I have had people ask me if I ever paid for a professional editor. My books are now edited by the publisher and I have critique partners, but some I did send through a “professional” editor. Do I regret it?
I think I was naïve at the time. I wanted to get published and I thought this would be the way to go, so I paid big bucks for her to edit quite a few of my young adult stories. When I say “big bucks,” I’m talking about $25 for every five pages. Pages needed to be double-spaced, Times New Roman font, size twelve. I shelled out a lot of money. Now, I don’t mind spending money to get my stories out there. I’m into buying ads in different marketing venues. Back then, writing websites told me the only way to get published was to have a professional editor take a look before submitting to editors and publishers. One website recommended the editor I ended up going with, so I emailed her, she wrote back that she loved young adult fantasy, and I sent her manuscripts. She sent me a bill and I sent her a check before she could begin work.
I will use “Book X” to describe the first manuscript of mine she edited. I dearly loved the title I had given it, but she didn’t like it because it consisted of three words, so she shortened it to a character’s name. According to her, young adult novels only sell if the title is a single word.
“Think of TWILIGHT,” she said.
“What about NEW MOON and BREAKING DAWN?” I asked. “What about the Harry Potter series?”
“You’re not Stephenie Meyer or J. K. Rowling,” she said, and I let the title go.
She rewrote parts of Book X. I don’t mean she suggested revisions. She inserted her own writing. Did I argue it? A little. She told me it would sell this way. I believed her. Characters took on new personalities. Along came a setting I didn’t recognize.
One of my favorite characters in Book X was the love interest. I wanted him to be strong and protective of the main character, but I also didn’t want him to be drop-dead gorgeous. I wanted him to be a little self-conscious about his looks. His character suddenly became an extreme macho-man who didn’t love his girl with the same sweetness as before.
While all of that’s pretty bad, there is more.
She made me feel bad about myself. I was a horrible writer. What was wrong with me?
She would ask me obscure questions and ridicule me if I wasn’t able to answer them by sufficiently “fixing” the story. I don’t think she even knew what she was getting at.
At the end, she told me the story was “good enough” now that she’d fixed it. I read that as “perfect” and because I thought this was the only way to get published, I sent her another manuscript. We went through the same process, and she made me feel worse about myself. This continued for many more manuscripts. Each novel became something new, a story I didn’t quite recognize.
Words that didn’t feel like my own.
With each email she sent me, I started to feel more like quitting the writing game.
Now that I know what a good editor is like, I cringe every time I think about what she put me through. The editors I have found through Curiosity Quills Press have been amazing. They let me edit my own work without inserting their own writing (one time Editor 1 inserted two of her own chapters!). They build me up, not with false praise, but with support. I love my titles and I treasure my characters. I feel great passion for each of my published novels.
Moral of the story?
Be true to your manuscript. Don’t let anyone ridicule you as a beginning writer. Do seek to better your writing, but do it in a way that makes you feel safe and inspired. Work with an editor who is passionate about your story the way YOU are.