I laughed out loud when I read a comment to this effect on a writer friend’s Facebook page. The thought she described was familiar to me, and I suspect many other writers.
First there is the delight of learning that someone wants to publish your beloved story. That excitement is quickly followed by the depressing formalities of contracts and tax codes. Then, as if the shine of being a contracted author hasn’t already been dulled sufficiently, there’s the email requesting “just a few small tweaks”. These tweaks might include adding or removing scenes, or even characters; changing names and locations over which you have agonised for months; or removing your carefully worded descriptions because they slow the pace. At this point, despair can easily set in. I have just completed the third round of edits on a story of under 15,000 words, and there were moments when I wondered why I was bothering. The puzzle of how to rewrite my British story to make the idioms and references comprehensible to a predominantly American readership, without making my hero and heroine sound like Rhett and Scarlett instead of Darcy and Elizabeth, would have taxed Sherlock Holmes (or even Philip Marlowe) himself.
Still, knowing that I had enjoyed reading many books from The Wild Rose Press, and that their editors did a sterling job on my first novella, I decided to give my editor the benefit of the doubt and make the changes she requested. And as I did so, a curious thing happened. Three word instructions like “change to dialog” and “reaction needed here” expanded into whole conversations, new actions, and feelings. Scenes I had thought already vivid enough became deeper and colorful. I began to see what my editor was getting at. Soon, I was not just giving her the benefit of the doubt any more. Reading back over the amended manuscript, I could not stop smiling.
Non-writers and self-published writers often ask me why I choose to work with a traditional, if small, publisher. “Don’t you hate giving up control over your story?” is a question I am often asked, along with, “What if they make a change you really hate?” The answer to the first question is, “no”, and to the second, “I would politely enquire what they were hoping to achieve with the change and then suggest an alternative wording which I hope would achieve the same result.”
I have yet to find an editor who is not amenable to a friendly discussion about what he or she wants from your book. After all, like you, editors invest significant time and care in the manuscript, and, like you, they have every reason to want your book to be successful. If they have offered you a contract, it is because they see potential for your book to sell. They believe something about the characters and events of your story will win readers hearts – because it has already won theirs. They see what is best and brightest at the core of your story, and then they set about working with you to polish your rough diamond and give it the best possible setting.
Never allow “a few small tweaks” to discourage you, no matter how daunting they may appear. A good editor is the best possible thing that could happen to your book.