:

Consider this feedback extra carefully. Your editor’s feedback, if taken into consideration, could potentially enhance your writing style. Conversely, it could also make your writing seem less like your voice.

My advice is to read through the modified sections aloud (with no tracked changes visible, so you get a “clean” reading experience) and see how they sound.

If the edited version sounds like an enhanced but still recognisable version of your work – great! I’d say this is a good example of effective editing, and recommend you try to apply those recommendations to future sections.

If, however, it no longer sounds like you wrote it, it may be important to revert closer to your original version (taking into account the editor’s expertise and objectivity as a reader).

When deciding which of your editor’s suggestions to accept and which to (respectfully) ignore, it can be helpful to ask yourself this question:

“How will I feel if a reviewer comments on this aspect of my writing in a negative way?”

This can help you to consider whether you feel strongly enough that this aspect of your style is important to your authentic voice as a writer, or if it is worth making the adjustment, based on the feedback you have received.  

Try to leave your ego out of it.

One of the most important aspects of working with your editor is to leave your ego out of it (as much as possible).

Remembering that you are both on the same team, and both want the same thing (i.e., for your manuscript to become its most readable, relatable, informative, evocative, and memorable version) is helpful in minimising the risk of hurt feelings over editorial feedback.

Having your editor make suggestions doesn’t mean you haven’t written your manuscript well. It could mean that, based on their knowledge and experience of this process, they can see opportunities to enhance it.

Also, when it is your work, you will see what you intended, rather than what is actually there. I’ve lost count of the number of times I have read and re-read something I have written, each time missing an obvious error. This is purely because I knew what I meant to say, and therefore saw that word in its correct form each time I read it.

This is why it is crucial to have an editor you trust on your team. They can provide a level of analysis it is hard to achieve when it is your own work. Working effectively with your editor as a co-creator and ally can add that sparkle to your manuscript that comes from a fresh but invested perspective.

If you have any questions about the author-editor relationship, feel free to send me an email: [email protected]

Here’s to writing fearlessly,

Xx Kate

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