In Defense of Editors
In a recent post, I mentioned that many of the clichés in my book were removed by the editor. One of my good friends commented that I should have left those clichés in, despite what my editor said. “Your clichés are uniquely you,” she said. That was meant as a compliment, but . . . well . . .
My friend was not the only one to suggest that clichés are my “style” and should be kept in. But the editor is your first audience, and if you trust your editor, you have to accept that the editor sees blemishes in your writing that you are blind to. And in the interest of full disclosure (it really hurts to admit this), I have to say that the number of clichés in my manuscript was really over the top! (The ironic use of the cliché “over the top” in that last sentence was NOT deliberate; I only just now noticed it!)
Another friend made the point that a few clichés are inevitable, because you can’t make every sentence into a brilliant and original turn of a phrase, or it would be hard to read. I agree. It would be hard to write as well! Brilliant originality in every sentence? I don’t want to put any author under that kind of pressure! However, if a phrase is so “original” it is hard to read, then it’s probably badly written! If it’s a really good original thought, then it should be quite easy to read.
To give one example of an author who uses one original phrase after another, let me suggest A.W. Tozer. His writing is not hard to read, in the sense of being hard to figure out what he’s saying. His writing tends to be slow reading, because what he says is so profound it causes the reader to pause and think about it. Hard to skim? Yes. Hard to read? Never! This is why Tozer is so often quoted.
So don’t feel sorry for me because I was asked to change a few clichés. It gave me a chance to get a little creative. And I wouldn’t have seen them because I was blind to the mistakes. (Besides, she let me keep a few of my favorite clichés!)
It’s always good to have another pair of eyes to look at your manuscript. My editor even found a few sentences in my manuscript (a manuscript I had gone over and over) that didn’t make sense to her. I looked at those sentences and said “Wow, how did I miss that?” And I wrote something much better.
So give your editor a fair chance. He or she is committed to making you look good!