So there are two sorts of Edit Requests that come along into the writers path:
1) The Rewrite Request
2) The Editor’s Request
#1 occurs when an editor actually asks you to rewrite something, making a change that will make the story work better with the market. This usually involves the word ‘rewrite‘ and the phrase ‘I’d be glad to look at…’ or ‘would like to see a…’
I’ve had some of these, and I’m not ashamed to admit that I jumped at the chance. So far, I’ve never had a suggested rewrite rejected…although I know that happens and can be doubly frustrating. But I try hard to listen to the editor. He/she knows what they’re looking for, what fits their readers.
I can liken this to being a buyer at The Popular. When a vendor would show me a shirt I really liked, but the size spread was 1 medium, 3 larges, 2 x-larges….I would have to counter with a request for a 1-2-2-1 spread (s-xl). If the vendor couldn’t work that out for me, then there was no point in doing the deal, no matter how much I loved the shirt. My customers (in El Paso) ran small. A 1-3-2 spread meant 3 shirts would end up on the clearance rack…so I wouldn’t even offer a purchase order until after I got the changes made.
I’ve had some odd requests. (Make it more like Poe!) I’ve had scenes removed. I’ve shortened a story. I did them all. Did I do it without assurance that it would clench the sale? Yeah, mostly because I am willing to work with editors. Having been a buyer is really similar, so I always kinda understood why they were asking for changes. They do have a reason…
So have I ever refused to do a rewrite? Yes. And not because the editor was terrible, but because the editor wanted changes that would take my story in directions I didn’t want it to go. Just like refusing the suggestions on an editor’s rejection letter or in a peer critique, this is a matter or knowing what you want as a writer, and deciding if their suggestions work for you.
Which brings us to Situation #2…when they’ve already bought the story. Now here you have some obligation to work with them. In fact, there’s often language in the contract that says you will do some edits.*
Remember, the editor (who’s already agreed to pay you money) is trying to make the story more successful. They’re not trying to cramp your style so much as make you fit their needs better (again, see the 1-2-2-1 example above).
Currently I’m working through a HUGE editorial change to my novel Of Blood and Brandy.
Am I doing it just because I was told to? No. I’m doing it because this will be my ‘debut’ novel, and I want it to be as successful as possible. Also, I said in my contract that I would do it, and I am a professional. I will get it done and by deadline, barring anything really terrible happening. (I’m 83% done with this pass, and have about 6 weeks to go.)
Am I doing everything suggested? No. One of the things I like about my editor is that if I have a quibble about one of the changes she suggests, she listens. We compromise. I change the things that I believe will work, not the things that won’t.
This has been one of the things I’ve been really lucky about in my writing career so far. I’ve had good editors. I know that the Editor from Hell is out there, it’s just not one of the ones with whom I’ve worked. In fact, I’ve never even gotten an EFH rejection before (again, I hear they’re out there, they just haven’t ever jumped on me.)
But as a writer, I am all for listening to editors, especially ones who are serious about paying me money.
*There’s sometimes language that says you will allow them to make changes. I only ever accepted this once, for a piece of flash, and I wasn’t happy with the result. They made changes that I didn’t feel improved the story, and when I pointed out some misspellings and typos, they didn’t bother to fix them. I wasn’t impressed. That makes me cautious about ever signing anything like that again.