Monday, September 8, 2014

Editor's Notes #17: Does Personality Matter?


When it comes to hiring an editor, does a compatible personality really matter all that much? Do you care whether he or she can relate to you as a person? After all, you're just hiring them to do a job. In many cases, you may never meet them face to face, so you don't have to deal with them in the traditional way. Though I respect those who are interested in a "just business" transaction—and I do accommodate them—I think being compatible does matter.

I surround myself with people who are generally pleasant. I don't care for mean people (really, who does?) and it makes me uncomfortable to be around people who talk down to others.

I need to have people pour into my life as I pour into theirs, and this applies on a professional level as much as it does on a personal level. Even though the personal level is . . . well, personal, and therefore maybe a little deeper, I believe it's important to encourage while doing the job well and not skirting around the truth.

I don't think most writers appreciate those who take and don't give. Everyone appreciates encouragement and a kind word, as long as it's not false flattery. I do "take" in the sense that I take compensation. That's business, plain and simple. But there's no need for me to take their self-esteem by implying that they're not smart enough to know all "the rules." If that's the case, then I have to face the truth that I'm not smart enough to write an original story myself. We all have our gifts. A good mesh of personalities should enhance those gifts and encourage them.

When you develop a relationship with a coworker (in any job), helping each other is part of the deal. Whether you work directly together or on individual aspects of a project, all components must match up and make the final product shine. Normally you see this person every day and you know if she appreciates constructive criticism or if he has a hard time accepting he’s not perfect. You know if they can “take it” straight up or if you have to dance around how you communicate a mistake. And vice versa: they understand our personalities and how we work as well. 

The author-editor relationship isn’t all that different. If my authors know me, they’ll be able to differentiate between whether I’m offering a helpful critique or criticizing them in a condescending way.

If our sense of humor matches up (I like sarcasm), we can laugh about mistakes found in the manuscripts. Because let’s be honest, some are pretty funny. Things I'm allowed to share (yes, I asked): S.K. Anthony had one of her characters "flowering the plants" and in another area couldn't figure out why the word "payed" looked so odd; Raymond Esposito wrote that "deaf people hear things others might miss" when referring to a blind character's uncanny hearing, and in the same book had a character throw a boilermaker in a fistfight, rather than a haymaker (all I could picture was the guy throwing whiskey at the other guy, followed by a splash of beer); I'm forever telling another author to stop naming people he's going to kill, because I'm tired of writing down their information on my style sheet, only to add "dead" beside them ten minutes later. My margin notes hopefully show that I'm laughing along with them rather than laughing at their expense.


Don't get me wrong: I get it back as often as I give it. Raymond said he told his family I was his special-needs friend to "explain" my Facebook posts. And it's no secret, I think, that S.K. and I share the same brain (sometimes we take turns and one of us gives it up entirely), so when I ramble, she tells me. In fact, I was having trouble organizing my thoughts for this post, and when I sent it off to her for help, she sent it back with the document labeled "Lynda's Disjointed Blog Post." She's also been known to preread my posts and tell me to "cut this part out, because you're whining." 

I want the authors who hire me to feel comfortable—confident in the knowledge that I have the ability to do a good job for them, and secure enough to know that I won't talk in a patronizing way when I make suggestions. Besides, getting to know an author a little better gives me a deeper understanding of how his mind works. By having that extra insight on his individual communication and expression style, I’m able to grasp the written word in his manuscripts on a whole new level. 

Getting along encourages a smooth and fun transaction all around.

17 comments:

  1. You sound like an amazing editor, then. You shine not just through your work, but through your personality. That's hard to top.

    On the complete opposite side of things, I know an editor who spends her entire day on Facebook viciously ripping into people who don't share her political beliefs. And in the spare moments that she isn't doing that, she posts snarky things like, "Uh, dear writers, if you're going to write about (insert topic), then (insert really snotty comment about something she's currently editing)."

    The people who use her services say she's great, but as for me personally, I would never hire her, EVER, simply because she's a pretty lousy person.

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    1. Lousy people suck. I just don't see the need to belittle someone publicly or privately. It may get my point across but at what cost? It makes me look like a jerk and doesn't help them in the long run.

      I would never be able to overlook a bad personality just to get a good service. But of course I knew you had good enough taste to not fall for that garbage. Now I have one more reason to like you guys (as if I needed an excuse).

      Delete
  2. I wouldn't hire the person Brandon and Bryan described above either.
    I work well with my publisher's editor. As I was reading how editor and writer should mesh, I was thinking also of critique partners. (And my post today at the IWSG is about just that.) I think they really need to know us in order for it to work.

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    1. I agree with you on the critique partner thing as well! If they don't "get" you, their critique is going to reflect that and might not give the best advice.

      I'm so glad your publisher's editor is good for you and your writing, because that spills over to your readers.

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  3. The editor-writer relationship is like any partnership. You have to have respect for each other and appreciate your differences as much as your similarities. I really like having fun in this business, and if I'm not connected with the right people that won't happen.

    I liked reading your post and learning you like a bit of snark. Of course, I think I knew that already.

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    1. When I truly respect someone, I find that I automatically like them.

      I was drawn to your snark and sense of humor during the A to Z (and a little bit before that, I think), and what can I say? I like hanging out with people who make me laugh. Anyone who brings a yak to my house is sure to get a few yuks in return. (Oh my goodness, that was awful but I couldn't help myself.)

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  4. Okay that editor ABftS mentioned? I would never EVER work with. Of course I already have you, but that's neither here nor there. I appreciate that we have a compatible personality, it really makes a difference. I refuse to be just a "business transaction," which is why I made myself a copy of your house keys. Be my BFF or else . . .

    Plus, what would I do with myself if I had to keep my brain with me at all times? Can we spell disaster? lol I'm glad for the break now and then when you have it :)

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    1. Personality is both here AND there. House keys come with the deal. And hey, I got some clean laundry along the way.

      I can't spell disaster, but I can spell house.

      Delete
  5. Quite admirable that you can relate to people personally while maintaining the professionalism needed to do your job. It's a fine line to walk.

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    1. It can be a fine line, but in the end, when I do have to say negative things, I hope people trust that I'm saying the hard stuff to help because I like them and want good things for their work.

      As far as keeping the professional end of things separate, Raymond Esposito has said if I ever refuse to let him pay me for edits, he'll still be my friend but he'll find another editor. He respects my time and my work enough to insist on that.

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  6. Katherine telling you to quit whining makes me laugh. I don't want to work with someone unless we have a friendly relationship.

    Love,
    Janie

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    1. She tells me all kinds of hard truths, even while making me laugh my butt off as she says them.

      I think doing something just for the money with no relationship cheapens the whole deal.

      Delete
  7. Right there with you, lady! The relationship I have with my cover artist must be something like you have with S.K. She enjoys my work, and recently told me that she brought some of her digital artist friends in to work on a vessel for the next cover, and they treated it like a party. We bend over backward to see to each other's needs before it's even realized that something is needed, and we share jokes and banter throughout the process, despite that we live across a continent from each other. You have it right; I guarantee you've never seen a bumper sticker that says, "Nice people suck!"

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    1. Right-o, Jack! That's exactly how it should be: seeing to each other's needs because we know it's for the other person's benefit. It makes me smile to do nice things for people before they realize they're even needing something.

      Your cover artist sounds like a hoot! And a keeper, too.

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  8. This is why I picked you for my two books. My previous editor while they did a decent job, did not communicate as well as you do or care about the quality of the product. As for the first example by ABftS those people suck and should have a job in a freak room with no contact with the outside world.

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    1. I appreciate that, JT. I do care about the quality of the product. Anyone can take money and do the bare minimum, but in the end, nothing will improve and grow.

      I have to wonder about that freak room. I think I know some people who work there . . .

      Delete

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