Seven Sensible Steps to Success as a Writer
Step seven (continued) Ninety-five percent
As a general rule, I try to give my editors ninety-five per cent of what they ask for when it comes to changing my manuscripts.
This is not necessarily because I think they're right most of the time … although often they are, and there are many ways to express a thought correctly in the English language. That’s what makes our mother tongue so generous and flexible a tool for the writer of books.
No. The principal reason behind my ninety-five per cent practice is to keep my editors happy in order to protect the five per cent that I really wish to retain.
It’s a political ploy, if you like. A trade off.
If one is to argue the toss over every suggested change to a bit of punctuation, the spelling or capitalisation of a word, the deletion of a phrase or even a paragraph that isn’t really essential to the text, you’ll end up creating an atmosphere of hostility and frustration that is bad for the book and ultimately bad for you. Publishers tend to avoid working with ‘difficult’ authors.
On the other hand, if you concede the non-essentials to your editor, you may build up a degree of goodwill and trust.
So that when you come to something you consider vital to the text – a misplaced comma that can change the entire meaning of a sentence, a word with an archaic spelling you want to retain for a particular reason, a phrase that you especially like – your editor more often than not will gracefully concede the point, provided you make a good case for its retention.
It's called professionalism. Politeness. Co-operation. Trying to do the very best by your book, to help the infant publication enter the world with the best possible chance of survival.
Next: One cruel word…