August 3, 2014

In my opening salvo on publishing, I may have come across as unwilling to compromise. In certain ways, this is true. In one extremely critical way, it is not.

That way is editing.

Chris Guillebeau wrote an article recently titled Why Artistic Compromise Makes For Better Work. In it he talks about the different ways he has compromised in writing his new book. I understand his journey completely, because I have either made those compromises or am in the process of making them.

When I first gave my book to my alpha reader, he suggested sweeping changes. I accepted almost all of them. Over 90% of them, by my guess. I completely rewrote over a third of the book and revamped the rest, and those compromises have only made it stronger.

Then I sent it to my line editor, who finished his edit a week ago. Chris Guillebeau estimated he accepted 85% of suggested edits. I don’t know what my number will be yet, but I expect it will be that or higher, and my story will grow stronger.

Finally, I will get a proofreader. They will suggest yet more edits, and I will likely accept the vast majority of them. My story will be stronger for this as well.

But not all of them! I rejected some of the suggestions my alpha reader gave me, I will reject some of the suggestions my line editor made, and I’m sure I will reject some of my proofreader’s edits as well. That’s the key.

I am open to compromise. I’m willing to make it. I want to make it. I know it will make my story stronger, for others will see what I could not. But it must be on my terms, otherwise the interesting parts will get sanded away and my story will devolve into a piece of uninteresting, generic tripe.

Imperfections are what make a story great. I will seek compromise, but I will maintain control. That will let me to give you an even better story than I could otherwise.

As always, thank you for using my Amazon Affiliate link (info).

By Stephen W. Gee

Author of Wage Slave Rebellion, Freelance Heroics, and about two good blog posts out of a hundred.


  1. Reply


    You’ve brought up an interesting distinction here that I’ve not yet experienced on the writer’s side – how edits can be different when there’s more material (or context) to base one’s edits on.

    I’m not to the point of getting any of my writing edited by anyone save myself, but I’ve edited for friends all through university and beyond. One particular writer I’ve helped out first gave me a ‘polished’ piece that she had prepared for submitting her work to publishing houses, and then later gave me some rougher chapters to make suggestions on that she had only self-edited once.

    After reading those chapters, I, too, went back to the polished piece and changed some of my suggestions/comments, but didn’t take the next step in thinking critically about WHY I had done that (*ahem* laziness). So thanks. I’ll be looking at my own work (and my future beta-readers’ and editor’s comments) with an eye to your thoughts here.

  2. Reply


    How did you find an alpha reader, a line editor, and a proofreader? Are they people you know, or do they do it for pay?

    1. Reply


      My alpha reader is my best friend. He’s simply someone I know who reads a lot, understands stories and what makes them tick, and most importantly, he’s someone I trust, work well with, and who wants me to succeed. Many writers I’ve talked to have alpha readers who are close friends, family, or spouses.

      For my line editor, I did some research (via other authors, other author’s blogs, and straight googling), found a bunch of them, contacted them all, and picked the one I liked best. I got my proofreader as a reference from my line editor, though I had researched other options as well.

      As for payment, I paid both my line editor and proofreader. My alpha reader and I set up an exchange of services, though if I get a reasonable amount of success, I may change that.

      I highly suggest paying for editing. It’s important. The only reason I didn’t hire for content editing (my alpha reader helped me with that) is because I had someone on hand who I felt was skilled enough to do it. Editing is the best form of marketing—it’s better to bake it into the product than try to layer it on later.

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