You Want it When? When Your Editor Asks for the Impossible

Wednesday, November 02, 2016
I knew a rewrite request was coming. After all, I didn’t expect them to tell me that it was perfect as is. When my editor e-mailed me Friday afternoon and asked to have it back by Tuesday, I noodled it over for a minute. Maybe just maybe I could have it done by Tuesday if the changes weren’t too bad. 

Of course, my aunt was in town and coming over for dinner Friday night.  I still needed to finish cleaning the house (translation: excavating the dining room table) and cook dinner.

And this was Halloween weekend.  That meant that I’d have 14 extra teenagers in the house for almost 14 hours on Saturday.  It’s a Halloween tradition. It just wasn’t going to be possible so I told my editor No.

Hey, you! In Detroit. Quit shuddering. I saw that. It is perfectly legitimate to tell your editor no. After all, they are asking for the rewrite because they want your book to be the best that it can be. That’s why they want the changes and they want the changes to be good. More often than not, that means not writing with fourteen extra teenagers.

But I didn’t just say No. I briefly explained the problem. I also proposed a different deadline – Thursday – and told him that I’d turn it in before Thursday if possible. I hope to send it to him today.

Not surprisingly, because he does want a top notch book, he agreed. But I don’t think that is the only reason he said yes. In fact,  I think these three reasons also played a part:

1. I make my deadlines. It’s one of those things I’m pretty rigid about.

2. I try to give my editor what he wants the first time around.  If I goof up, I admit it. One of the resources I used in writing this book was a federal government website.  One of the pages included a typo.  Because of said typo, I got something wrong and only realized it later on the day that I submit the finished manuscript. I quickly e-mailed my editor and apologized than I offered to fix the mistake and resend the file.  Because he has already started editing, he made the change himself but I did offer.  After all, I’d rather fix my own mistakes than have the copy editor catch them.

3. I only say no when it is essential. Out of 10 books, with 3 deadlines per book, I’ve only suggested an alternate deadline 3 times. 

Because of these things, when my editor asks for the impossible, I can say No. After all, he knows that, like him, I want to produce the best possible manuscript.  We’re a team that way.


To find out more about Sue Bradford Edwards writing, visit her blog, One Writer's Journey.
She also teaches our class, Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults.  The next session begins December 5, 2016.


Sioux Roslawski said...

Sue--When a writer is a proven quantity like you are, editors say "yes" to your "no" and to your compromises because they know you'll deliver quality work.

Congratulations on another book that's almost finished.

Sue Bradford Edwards said...

It also helps to say yes as often as possible. I know writers who are proven quantities, or at least they should be, but can't seem to get more than 2 books with any given editor. In part, it may be just cruddy luck. But I think if you say NO all the time . . . well...

Margo Dill said...

I hear you. :) It's so hard. But sometimes, lately, my sanity is more important than saying yes.

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