Don’t touch my words! Why the idea of being edited can make your skin crawl.

Welcome to a new series of guest posts from Cressida Downing who is sharing her experience of working in publishing to give us the low down on working with an editor.   Whether you have a publisher or are self-published sending your writing to an editor can be a nerve-wracking experience, in this series Cressida gives us the low down on getting the most out of working with an editor.

Are you ready to send your writing to an editor?

cressida downing writing editorHi, I’m Cressida Downing, the Book Analyst, and will be speaking at Eroticon 2013. Ruby has asked me to write a short series of blogs about editing – why, how, when and by whom.

I’ve spent over 20 years working in publishing and bookselling, and as a freelancer, write for Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook. I read for agents, publishers, and aspiring authors, and run a series of workshops, seminars and speak at conferences.
Feel free to ask any questions about the editing process, or about being published. I look forward to chatting to you.

Why the idea of being edited can make your skin crawl:

Do you really not like the sound of editing? Authors can resent the idea, for a lot of different reasons. Being edited is optional (unless you’re being taken on by a traditional publisher) but it might be worth considering what’s behind that resentment. If, on the other hand, you love the idea of being edited, it’s still important to approach it in the right way.

I’m not ready for anyone else to see my work:

Maybe you’re not ready to be edited then. If you know there are still huge holes in your plot, and your characters aren’t doing what you want them to do – but feel confident you will get things into shape, you’re not at the right stage.

If you don’t feel like you EVER want anyone to see your work, then editing is the least of your troubles. Very few authors are writing purely for themselves, but if you are, then editing won’t be a priority.

I don’t want someone telling me what to do:

Authors are naturally independent. If they’re not good at being motivated to write, they join the crowds hanging around pubs on a Friday night, muttering about ‘the book I’m going to write some day’. A good editor respects and admires an author’s attitude. Any editor that tells you what you MUST do is in the wrong job.

All an editor can do is suggest – the words and the revisions themselves must come from the author, or it’s not in their authentic voice. View it as a series of advice notes that you can take or leave.

I don’t need to be edited – so there’s no point:

Well if that’s how you feel – you probably shouldn’t be edited. There is barely an author out there who wouldn’t benefit from some editorial input, but if you already know that you will be rejecting all suggestions out of hand, don’t waste your time or the editor’s.

I’ll discuss in more detail in a later blog post what the various different benefits are of being edited in an attempt to persuade you!

No-one edits erotica:

After 50 SHADES OF GREY, you could be forgiven for thinking that, but actually all writing needs some editing. You do have to pick your editor though, not all wish to deal with ‘adult material’ – just as some won’t look at science fiction, or writing for children.

Do you like the idea of being edited – or does it put you off?


You can read all of Cressida’s posts on editing here.

Cressida will be speaking about editing at Eroticon, find out more about the speakers and buy your tickets at the Eroticon conference site.

Comment List

  • Vida 23 / 10 / 2012 Reply

    I just had a negative editing experience. I don’t love getting edited, but I accept it, and appreciate being told what to do when I can’t see the way. And it makes for better stories. All good.

    But recently I had a story accepted that was flawed – my fault. Still, it got accepted, then much later came back with a hurryhurryhurry editing command that I completely disagreed with, but did what I was told as no other option was offered, and there was not time for anything else. Much much later, it came back again with another hurryhurryhurry what is this? query of the edit I was told to make – not sure how many people were editing the story, but it seemed they weren’t talking to each other. There was no opportunity for dialogue about it.

    I fervently wish someone had actually communicated with me about the original edit instead of just telling me to do something that I wasn’t happy with – I needed to go rework it, but that wasn’t an option, and now a chunk of the story that was significant to the story, and to me, has to be just taken out, leaving the story much less.

    It’s a deeply uncomfortable situation for me, there’s nothing I can do about it, and ultimately it leaves me feeling like a crappy writer. And readers are going to read my story, and think, meh.

    So today… not so happy about editing 🙁

    • Cressida 24 / 10 / 2012 Reply


      That does sound like an unhappy experience – and unfortunately not uncommon in publishing companies where various different people can be involved.

      You’ve highlighted one of the most important elements of the editing process – dialogue. It’s not a one-way street – or shouldn’t be – but a series of discussions in my mind.

      I hope for your sake that the edits have still allowed your voice to shine through and that you’ll gain some new loyal readers regardless

  • M.K. Elliott 26 / 10 / 2012 Reply

    I hate to say it, but Vida’s experience is one of the benefits of self-publishing. At least if you are going it alone you have control over the editor – they are working for you, not the other way around. Personally, I love working with different editors, because there is always something new I can learn or a bad habit that will be highlighted, but I agree that not all editors are good. I recently downloaded a free ebook from one of the big erotica publishers and was shocked to find numerous typos within the first couple of pages. It looked as though the book hadn’t been edited at all.

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