“God spoke these words to me, so I’m not open to letting anyone change them.” I’ve often heard those words from a beginning writer, and I only wish I could be that confident I’ve correctly interpreted what God impresses on my heart to write. I do feel God impressing things upon my heart to write, but unfortunately, I’ve let my personal thoughts and feelings take control on more than one occasion.
Whether a new writer is submitting to editors in Christian, or secular markets, many times there is resistance from the writer to change even one single word. A few years ago, I mentored a gentleman who had a bit of profanity strewn throughout his work. Given the audience he was targeting, I coached him on choosing another method to show anger and frustration in his characters. His response to me was that he didn’t want to change it because his character was in the military and that’s how they talk. Whether or not I agree with that generalization is irrelevant, but as a reader in this gentleman’s target audience, I knew profanity would not be well received. Rather than taking my advice, he said he would rather not be published than to have an editor change anything he has written. It’s a good thing he felt that way, because he has yet to have his work appear in any publication.
For those who aren’t open to the writer/editor relationship, you are missing out on a key part of your career that will help you grow in your profession. Every editor I have worked with has added polish to my work. As a result, I’ve learned how to write much tighter. I’m too close to my work to be objective, and I depend on my editor to help add that objectivity to what I’ve written to make a piece the best it can be for the total reader experience.
Now, when I’m coaching writers how to get that first article or book published, before I do anything else, I explain the writer-editor relationship. I encourage writers to keep in mind that it’s much like dating.
In the first phase you’re out there reviewing potential publications and reading submission guidelines just as you might check out information on a potential date through social networking sites. Basically, you’re scrutinizing to see if this publisher is the date you want to go on.
The next phase is the query letter. You’ve selected who you want to date, and now all you have to do is ask for the date. At this stage, you are putting your best foot forward. After all, you don’t want your potential date to reject you right from the beginning.
Once you receive a positive response back with an agreement to move forward with samples, you’re in the game. Go on the date. Show them what you’re made of and continue putting your best foot forward to build the relationship.
The final phase is the agreement, either through acceptance of your work for publication, or a contract. Consider this the pre-nuptial agreement. This sets the framework for the relationship going forward. Once the pre-nup is in place, you’ll want to preserve the relationship, showing respect for the editor as you would someone you are marrying. All interactions between you and the editor from this point forward will determine whether or not the relationship continues, or ends in divorce.
Viewing the editor/writer relationship in this manner has helped me build and maintain relationships with editors long after my work is published, leaving the door open for future submissions, recommendations to other publications and potential assignments. If you want to be published, but have an aversion to revisions to your work, I encourage you to try it at least once. You have nothing to lose. I think you’ll find it’s not quite as bad as you may have imagined, and it can provide you with invaluable experience in the writing world that will serve you well in years to come.