Being an author is like being in charge of your own personal insane asylum.

- Graycie Harmon

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Yet More Editing Frustrations

I know no one likes the editing process, but this is getting stupid.

So, the editors send the final proofs in .pdf format (essentially how the eBook will look). It looks fabulous, by the by. They asked us to review our stories and make final changes before the thing goes to press.

Well, it appeared as though they had completely ignored the final draft I had sent them, went back several edits ago, then added in a whole whack of stuff that I had either disagreed with, or was never run by me in the first place. They even went so far as to replace my version of their suggestions with theirs, and even adding dialogue to a character I had deliberately kept silent (and this was a change that had not been run by me before the proof came in).

To say I was taken aback is an understatement. Call me naive, but isn't the proof supposed to be more or less agreed upon by both parties?

At first, I was just so tired of fighting I sent a note that said (more or less) 'looks good. Noticed some changes, but I agree with them.' Essentially, I had given up... and become a liar. The majority of the changes I did not agree with. They were either redundant, superfluous or obfuscating, and any combination thereof. Some changes were really very good (addition of the tears should have been obvious, but it took the editors to show me it...). I ended up sending back a second email listing everything I wanted changed and how I wanted to change it. I was editing the editors... on my story....

Now, I'm not trying to make the editors out to be the bad guys here. They really are lovely people. I interact with them online and they are fun to talk to. They are knowledgeable and helpful and generally wonderful, good-hearted people.

I know that other contributors to this anthology agreed with all the edits presented to them by the editors, so I know that they are good editors.

So why am I having so much difficulty with this damned process?

I did a lot of soul-searching last night. I mean, a lot. I know my faults well. I know I'm stubborn. I know I can be proud. My biggest fault of all is that when I feel I am being pushed, I push back - hard.

So, are my changes a knee-jerk reaction to the feeling of being pushed? Being honest with myself, I think there might be some of that in there. However, there is also the fact that I'm a forthright person. I can be blunt. However, it's not a one-sided street. I expect people to treat me with the same honesty. I am not affronted by bluntness (provided it's honest and constructive, not just plain mean).

I am O.K. with comments that read 'this sentence is absolute crap, what are you trying to say?' or 'clean this up, it reads oddly' or 'this word doesn't suit, he's not in a movie, find a better one, you tool.' or even 'I really didn't like this story. It needs more description, it needs more depth, your characters are one sided....'

I'm alright with suggestions. For example, 'write in more description here.' 'Explain how the sheep behave when this happens.' and so on and so forth. I can handle suggestions of alternate words or sentences that might help me make what I'm trying so say that much better.

I then address those comments and resend the work and see if it is improved. What gets my goat, so to speak, is when suggestions are made, and I work them in, only to find that they've been rewritten again, without my consent, and say exactly the same thing I did, but not in my language. Or, when suggestions aren't made, but suddenly the story has changed. Or when a compromise was supposed to have been reached, only to have it ignored.

When a final is handed to you riddled with changes that were neither made nor approved by you, then the story is no longer yours. The editors have fashioned themselves as co-authors.

I did not sign up for that.

I spoke to a friend of mine who is a published author (albeit academic publishing) about this issue yesterday. She said she knew precisely how I felt, that she also had editors that made nonsensical changes and it drove her up the wall. She also noted that she was lucky as her editors were fairly flexible, and compromises were easily reached.

Mine appear not to be. The final proof with the score or so changes that I had neither made nor approved said to me that it was their way or no way at all. Frankly, I'm frustrated enough to take the 'no way at all' option right now.

I feel bullied. I know that's not the editors' intentions, but that's how I feel right now. It's quite one thing to make suggestions, and quite another to rewrite large tracts yourself.

I stand by the integrity of my work. Any work presented as mine will be my work, or it will not be presented at all.

I'm afraid that if a compromise cannot be reached, I will have no choice but to pull out of the project altogether.

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