Justine: Being Judicious When Reviewing Editor Comments

At the beginning of November, I received comments back from my developmental editor. This was the first time in six years of writing that I’d gotten far enough to 1) finish a book, and 2) submit it to an editor. When I got her comments–which included a letter with general recommendations as well as detailed line edits throughout the MS, plus a 1.5 hour Skype call–I sat back and processed everything she threw at me before making changes, and I’m glad I did.

But once I was done digesting, how did I figure out what to use and what to keep? I listened to my gut.

Just because an editor (or anyone) makes a suggestion, doesn’t mean you make the change. It doesn’t mean you ignore them, either. The rule of thumb I follow is this:

  • If one person makes a suggested change, I think about it, weigh the merits, and listen to my gut.
  • If one person + my gut makes a suggestion, I usually change it.
  • If 2+ people make the same suggestion, my gut is usually quick to follow suit, and I usually change it.

I say “usually” because sometimes (really…rarely) there’s a compelling reason for me not to. If that’s the case, I’ll brainstorm with my critique partners to see if there’s a way to make a different change that remedies the problem or issue they pointed out. In general, though, if more than one person (or my gut and someone else) suggest something or point out a problem, I try to fix it.

For the most part, the things she suggested were either faults I was already aware of, great additions to the story, or fixes for story problems that had been rubbing me the wrong way, but I had no idea what to do. There were some changes that didn’t sit well with me, either because it would mess up my ending, because of the way this story fits in with the other five books I have planned for the series, or because I just didn’t like what she had to say. That’s where listening to my gut was helpful. One change she suggested would have resulted in me pretty much rewriting most of the book. Not only did my gut say, “Um, NO,” it would have been a ton of work to make the change. Oh, don’t get me wrong…there have been lots of changes she’s suggested that required a ton of work…but the difference is that my gut said they had to be done.

Initially, I was afraid that I wouldn’t know what to do with the comments I got back from my editor, but I have to say that so far, my gut has known what will work and what won’t.

What lessons have you learned when working with an editor? Any sage advice you can offer other writers about what to expect?


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2 thoughts on “Justine: Being Judicious When Reviewing Editor Comments

  1. I make most of my editor’s changes. I think that she’s new to the manuscript and she’s seeing it with fresh eyes so anything that looks like an anomaly to her is probably an anomaly for everyone else who reads it. That said, I have ignored some suggestions. I didn’t do something she recommended because it would remove a running gag I had going that I wanted to keep, and I didn’t make another change because I thought it would change my hero too much. But I figure it’s good discipline to listen to advice, and sometimes, making that change resulted in an unanticipated benefit. So I usually just do it.

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