I’m going to level with y’all. There are few things that frustrate me more than an author who does not extrapolate my editorial comments.
extrapolate (verb): extend the application of (a method or conclusion, especially one based on statistics) to an unknown situation by assuming that existing trends will continue or similar methods will be applicable.
I do not want to sound like a broken record in my comments. It’s my assumption that writers do not need to be told twenty times to make sure their modifiers aren’t dangling. This is especially true when I’m editing in Word, and the author isn’t able to see or do anything about my edits until I’m finished. If I notice a particular habit or pattern, I point it out a few times in the manuscript, then describe the problem and what to do in my edit letter. No need to dead horse that bitch, right?
Apparently, sometimes, wrong.
There have been occasions when an author has obviously not extrapolated my comments and has instead only fixed the issue in the spots I explicitly point out.
This makes me grumpy, so I’m sorry if this sounds, well, grumpy. Writers, for the love of all things literary, when you get editorial comments: read them, then spend time thinking about them. Ask questions about them, damnit. If I’ve been unclear or you’re not sure how to implement my suggestion, ask me to explain a little more. Despite the grumpiness of today’s post, I promise I’m invested in making sure you understand the critiques I’m giving you and will do whatever is needed to help you.
My approach as an editor is not simply to fix the particular manuscript we’re working on at the moment. It’s to help my authors become better writers by knocking out their bad habits, identifying and counteracting their weaknesses, and exercising those craft muscles so they get stronger and stronger. I know I’m not alone in that goal–virtually every solid editor and agent I know of works to maximize the potential of career writers.
In order for that to happen, as writers you need to really pay attention to the edits you’re given, learn from them, and apply them to your future work. Note what kind of changes the editor makes to your punctuation and sentence structure. Go through the comments and copy them into a separate list. Look for the lessons to be applied throughout this manuscript and the next.
To give you an idea of what I mean, here are some of the comments my editor, Ashlynn Yuhas, left on A Single Thread:
Awkward sentence. Try breaking into smaller sentences. –> Self explanatory. This is one I get a lot, so it’s something I know to look out for when I’m doing my own revisions AND when drafting new work.
He seems like a commas and periods kind of person; semi-colons feel mature and flowery in comparison to his voice. –> This one reminds me to think about my character’s voice holistically, not just the words themselves but the manner in which they’re presented.
There are lots of physical descriptions here which make the paragraph a bit dizzily detailed, which is why I suggest editing out some of the lines. –> Another frequent comment, which reminds me to balance actions and sensations with reactions in a scene.
Your editor will not always point out everything, so it’s simply not enough to just go through and fix only the spots where they’ve made changes or comments. And even if that works for one manuscript, unless you apply the comments to the next one, I’m just going to be shelling out the same exact edits in your new book, which is not going to help you improve.
Not every editing comment you get will be profound and they will, inevitably, be redundant. But the deeper and quicker you internalize these lessons, the more you and your publishing team can focus on the story instead of explaining the negatives of disembodied parts…again.
Do you have a method of incorporating editorial feedback? What’s a comment you’re always giving–or receiving? Have questions about an editorial comment you received recently? Share in the comments!