I have been working with an editor that claims she is a coach and mentor as well. Is it normal for an editor to rewrite your work, and then if you question the changes they get offended? If you ask for help on a query letter, is it appropriate for your editor to tell you that you have not a chance in the world of ever even having the letter read? What are your experiences with editors?
Without knowing more information, it is hard to say whether she is being too critical or if she is being honest, so my views are tentative at best.
Certainly, feedback should be a loop - the first time that you work together is as much about building up a relationship as anything else. I am rarely offended when a client suggests changes, because that is all part of the process - with my long-term clients, the process is now very smooth. On the other hand, I have had the odd client who demanded change after change after change, without respecting my time (That was for a ghost-writing job, although the principle is the same).
The first rule of the editor is 'To Do No Harm,' and they should seek to tidy up your work with as light a touch as possible. However, with some writers, they have great ideas but their use of language isn't strong, so you have to be a little heavier with the edit.
As for the query letter, it again comes back to whether she is being honest or over-critical - it is difficult to have an opinion with only one side of the story, so please excuse my vagueness! The letter is unlikely to be read, but 'unlikely' is not the same as 'won't' - keep plugging away
Nelle is spot on - as a writer, you must trust your editor as much as you trust your lawyer, agent, and accountant. Only you can make that call and decide if the two of you can enjoy a healthy working relationship - instinct is a useful guide, but remember that a good editor must also be brutally honest.
Whatever you decide, best of luck!
You are not hiring a creative writer, but an editor!
You have every right to expect your editor to be silent, efficient, and just stick w/ her job description.
I just heard Elizabeth Berg speak this Saturday and she talked about the very close relationship she has with her editor at Random House. (She was also the editor for Tennessee Williams I think, or another similar iconic literary figure.)
She had an idea for a book and sent off the first 20 pages or so for the editor to take a look at. So the editor and agent both get involved very early in the process and stay very involved to the end. It appeared to be a very collaborative relationship. She didn't talk about the amount of editing the editor does. But I don't know how much editing a writer of that quality needs.
I don't really have a clue, but I can relate my recent experience.
I sent my story idea to an editor/mentor/coach mostly for a critique, and what she did was 'rewrite' portions of it for me to get the idea of how to proceed into creating a book-length story out of it. I rewrote and sent her the next copy. Then she emailed me back with suggestions.
I understand what she's suggesting and I'm not too stubborn about what I want my story to say. In other words, I'm open to criticism and ideas. It's working well.
My editor is brutally honest, and I appreciate it.
Like all relationships, though, you have to have chemistry with your editor or it won't work. Perhaps her style (her?) just won't work for you. If not, find someone else. But, you DO want someone to be honest. Otherwise, send your work to your mother or best friend.
And, yes, being told that your query letter won't attract anything other than flies IS normal, at least until you write a winning letter!
Editors can be a sticky lot! They are quirk-riddled like everyone I know. They have guidelines for catagories no one could ever wish to write about and some of them are really good. I guess, as with all, there is good and bad in everyone and in all walks of life.
I am just finding out about book queries and how difficult a task it can be. My wife writes my queries. She has been there, done that, you know the rest!
Editors: first be careful who you choose to "pay" for editing your work. Anyone can say they are an editor and charge you to rip your work apart. Case in point, one of my wife's sisters writes poetry.....heh-hem. She found a gal claiming to be an editor advertising in the back of a magazine and paid the gal up front to merely critique her work. This got my sister in-law no where except out good money, because the gal had no real editorial background. Nothing was ever published.
Real editors are editing for publishers and they do their job, by filling their job description. This is the tasks laid out before them by their bosses, generally to accept only perfectly targeted and very well written content that their readership wants to read. If a written work has the merrit to get in front of an editor in the first place, something must have been done right, or they would not bother. If they think your work can be made to fit into their target audience, they will work with you on it untill it fits perfectly. If, as writers, we do not follow what they teach and preach about our work, we loose the opportunity and probably a good shot at publication and royalties.
So I have my wife edit, edit and re-edit and then she works with the editors. Thank you for asking a really excellent question. A lot of people need help with this sort of thing, including me.
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