THARP ¬– My personal rules of engagement
Renee asked me if there is any etiquette involved in working with an editor. I confess I’m so new to this field that if there is etiquette involved, I don’t know what it is. I do believe that my authors (I love calling them that, I hope they don’t mind!) deserve certain things from me. As an editor, these are the rules I’ve made for myself.
• Tact: In a manner of speaking, authors come to me with their panties around their ankles. They have entrusted me with their innermost thoughts and feelings. Often the manuscript they hand me is the result of years’ of soul-searching, research, and agonizing over word choice and structure. They are at a most vulnerable stage of their craft. I owe it to them to be careful about how I offer suggestions.
• Honesty: While being careful in how I frame suggestions, I must honestly assess the manuscript. I want my authors’ work to reach their readers, to resonate, to effectively communicate their message, and to leave their readers wanting more.
• Accuracy: When I make punctuation, fact checking, or word choice suggestions, I double and triple check my initial response. The 15th Edition of the Chicago Manual of Style sits beside my computer, and I bless the World Wide Web for its goldmine of fact checking resources. If I suggest a change it must be for a reason, not simply because something doesn’t sound right.
• Respect: This goes hand in hand with tact. When things get overwhelming, as they sometimes do, I remind myself of how hard it is to bare your soul—your writing—to a stranger. I also recognize that when an author chooses to disregard my advice, it is for a reason. This work is theirs, not mine. This work comes from their soul, not mine and its success is theirs, not mine.
• Punctuality: I am careful about not overbooking my workload. I owe it to my clients to focus on their work and to provide routine feedback throughout the process. Because I am so new to this field, I am cautious about setting project deadlines, but I do line out goals; I have yet to miss any timeline.
I have found this second career of editing and formatting manuscripts for indie-publishing the most rewarding experience of my life. As I’ve said before, in the weeks and days before a client’s manuscript emerges as a full blown book—cover and all, I share their nerves, excitement, and misgivings. Birthing a book is a lengthy and sometimes painful process. And, like a doula, I feel wonder and awe at the courage it takes for an author to share so much with the world at large. It is during this final stage that I find myself comforting and hand-holding, social skills that I never knew I had.
Thank you so much for this insight, Linda.
Renee Johnson is the author of Acquisition, and The Haunting of William Gray. She is currently working on a Young Adult novel, while editing a suspense novel which has international flair–an homage to her love of travel and foreign food. She lives on a farm in North Carolina with her husband, Tony Johnson, and one very spoiled German shepherd named Gretel.