The Editor’s Perspective: Giving and Receiving Feedback
By Toni Adwell
Most editors have horror stories about authors being obstinate, oblivious, or downright rude about any changes being made to their work. Don’t get me wrong: I understand where the authors are coming from, too. Some editors and proofreaders have no tact, and there are certain critiques and edits I’ve gotten on my writing that baffle me as an author.
“Your intro comes on too strong.”
When it comes down to it, though, there are certain aspects of writing that cannot be compromised the majority of the time, such as grammar and spelling. I’m not talking about dialogue and style, because sometimes those will cause exceptions. When I write dialogue for the Troll in my FanFic, it’s nowhere near grammatically correct, and the spelling reflects my attempt at the Jamaican accent it’s based off of in World of Warcraft.
That being said, here are a few friendly tips when giving or receiving critiques and edits:
- Keep in mind the difference between constructive criticism, and being an asshole. “This is incorrect because of xyz, so here’s what to keep in mind, and an example of what to use instead.”–Good. “Your work is horrible, and as a result I’m not able to differentiate between your work and you as a person, so you must also suck!”–Not good.
- Tone can be lost in translation on the Internet. What might sound polite to one person can sound completely rude to another. Don’t assume people are being jerks with their critiques/edits, unless it’s obvious like the example above.
- Remember, even if you don’t like what you’re reading/editing/critiquing, that someone put a lot of effort, work, and likely heart and soul into writing the piece. It’s not cool to trash someone simply because you’re not down with the subject matter. If you can’t handle the content, then correct the technical mistakes, and suggest another editor/proofreader to go over the work for said content. The same goes for their ability to write. “We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.”–Ernest Hemingway
- We’re losing the ability to be polite in our society, and even if you don’t agree with what someone has to say about your work, thank them for their time, and move on. You’re not going to convince someone to change their mind about it, especially when what a person likes is opinion-based, but they did take time out of their day to read it and respond. Even if they’re being asshats, you don’t need to stoop to their level–you are not a mirror for their behavior. “I respect your opinion, even though I don’t agree. Thank you for your time.” You don’t have to like someone, or their opinion, to be polite to them.
- The hardest one? Don’t take it personally. It’s really difficult not to, because of how much proverbial blood, sweat, and tears goes into writing. Hell, sometimes the blood, sweat, and tears are literal. Your work is made from a piece of you, and when someone is down on it or doesn’t like it, that can be a major blow to your self-esteem and ego. The best thing you can do is listen to what they’re saying with your mind, and not your heart.
TL;DR: Don’t be a jerk, don’t assume others are jerks, be polite, and don’t take it personally.
Do you have any horror stories about an editor or an author? Feel free to vent in the comments. No need to name anyone or their work, but sometimes you need to get things off your chest so you can move on. It’s cathartic!
Keep your chin up!
The Always Aspiring Writer