Five Tips for Reviewing an Editor’s Feedback and How to Protect Your Voice

If you have someone else edit or proofread your writing after you have gotten your content where you want it to be, here are a few tips to help you process the feedback you receive.

1.   Read it as a reader, not the writer. If your editor has tracked changes that he or she suggests, select the option to show the “Final” version, not “Final Showing Markup.” At this point it is important for you to read your book as a reader would, not as the author. I also recommend reading it out loud. I find it helpful to hear how it sounds through my ears and not only in my head. It’s much easier to hear when something is not flowing as it should.

2.   Focus solely on the content. Avoid getting tripped up by how the text is presented or formatted. That will be taken care of after the manuscript is complete. Focus on the words since they are your words and only you can ensure you’re saying what you want to say.

3.   Make changes as needed. If you see anything along the way that you want to tweak, make those edits. But be sure “Track Changes” is turned on or you may end up paying for another full edit because your editor can’t clearly see what you changed. Keep in mind that the purpose of this round of edits is not to make major changes (that should have been done before sending your manuscript to an editor) but to review the manuscript as a reader and tweak if needed.

4.   Look at your original only if you run into a problem you cannot fix quickly by viewing “Final Showing Markup,” “Original,” or “Original Showing Markup.” Editors work hard to make sure every change is for a specific purpose: to make the message more focused, organized, and powerful—not to lessen the impact of what you’ve written. But every once in a while they miss something. They misinterpret what you’re trying to say or phrase it in a way that does not represent your voice. It’s ultimately your responsibility to ensure that every word in your book represents you and your content accurately.

5.   Recognize and protect your voice. Even the best proofreaders can cut deeper into your manuscript than what is appropriate. One of the authors I’ve worked with shared the following in an interview with me:

Due to miscommunication with a proofreader, my manuscript was edited far deeper than was needed, which proved detrimental to my “voice.” I’ve been insecure my whole life, so for me to have to stand up for my own literary voice was quite the experience. Instead of folding and saying, “Yes, yes, you’re right,” this was the first time that I said, “No, I know my voice.” It was a great lesson in what my voice is. If nobody wants to read my voice, that’s one thing. But I’m not going to change it to try to fit someone else’s view. I’ll try to be clearer and better, but I’m not going to change or dull my voice just because someone else doesn’t approve.

As you review the edits of another person, discern the difference between the following:

  • Clearly saying something better. Make these changes.
  • Saying something differently, but not better. Avoid chasing your tail making changes that do not specifically improve the content.
  • Saying your content differently than how you would say it yourself. An editor’s role is to help you say what you’re trying to say better than you said it yourself. A good ghostwriter is able to take on the voice of the author for which he or she writes. Be aware of whether an editor is making you sound better or different. Sounding better is good; sounding different is not. Reject these changes or find a way to say it better but in your voice.

Edit Until It Shines

While writing takes a lot of effort and discipline, I think the editing process is often more difficult. Cutting out what feels like parts of your soul is a tough task. But you must do it if you want your book to go from good to great. Unless you trim (and in some cases slash) the excess, your book won’t be ready for primetime. Do what it takes to get your book in shape to share with others.

If you start to get discouraged in the midst of the editing process, take a deep breath and remember that you’re done with the most labor-intensive part of your book: your core manuscript.

See the bigger picture—the purpose of your book and the impact it will have on the reader. Focusing on that may help you to endure the refinement process.

Have the courage to cut out what is not essential so that readers can experience your content in its purest form. Gold found in a mine is valuable, but people don’t wear unrefined gold for all to see. Your content without the heat of editing refinement may be valuable, but it’s not yet ready to share with others.

Apply the heat and see a wonderful gem appear—your content in its final form.

Question: What part of the editing process do you find the most difficult? Leave your comment below.

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