One of the worst things an editor can do is forget to tell the author what you like about their work. Too often, we concentrate on improving the manuscript and forget to mention to the author what we really like, when they make us laugh, when they make us cry. Giving them positive feedback is as important as everything we correct and suggest.
By balancing positive feedback with what authors perceive as negative feedback—all the red changes—we can create better relationships with the authors. I’m not suggesting there needs to be a direct one-for-one balance, but everyone wants to be complimented. Using compliments such as, “I love how you explained this,” or “This is a great way to reveal the killer to your reader!” is encouraging and the author will appreciate it. Sprinkle them throughout the manuscript. You can always find something good to say.
Even your critical comments can be positive. Take the following comment, for example. “This seems out of character for Jamie. I thought she was meaner than she is coming off in this scene.” Notice, I used ‘seems’ and ‘I thought,’ instead of just saying, “This is out of character for Jamie. She’s meaner than this.” The second way sounds rude and almost like an attack on the author’s writing ability. Using terms like ‘seems,’ ‘thought,’ and ‘feel’ is easier for the author to read and understand you are making them aware of a possible inconsistency, and they should review Jamie’s previous actions or reactions and decide if they want to change it in a concise yet nice way.
Everyone has bad days. Sometimes when we edit and we are ‘in a mood’, our comments can be harsher than we intended. I suggest after you finish the editing process you go back and read through your comments. Adjusting them to make them sound nicer will benefit your relationship with your author and build trust. And we all want relationships that are based in trust and mutual respect.