Why Logical Novel Editors are Better than Passionate Ones


I recently had an angry client. He sent me a long, condescending email that insulted my editing skills and called me “cold,” “terse,” and “bitchy.” Not because of my behavior or because of our email correspondences, but because he didn’t like my editing style.

Now, I wouldn’t consider myself a harsh editor. It’s not like I am to editing what Gordon Ramsay is to cooking or what Abby Lee Miller is to dance. I never insult or belittle my clients. I never make them feel inadequate or unintelligent for making mistakes, but nor do I coddle and comfort them within my edits. And the reason is simple: emotions cloud judgement.

The truth is, while I’m editing, I’m all business. My mind is in the game. My brain gears are turning. I am thinking: How can I make this better? More marketable? More tense? More entertaining?

This angry client complained that I was not passionate or positive enough about his work, and so, he concluded, I was a poor match for the novel and should not have taken the job. But this client missed a hugely important point: You don’t want a passionate editor.

Passion makes humans irrational. It makes us believe that our new loves are perfect or that our children are the most talented kids in the state. Passion is what makes authors write books in the first place. It’s what allows them to devote huge chunks of their lives to pursuing their dream of publication, a dream that is very, very difficult to achieve.

Your mom, dad, friends, and spouse will probably also be passionate about your novel. They’ll tell everyone they know that it’s the greatest book around and that you are amazing and talented and perfect. And passion is exactly what you need while writing that first draft and when getting the very first feedback on your work. But it’s not what you want in an editor.

An editor should not be passionate about your book. An editor should be passionate about editing.

And that’s who I am. I’m an editor passionate about editing. I love editing so much that I will edit brochures in my mind. I love it so much that I often edit in the evenings while everyone else is playing video games or watching TV. I love it so much that I regularly give away advice, services, and my online course for free.

This is me editing.

This is me editing.

I am passionate about editing. I am not passionate about your book.

That is not to say that I don’t want my clients to succeed. I do! I really, really do! It’s the greatest feeling in the world when I see that a client has reached publishing success. That’s what I’m here for – to help you on your journey to publication. But I am not here to fall in love with your book, to make you feel good about yourself, or to feel deep waves of passion as I read your novel.

So if you want comments like, “OMG, I love this part!!!!” that’s perfectly fine. That’s just the stage you’re at with your writing. It’s a healthy stage and it’s a passing stage. If what you’re looking for is emotional support, you need to ask a friend or relative to read your book.

But if you want comments like, “This section is slowing down the plot. Cutting it would increase the tension.” then hire an editor, a good editor, one that isn’t going to blow hot air to keep you happy. It takes a lot of guts to ask an editor to criticize your work. I know that and I respect that. I always tell my clients to take it slow and to come to me with any questions, concerns, or confusion.

My clients who are truly (emotionally) ready for an editor call me things like “invaluable,” “fantastic,” and “a huge help.”

When you go to a mechanic, you don’t expect them to fall in love with your car. And you’re not going to accuse the mechanic of being “terse,” “cold,” or “bitchy” when he tells you that your car is totaled because you drove it into a brick wall. Mechanics tell the truth. Editors tell the truth. The real question is whether or not you’re ready to hear it.

Are you ready to hear it? Check out my editing services.

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4 thoughts on “Why Logical Novel Editors are Better than Passionate Ones

  1. ultraswimfast says:

    This is a great post! I have been so lucky to work with some very talented editors and I think they would say the same about me as I am more than able to look at their edits as suggestions to make my books better. I never get insulted and I probably take 98% of their changes without pause. It isn’t about being coddled, it is about making a book I can be proud of. Books are made in the edits, and a good editor is invaluable.

    • Ellen_Brock says:

      Absolutely! A great editor can take a good book and make it spectacular. And it’s never, ever about insulting the author. It’s always about pushing the book to its highest potential.

      You sound like a very down to earth and easy to work with writer!

  2. ultraswimfast says:

    I’m just sorry to read your experience. Even if he was unhappy with your style, it wasn’t appropriate to call you names. Makes me wonder if he would have done the same thing to a male editor.

    Don’t get me wrong, I like seeing positive comments as much as anybody, I just don’t get offended by a red pen. I’m working on my first fiction and am always looking for ways to make it better. Perhaps I will try you before I am ready to send it to the editor that helped me with my first book. If you could go to my blog and send me your info/rates via the “ask us your swimming questions” tab, I would appreciate having that information.

    I saw you posted a “Friday Edits” invitation to writers too. Looks like a great idea! I’ll consider submitting.

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