How to Work With an Editor's Feedback
You just received a round of edits from your editor! You open up the Word document to see a lot of redlining and comments on the side panel. As you take it all in at once, it can get a little overwhelming. What is the best way to work with the edits and feedback?
Read the introductory material first. If your editor sent you a detailed message or an editorial letter, those are often intended to explain and introduce the editing they provided. Take a moment to read through their introductory material before rushing into the edits. This can help you approach the edited draft with the editor's perspective and reasoning in mind.
Read with an open mind. It's too easy to get defensive about your own work, especially when an editor is suggesting some big changes to the plot or characterization. Before dismissing their suggestions, read through their reasoning for wanting a change and consider how it might help a future reader enjoy your story. If the suggested change is just too far outside the vision you had for your project, reach out to your editor and try to work out a middle ground! If a suggested edit doesn't make sense to you, keep in mind that there is usually an underlying reason for that suggestion, such as providing clarity for future readers, cutting out boring or unnecessary material, or tightening up the plot. If you can communicate with your editor to see what the underlying reason may be, you can also seek alternate ways to address the issue.
Focus on the big picture first. If you need to, you can change the settings on Word's Track Changes function so that you can only see comments and not all of the redlining. This will make it a little easier to skim through the draft and read through comments. When reading through a comprehensive edit, it could be helpful to view a clean version of the document alongside the editor's suggestions. That way, you don't get caught up yet on any little changes that were made, which you can return to on your second read through. If there is still an overwhelming number of big-picture changes, try to prioritize and tackle the most-important issues in an organized manner. You can even discuss priorities with your editor.
Take notes. If your editor has suggested some big changes, write those down along with your own thoughts. Write down any ideas you may have for solutions. Write down questions you want to ask your editor about the suggestions. When you have finished reading through, reach out to your editor if you have the opportunity. Keep all the questions and ideas in one organized message, rather than sending your editor a dozen messages every time you find something in the manuscript. Keeping notes as you read and brainstorm can help both you and your editor tremendously.
Use discernment. In the end, you don't have to accept all of your editor's suggestions, because that's what they are—suggestions. It is your story, and you know it best. Before you dismiss all of your editor's ideas, however, remember that their job is to improve a reader's experience. For a moment, consider stepping out of the author role and viewing your story as a reader might. Evaluate whether the suggestions would make the story more understandable and enjoyable, and use your discernment in implementing the changes.
As you go out now to look over your editor's feedback, remember that there is no perfect editing. If you see something that looks like a mistake, just reach out to your editor. As detail-oriented as we are, our fingers still slip up on the keyboard occasionally, or we miss a tiny detail in an 80,000-word book. Communicate with your editor about anything concerning, as this is the best way to get the most out of your editing experience.