I read a blog today that hit home in such a way that I wanted to jump up and down and yell, "YES! That's it exactly!" I can't explain it nearly as well, so after reading this, go check it out.
But here's my experience:
I've been at this writing thing a long time (it's been almost exactly 14 years since my first submission), and for a good chunk of that time, I've been getting critical feedback (probably 11 or so years since I got my first feedback form from a contest judge, and nearly 9 since getting major critiques by peers).
In that time, I've developed a thick skin, and I crave feedback to help me get better. A good reader or editor will point out problems in a manuscript, whether they're big (this subplot drags, and I hate this character) or little (your modifier is dangling, and you're using "just" way too often). When it comes to feedback, bring it on! I want all the warts pointed out and fixed.
So I believe every writer needs a good editor. And a good copy editor, too. (The former helps more with the big stuff, and the latter on the little, word-by-word stuff.)
But sometimes you get the occasional copy editor who, I believe, is really a closet writer, frustrated that they aren't getting published. So instead of smoothing out and polishing your book, they try to rewrite it. On top of that, they get things downright wrong.
To clarify, whenever I refer to "my editor," I'm not talking about anyone who did copy editing. Those are different people, and sometimes you'll get two or three copy editors going over the same book, none of which are my "editor." I've been fortunate to always have fantastic editors.
Almost never do I know who these contracted people are; I don't even learn their names. Some are worth their weight in gold, and I feel as if I owe them large sums for their expertise. Others . . . mmm . . . not so much.
Case in point: Not long ago I had a copy editor who added four misspellings and at least one ma-hay-jor grammar error. (Not on my watch, you don't!) This editor even questioned some of my vocabulary (he/she didn't think "pique" was a real word, for starters).
These kinds of these are a bit annoying, but they're fixable, provided I catch them before the book goes to press. (Although I'm always terrified I didn't catch something they added, and readers will assume the mistake was my fault.)
What becomes a real problem for me are those times when a copy editor tries rewriting the book in their voice. In this case, they took lots showing and replaced it with telling. Some of my best descriptions were watered down to almost nothing. Any bits of my personality and voice were stripped out and replaced with cliches and flat images. Even spots of humor were wiped out.
I have never wielded my power of STET so ferociously as I did on that manuscript as I sat there, steam coming from my ears. On every page, I scribbled it: STET! STET! STET! I felt as if I were fighting for the life of my book, as if its very soul had been sucked out, and I was trying to perform CPR to bring it back to life.
My poor editor (my editor editor, not the contracted person doing the damage) got a serious earful when I turned it back in. Fortunately, she was patient and understanding and didn't even roll her eyes at me. I don't think.
But when I picked up the next copy edit on the same manuscript, it had a note from the new copy editor on the top that I don't think I was meant to see. Something about how, "I understand this author is rather particular about her voice, so I addressed only grammar, punctuation, and clarity issues."
Great, I groaned. I'm officially a "difficult" writer.
But that thought was quickly followed by, Hallelujah! A copy editor who is learning their job!
See, copy editors shouldn't ever mess with a writer's voice. As someone who has done lots of copy editing, I know that. I try very hard to maintain a writer's voice when I do editing work. I know what it takes to clean up writing so it shines and still sounds like the original author.
Ever since seeing that note (and enduring that STET session), I've been tempted to create a label for my publisher to slap onto all my manuscripts before they go out for copy editing.
WARNING: This writer has serious control issues. Do not attempt to tamper with her voice. She is liable to blow a gasket.
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