A good editor is a writer’s best friend. They fix those typos or errors that you missed somehow after self-editing 10 times, they provide feedback, and proofread the story after you’ve discussed the changes to be made. While many of them mean well when they give a critique on the story, it’s up to you what you decide to put in your book.
There was a time that I chose to ignore an editor’s advice for a novel I published. Do I regret it? Absolutely not.
The story in question is my Western novel, The Broken & The Foolish, published in 2017. It’s a novel about a young woman named Mary surviving in the Old West. She is an outlaw and outlaws are obviously violent thieves – they’re not upstanding people we should be looking up to as role models (This shouldn’t have to be said). The story was meant to be a portrait of a female outlaw.
So, what was my editor’s deal with this novel?
The first thing that my editor didn’t like about the story was when Mary rejects Alano’s advances. He’s a handsome Mexican cowboy she meets early in her journey. There’s definitely chemistry there, but she’s only recently broken free from the saloon life; the last thing she wants is to be owned by another man.
Here’s an excerpt of when they first meet:
My gaze was drawn to a man standing just below my window. He looked boldly up at me. Our eyes met and I was entranced by his unique, dark features. His thick black hair peeked out from under his top hat. I did not appreciate the half grin on his face. My Mama once told me that smirks hinted at arrogance and I did not care to know what he was feeling so overconfident about.
Alano sees her vulnerability and knows she’s going to experience some hell if she’s out there on her own. He wants to protect the fiesty little rebel, but it’s not his choice to make. My editor said that of all the men in the story, Alano interested her the most.
A snippet of their conversation:
“I hope you don’t plan on continuing this life. They hang female murderers, you know.”
“Well, the man I killed was a serial murderer.”
“Murdering a murderer does not cancel out the crime.”
I crossed my arms and stared at him.
“So, I can be tried and hanged as a citizen, yet I can’t vote as one.”
The handsome Mexican’s eyes danced as he studied me.
“This is the way of the world, my fair lady.”
“It’s why I cannot respect the world’s laws.”
My editor wasn’t happy with my choice to make him a minor character, however, I did take note that maybe some of my female readers would like to see more of him, so I gave him more book time. I didn’t want this to be a cliche “guy who makes woman angry ends up winning her over”. No. He’s obnoxious and he isn’t for Mary. (To put this in perspective, he’s done some outlawing himself. So his judgmental stance isn’t impressive at all.)
The second thing that my editor didn’t like is Mary’s connection to a boy named George. He has the text book definition of conduct disorder and he’ll eventually become a psychopath. He’s not to be messed with despite how immature he seems. Despite the horrible things he’s done, Mary feels sorry for him, especially when he reveals some of the things that happened to him. Their odd relationship goes seemingly from enemies to friends and Mary can’t help but hope for the best.
I had no idea what the kid had been up to since we last parted ways, but a small part of me wanted to trust him. He was the only person left in the world, besides Max and the saloon girls, who knew me somewhat. The thought made me shudder.
The third issue my editor had with the story was Mary herself. Knowing that the novel was about a female outlaw, I assumed anyone would know what they were getting into. My editor said “Your protagonist a bit self-absorbed.” I laughed. You think? A female outlaw who needs to watch her back might be on the selfish side.
I’ll end with this thought: No one who watches Westerns about male outlaws will complain about how selfish or arrogant they are. That’s what it takes to be an outlaw – female or male.
While I want someone who’s honest with their feedback, I also need someone who really gets into my stories and relates to the characters. If an editor attacks my story’s best elements, that’ll be the last story they’ll edit of mine.
Have you ever hired an editor? What was your experience like? Did you reject their advice on what to change about your book? Do tell in the comments below!