Friday, May 13, 2011

How much of Editing/Rewriting Should we Allow?

Sometime back, I read in the newspaper that a book I had really liked had the last one third  of the book, practically re-written by the editor of the publishing house. We writers are aware that our books will be edited, and I am sure we all are cool with it. Even the best writers say that they are lost without their editors. An editor’s sharp eyes catch hold of gaps in the plot and highlight the weaknesses and help tighten the story by  trimming the flab.

But  when an editor rewrites the book, I feel that is too much. The editor can make few small  changes, even give suggestions, but just taking hold of someone’s manuscript and reworking on it, without consulting the writer is too much. I suppose some writers are  eager to get their  books published, so they  accept all the conditions by the publishing houses, even conditions they don't like.

I am cool with editing, I know that I am not perfect and I have a tendency to make lots of mistakes which I overlook and I am extremely happy when my editors suggest changes and wait for me to incorporate them in my stories and books. But just making major  changes without letting me know about them is something I am not comfortable with.

I feel when our stories and books are rewritten by the editor, somewhere along the way, the writer’s  unique voice and style  get submerged  in the editorial interference, as the rewrite will bring with it the editor’s style of writing. Maybe I am wrong, and this is just my personal belief.

What do you all think? Shouldn’t an editor suggest changes to the writer and wait for the writer to work through them, or should the editor just go ahead and rework on the portions that they feel are weak without giving the writer a chance to make the changes. How much editing do you think we writers should allow? Should we silently allow major rewrites of our book by  the editor, even if we don’t like those changes?

PS. The Blogger technical problem removed most of the comments from my previous post. I just want  to thank each one of you for visiting my blog and sharing your lovely thoughts. I truly appreciate your comments and the discussions the comments generate.


  1. I don't see a problem with an editor making any grammar/spelling corrections, but they should NOT be re-writing portions of the book. If they do feel something isn't working then they should ask the author to do it!

    In 2010 Yours magazine bought one of my short stories and published it in one of their September issues. The editor made a few changes, including adding a cliche and an extra paragraph at the end. Even though it felt like an achievement to be paid for my writing, it left a bitter taste in my mouth. I decided I would never want to work as a short story writer for womens magazines.

    Ellie Garratt

  2. One third is major... I think that editor desires to be a writer himself, haha!

  3. It's an interesting connundrum. I'd want my writing to be so good they would take it as is and would be upset if they changed it, but I have seen dramatisations/films of books that worked better with the changes and some that made me mad that they left stuff out/changed stuff. I can't decide really.
    BTW in answer to your question the comments get sent to my gmail inbox so I had a light bulb moment and cut and pasted them into the posts blogger lost last night. :O)


  4. If the editing compromises the integrity of the piece that is really unfortunate... I have never been in that position. I need to write more!!

  5. You raise good questions, Rachna. I agree that major rewriting is not the editor's job. SUGGESTING major rewrites, yes. Rewriting a FEW sentences to tighten it and improve the flow, yes. But a one-third rewrite seems like a hijack, and not very professional. I had a story accepted by LadyBug, and before publishing, they sent me a copy of the story with a few rewrites, asking if I was okay with that. Since the rewrites did improve the story, of course I agreed. But they asked first. They didn't just go ahead and publish their changes without approval. It was mine to decide.

    Re blog comments disappearig, the same thing happened to the comments on my previous post when Blogger was down.

  6. Great question. I completely agree that editing is okay, but not rewriting one third of the book without the writer's permission. That way the writer's original voice is lost.

  7. Editors should just not take over the manuscript as though its their birthright.Changes should be suggested, but not forced down on writers.

  8. Rachna, very valid and interesting post! I feel that the editor should always leave constructive suggestions on the margins and never rewrite for the writer-the writer will NOT grow that way!

    I feel that writers should also be very teachable and open to those suggestions--close-mindedness is not a good thing if someone wishes to succeed.

    I can only hope that editors are fair and not on power trips as well.

    Thanks for the post, sweetie!

    Can Alex save Winter from the darkness that hunts her?
    YA Paranormal Romance Darkspell coming fall of 2011!


  9. I've had editors rework my writing, but they've always asked for approval and they were usually changes I had absolutely no problem with. (Admittedly they weren't a third of a book or anything as major as that)

  10. Very well written Rachna. :)

  11. I can see the editor suggesting changes, but I would advocate the writer and editor working together collaboratively instead of one just jumping into the other's backyard without due notice.

    Rachna, I saw your comment on my blog regarding Content, but Blogger deleted it during their downtime. Thanks for your input :)

  12. My work has been edited as well but not major until a recent story I submitted but again, they asked that I agree that they change it into the style they needed for this book. I agreed and changes were made but they let me review it for truth first. Hey, it was a quick $250!

  13. I really think editors should allow the writer to incorporate the suggested changes, as you say, so that the voice of the author remains true.