How Can I Be Sure My Editor Won’t Kill My Voice?

The greatest fear every writer has – worse than public humiliation, worse than being ignored – is that their editor will change so much about their original work that their voice will be lost completely.

Valid point.

The public humiliation and being ignored fears are real, of course. Nobody wants to be ridiculed, shamed, embarrassed, compared or disengaged. However, in the words of Brené Brown in her book Daring Greatly, “Connection is why we’re here. We are hardwired to connect with others, it’s what gives purpose and meaning to our lives, and without it there is suffering”. And as I claim, you cannot connect if you don’t sit comfortably with your voice.

No writer wants their voice stripped out of their work

That is a given. By introducing formal ‘proper’ grammar, syntax and style, your natural expression is at risk of being dulled and contained by The Red Pen…

Or is it?

The difference between a great editor and a grammarnazi is the ability to retain the writer’s voice and enhance it still.

An editor who’s tough on grammar and doesn’t catch all the nuance of your language can not only ruin your flow and hold up your project – because you have to rewrite your personality back in – but will leave your confidence shattered… Does she have a point there? Should you tidy it up a bit more? Or is it okay to say that there? Gah!

The biggest compliment I ever get from my clients is this, “It sounds just like me, only better!” That is how I know I’ve done my job. Voice intact. Mission complete. That’s not to say I don’t apply linguistic principles. It’s the way I apply the rules that matters.

So how do you know that your editor is going to hold your voice in integrity? How do you ensure she’ll find the right balance? Here are some points to look out for when choosing your editor.

Have you spoken face to face? Does conversation flow? Do you ‘click’?

A major alarm bell for me as an editor is when someone gets in touch “for a quote” only. Knowing what it’s like to be a businesswoman, I know costs are important, but if you’re price-shopping, you’re in danger of hiring someone you don’t gel with. I recommend arranging a chat. An editor who really cares about doing your voice justice will want to explore that voice! And that means talking to you.

Does she ask the right questions?

If an editor is really for you, she will demonstrate that she ‘gets’ you. Conversation will be natural and personable. She may answer questions you want to ask before you’ve even asked them. This shows she has a process and plenty of experience.

Is she knowledgeable on your subject? Does she use the right words for your world?

For most of my clients, as they tell me what their book is about, I almost always have a friend or colleague who needs that book written. Whether it’s fertility or relationship break-ups, career advice or running a business from home as a new mum, meditation or marketing, I make sure I mention any relationship I have with the subject matter to show I understand where they’re coming from. The questions I ask will be semi-informed and intelligent.

What’s more, if I can’t relate, it’ll be obvious by the fact I don’t ask any questions because I don’t know what to ask or because my questions demonstrate a lack of knowledge. I own it and totally opt myself right outta there if the subject isn’t something I can handle.

Is she enthusiastic about your topic?

Although she can’t possibly be an expert like you are, your editor shouldn’t be completely new to the genre to the point where she won’t be familiar with terminology. You should see a spark of recognition, if not excitement, from your editor. If she’s not intrigued and interested by the message you’re sharing, she won’t care enough to cocoon your words when she works.

Make sure your voice stays true to you

Once you’ve chosen the editor you want to work with, here are some more ideas that you can use to ensure she is all set to take care of your expression.

  • Define your personality with a handful of adjectives. When she’s making a choice between words or phrases, she can use these as a guide. For example, say your personality is ‘sassy’, she could ask herself, “Which of these expressions is sassier?” and make the editorial choice based on the person you present, not just the ‘acceptable’ version.
  • Explain the purpose of your piece. The reason you’re writing it helps the editor make a call as to how to phrase things, especially if you’re trying to sell, convince, persuade, inform or instruct.
  • Specify the exact person you’re writing for. This way, the editor can choose the most appealing-sounding language for the readers you want to attract.
  • Be considered about your preferences. For instance, do you keep it quirky, avoid swearing, hate shortened words like ‘gonna’ and ‘wanna’, steer clear of one-word sentences, or need to make sure you use simple language because you dislike woowoo words, jargon or corporate-sounding stuff?
  • Check their policy on what to do if you don’t like it.

If you’re ready to take your project forward now and want to see if we click, head on over to my editing page and we’ll get you started. Get started here.

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