How Do I Keep An Editor From Strangling My Voice?

Dear Indie Annie,

I recently completed my first book and sent it to an editor. I got the first round of edits back, and it sounds like another person wrote my book! How do I keep my editor from strangling my voice?

Strangled in Strasburg

Dear Strangled, 

Or can I call you by the name of the place in which you reside? Strasburg is a beautiful city, and Strangled? Well, it’s a tad melodramatic, if you don’t mind me saying so.

That’s not to say that I don’t understand how you feel, dear darling Strasburg. Oh, I do. 

It is a special alchemy finding the right editor. They may be very good at their job but might not be the best fit for you. I need to ask you, how did you find them? Did you ask them to edit a sample piece of your work? Do they edit other writers in your genre? What is their background/experience? 

This is your first book and receiving an extensive edit of your much-beloved baby is difficult for us all, even after years of successful writing. It’s even harder with your first child.

And our books are our children. I liken it to looking for a suitable nanny. Many who apply for the role will be qualified, but you have to find the one that best fits your family, your needs, and ethos. 

Sometimes the nanny will need to challenge your parenting skills. Sometimes they will have to be firm with your cherubic offspring. But you need to trust that their actions come from a place of truly understanding what you are trying to achieve.

Are you looking for Mary Poppins, Nanny McPhee, or Jo Frost from Supernanny? I will admit all three personalities scare the living daylights out of me, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t listen to their advice.

All advice, including editing, is simply that—advice. It is your choice whether you take it or leave it. You say they have reworded so much of your original, you don’t recognize it as yours anymore. It sounds to me like the editor has been a tad overzealous and forgotten their role, which is to nudge your manuscript toward a better version of the original, not to create their own masterpiece.

If I were you, I would ask myself, “Do the suggested changes improve the original?” Some of the edits may be grammatical or style changes to help the manuscript flow more smoothly so that the reader can understand you more clearly. If so, analyze what they are doing. Can you improve on any negative patterns? I once had a strong love of ellipses… I … really loved … my drama dots. It took a long time to break the habit, but my editor was right. My writing improved tenfold by becoming aware of my bad habits and breaking them.

At first, though, I railed against this observation because … well, that was my voice.

It wasn’t though. My voice was sassy, humorous, and fast-paced. The beloved ellipses slowed down my writing, made it predictable and lazy.

So, before you dismiss your editor’s comments, look for patterns, themes, and areas for improvement that they have observed and consider if they have a point. That doesn’t mean you have to wholesale accept everything they say. Maybe they are right about that split infinitive or Oxford comma, but it could be a style choice and not how you wish to write.

It’s easy to get lost in your story and not see the gaping holes that someone with fresh eyes will notice. This is why many authors use beta readers. They should be readers in your genre who will let you know honestly if your story has issues. 

Get another set of eyes on your work, perhaps even with the editor’s comments attached, so that you can get an honest appraisal of what is going on. If, after all this self-reflection, you still believe that the editor’s suggestions do not suit your voice, then, my dear Strasburg, it is time to say thank you and move on. 

You wouldn’t keep a nanny who tried to strangle your children. Remember, you are the client. You are in charge. Ultimately, it is your decision. 

Happy writing,

Indie Annie x 

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