Working with an Editor: Thoughts from the Other Side

With those changes that come along in life, I’m doing less editing these days and more writing. This week, especially, I was sending out samples for a possible freelance gig, doing revisions on the NF kids’ book, and submitting the draft of a grant application for review.

Which meant that this week was about me receiving a lot of feedback.

Only, outside of the critique-group environment, that “feedback” is actually called something more like “make-these-changes-now-please” notes. The please is because I work with nice people!

There are different types of review comments, most of which you’re probably familiar with. Some of the ones I’ve been seeing are:

  • Do we need this comma? (Yes, I tend to be comma-happy!)
  • This seems awkward. (Okay, I was writing fast!)
  • Can you give me some more information about this? (Sure, let me just put on my research hat.)
  • How about re-wording it like this? (Depending on my mood and the suggestion, this either prompts an “Oh, hey, yeah, that is better!” or a “WTH? Who said you could edit me?” The latter one usually means I need to have some coffee and then take a second look. At which point, I typically end up at least alittle closer to the first response. Or I find a compromise. And then apply the Executive-Decision power of the writer and make a change I can live with.)

Honestly, and happily, this week was also filled with many “nice jobs” and “thank yous.” And doing revision work is such a different mind-set from getting those original words on the page; it feels good to clean things up and get projects finished or at least moved on to the next stage.

But there’s a difference between reviewers for whom, essentially, you work and those critiquers with whom you are working. With employers, you get a little less choice on how to handle the comments. (Sometimes, a lot less choice.) With critiquers, you have the freedom to say, “Well, no, I don’t think so.” In practice, when you’re the author and you’re sifting through the feedback, you can say that as often as you like. Yep. You have the final power.

Of course…the critiquers are your audience. They’re your first readers (and sometimes second, third, fourth…). Which brings us back to that old question, who are you writing for? Yourself? Or the people you want to fall in love with your book. Both, obviously.

But sometimes maybe it’s a good idea to put on the employee hat, just to push yourself a little harder. You can remind yourself that, yes, there are people who can (and should) “edit” your work, who should at least give you their honest, intelligent ideas about how to make it better. And there are plenty of times when you should listen, when it’s important to take yourself off that author pedestal and listen to the readers.

Even if it takes that extra cup of coffee.


  1. I usually know a critiquers comments are important by my knee jerk reaction to them. Usually the ones that make me say “NO way, that’s way too much work, I shouldn’t have to do that!” are the ones I most need to listen to. It usually takes me a couple of days to admit it, though.

    Great post. Thanks.


    • beckylevine says:

      You’re so right. Because they mean big changes–big, hard changes. Not ALWAYS necessary, but very often. 🙂


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