First, I want to point you to this awesome blog post by my good friend, author Courtney Cantrell. It’s from a few years ago, but it’s recently got some new exposure.
I wholeheartedly agree with the whole thing. I’ve taken a kicking in the past from my editor (the ruthless, take-no-prisoners Edinatrix) and it really helped me improve. Bloody hell, I still take a kicking now. In fact, I’d go so far as to say it’s harder now than it was before, because I get caught out on all my lazy habits.
“No, Tony, you can’t do this. You’re not George Lucas for fuck’s sake!”
So I totally agree. But there’s a small point I’ve not seen anyone really touch upon, and that’s when to say no to a change your editor has insisted.
Now you need to tread carefully with this one. These situations may only present themselves a handful of times in any one manuscript, and they might be minor things that don’t really matter. And let me lay this out simply:
You can only say no to your editor if 1) it is a formatting issue, 2) you can go one better and make it even more awesome than your editor’s own suggestion and 3) it maintains the integrity of the story without causing issues your editor is already concerned about.
In all other cases, I strongly suggest you trust your editor (if he or she is worth their salt) and accept their changes.
The three points.
1) Example: you think that line should be italicized, your editor doesn’t. You get the deciding vote on this one.
2) Example: your editor suggests changing a sentence around, you think you can do it better by rewriting the whole sentence, and the one before it, from scratch. Again, this is you using what your editor has suggested in coming up with something even more spectacular. This one is sort of like saying no to your editor, but following it up with “I said no, but this is why . . . because I’m really saying yes!”
3) Example: you have killed off character A, and your editor thinks you should have kept character A around until chapter 25. If it doesn’t really cause issues in the general story, in the flow and logic of the plot, then it’s your call. Don’t feel badgered into something you’re not happy with. At the end of the day, it is your name on that cover, it’s you who is selling the story as your own.
The best advice your editor will ever give you is, to quote the Edinatrix herself, “Man up. Put on your big boy pants and own your fucking writing.”
Sometimes, to do that, you’re going to have to trust your gut, your own judgement, and stick to your guns.
Your editor will not hate you, they won’t be pissed at you, so long as you can warrant doing it. If you can do that, he or she will respect you for it.
You’re the author, you take all the responsibility if your book ends up a mess. You’ve got to be confident enough in your own powers as a storyteller to sometimes, on occasion, tell your editor no.