Just for fun, here’s an edited (see how I did that!) version of a conversation I had with one of my adult daughters after she sent me a short document she wanted me to check.
Daughter: Have you finished yet?
Me: I’m fiddling with it.
Daughter: Oh no! Don’t do that. I just want you to look at it.
Me: But …
Daughter: I knew you were going to over-edit it. When I was in elementary school, I would send you a sentence like:
The cat went to the store.
You would send back something like:
The rambunctious tuxedo cat sauntered to the bookstore, where he spied a vivacious tabby jumping to a high shelf in the Christian fiction section. As her amber gaze locked with his, his beating heart told him he had finally discovered lasting love.
Clearly, not every writer likes my edits. I doubt I’d be as overbearing with a professional author I’m representing as I was with my young daughter. However, I’m aware that any edit feels like a dagger to a writer’s chest, no matter how small. If I throw too many blades, you won’t feel as good about me pitching your work to publishers as you did before I started tearing apart your writing.
And what if I’m wrong? What if the editor had preferred your work before I started tinkering with it? That’s not a chance I care to take.
And finally, if I send a manuscript that I edited heavily and we’re rejected, then not only has your writing been declined, but so has mine. If I feel this way, I have given up a layer of the necessary impartiality I need to do my job at my highest level. I feel that sting along with you enough as it is.
But what if I’m right and “our” writing is contracted and then heavily edited? Are we both to be agitated by the process? I think my level of objectivity would be less if I felt the editor was criticizing my writing too. If you end up with a brutal edit, a true arbitrator better serves you than a representative who edited your work too much.
I realize that not everyone will agree with me, but now you know more about my approach. As with almost every decision in publishing, different methods work for various people. May we all have great relationships to bring the best to readers and to God be the glory.