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DON’T DO THIS EVER: “From The Horse’s Mouth” edition

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You write a book. You think it’s excellent. Your beta readers love it. You send it off either to a freelance editor that you hired with the intention of self-publishing, or to a publisher. In the latter case, let’s assume your book gets accepted, and it undergoes a round of edits. Either way, you get your manuscript back and it’s covered–absolutely covered–with notes. Maybe the editor felt a character’s motivations weren’t strong enough. Maybe there were factual inaccuracies in your book. But that doesn’t matter. You know in your heart that your book is perfect, and the editor is trying to stifle your creative voice.

I’ve edited fiction as both a freelancer and for a small press, and in that time I worked with authors who were genuinely grateful for my feedback, as well as authors who had mistakenly confused “editing” with “uncritically praising and applauding” and did not like the dose of reality they received. Some of my greatest hits:

  • An author whose manuscript contained the n-word over three hundred times. When asked to remove every instance of the word, the author balked and insisted that it was needed to maintain the historical accuracy and realism of the book’s Old West setting. It was a vampire book. Bonus: the word was almost exclusively used against indigenous Plains people. Author’s response: “They didn’t have bad words for Native Americans back then.”
  • An author who called me at home after ten p.m. on release day because a minor character who never appeared “on-screen” and whose name was mentioned once in the first chapter of the novel had the wrong middle name when mentioned for the second and only other time at the end of the book. This was my fault, she informed me, because a “true professional” would have caught it (though she didn’t during numerous passes of her own manuscript). The author insisted that “hundreds of readers” had reported the mistake to her, but real-time sales data showed that the book had been purchased twice.
  • A freelance client who refused to pay me for the work I did on her over 100k word manuscript because she felt I was “too critical.” The work was later published, though whether she took my advice, I don’t know. What I do know is that she cheated me out of nearly $700.00.

It may seem obvious to you that this behavior isn’t acceptable, but I find it astonishing how many authors don’t. That’s why I’ve consulted some other editors I know to share–anonymously–their favorite cautionary tales.

• “In recent memory, my worst author response was actually a non-response. I encourage every author to tell me what he/she needs–even if that means they need a different editor. This is a business. I don’t take it personally if a client needs a different editorial style. Just buck up and be honest. Recently, an author emailed me just a few days before her book was due. She said it wasn’t written. I was kind; these things happen all the time. Less than a week later…she released said book.

Now, it was a full novel. She couldn’t have had it written, edited, and revised in 6 days. So clearly, she hired a new editor but didn’t want to tell me. So she lied instead…despite knowing I’d see her posts on her personal profile and author page on FB.

I don’t wish her ill will, and I hope the book sells. But the fact is, she cancelled with too little time for me to fill the hole in my schedule, which means I didn’t earn a paycheck that week. I suspect authors forget sometimes that when they mess with an editor’s schedule, they’re also messing with her livelihood. I take great care to meet my deadlines. It’s a point of pride. I don’t think it’s unrealistic to ask clients to do the same.”

• “I once had an author tell me that she was working really hard, trying to get her book finished as quickly as she could by a fast-looming deadline. Not more than ten minutes after receiving that email, I saw that the same author was tweeting about going to the salon to get her hair colored and her nails done and after that she was meeting her husband for lunch and a movie. “

• “I worked for a publishing house that, despite preaching author equality, had a vastly different set of rules for their bestselling authors vs. the rest of their author pool. Company policy was that all manuscripts must be ‘finaled’ (edited, proofed, formatted, etc.) and turned in to management two weeks prior to the release date.

However, I routinely edited manuscripts for a certain author, who was one of the company’s bestsellers, two to three days prior to the release day because that’s when she’d finish it. The worst was when my designated proofer and I pulled an editing all-nighter while the author sent the manuscript a few chapters at a time because she was still writing the book the night before it released. Actually, make that the morning before it released. I don’t think I got the last chapter until four AM, that morning. It went live at ten AM.”
•  “I was editing an anthology. We were getting down to crunch time when one author finally sent me her manuscript for edits. It was rife with misogyny, plot holes, and characters that were TSTL. I worked for days editing this book and sent it off to the author asking that it be turned around ASAP. Almost two weeks later (less than a week before the anthology was supposed to release), I finally got the book back with a note telling me how hard she’d been working on it. Yet, when I opened the manuscript, not a single edit had been made until late in the evening ten days after the manuscript had been returned to her. The book then sat untouched for another two days when she attempted to do all of the edits and somehow added twelve thousand words in one day. Track Changes makes a time and date stamp on all edits. “
•  “I’ve had more than one author go on social media upon receiving edits to complain about their editor not liking their writing and/or that their editor thinks they’re stupid or failures. Conversely, there are those authors who complain that the reason the edits were so bad was because the editor doesn’t like the genre or doesn’t understand the story. “
•  “I was editing a a book that had been co-authored by two authors. It was an M/M erotic paranormal story. Now, I’m not one who believes that all erotic content should follow some sort of unwritten rule. The sexual interaction can come early on or later. It’s whatever fits the story. However, if you’re going to market a book as an erotic tale, there needs to be some kind of erotic content. As I went through this book, I got about three-quarters of the way only to realize there’d been nothing more than a kiss. And I was only a couple of chapters away from the end. So I asked the authors what any editor would…  there is going to be erotic content in your erotic novel, right? But what’s better is that they both wrote in places they could add some, but neither ever did. Ended up going multiple rounds in order to actually reach their marketable audience.”
• “An author called me at home, crying, because a proofer said that they felt a phrase the character used was ‘a little corny’. This brought on a deluge of angry, hysterical tears.”
• “One author argued with me about whether or not a scene was rapey. Heroine is actively saying and thinking no, she doesn’t want to have sex with all these men. “Heroes” proceed to have sex with her anyway. Or, as it’s accurately termed, the “heroes” rape the heroine.
• ” I was editing a book, and I came across a mistake that, dear god, made me laugh so hard. And it was written incorrectly not once but twice because the author thought it was the correct phrasing… The author wanted to say that the character had gotten angry, but wrote…. ‘and he let all his mad out.’ This same author also continually mixed up your and you’re. When I politely reminded them of the difference they left a comment saying they already knew the difference. They had no idea why there were so many mistakes, then proceeded to mix them up again throughout the edits.”
• “I’ve had authors who insist on keeping ethnic or racial slurs when they’re pointed out, because ‘They’ve become common usage.'”
• “I used to work with an author who, when I would ask a question about a character or the plot, would write paragraphs upon paragraphs in comments explaining it to me. Even after working on numerous books together, this was a regular thing. A good rule of thumb, if something needs that much explanation, that information needs to be in the book, not in comments to your editor. As an author, you aren’t going to be on hand when readers ask these questions. ”
• “The overenthusiastic thesaurus user—As much as authors should avoid repetitive words and phrases, sometimes, it can be made worse than simple repetition. In an effort to avoid repetition, it requires much more than simply pulling up thesaurus.com or clicking synonyms in your document and replacing the word. That can lead to some clunky and awkward sentences—particularly when the new word isn’t exactly the same as the word replaced and it actually changes the meaning of the sentence.
So there you have it. Don’t argue with your editors, ignore their suggestions, miss your deadlines, and if you’re going to lie, don’t expose yourself on social media. Follow these way not difficult rules and you should be fine.

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56 Comments

  1. “It may seem obvious to you that this behavior isn’t acceptable, but I find it astonishing how many authors don’t.”

    I’ve run a couple local writers’ groups. I am not astonished at all. And it seems the less talent and actual grasp of the English language a writer has, (usually) the more certain that writer is of the perfection of his or her work.

    October 6, 2015
    |Reply
  2. I do a good developmental edit, though I only work with a few people because it’s very time consuming. The last two new people I took on, one I asked to cut the first three info dump chapters and rework with needed and missing character info, politely and silently raged for a day or two w/o contacting me and then replied that my suggestions were all good and valuable and proceeded to tell me excitedly about changes she was making to improve it. (In my mind this is always proper procedure, rage–I know I do when I get harsh edits–but do it alone and then breathe deep and dive in.) The second author wrote 100 pages of intro including six named, described characters who we never saw again who had no bearing on the plot. I suggested as kindly as I could (enh, not very) that these 100 pages did not belong in this book. The author proceeded to argue with me over several emails about how much they loved those pages and how much personal meaning they had (hey, I don’t care what you do with my suggestions, but you asked) and then told me their beta readers also suggested to cut them but they just couldn’t be cause they loved their own words so much.

    It’s interesting (and frustrating) to watch these two dynamics. One is trying to become a better writer, at any cost to their darlings, the other writes only because they are so enamored of their own work. I wish there was an easy way to tell these people apart upfront. But certainly I am only continuing a working relationship with one.

    October 6, 2015
    |Reply
  3. Chelsie
    Chelsie

    I have an MFA in creative writing and a PhD in literature, lots of literary publications under my belt, and have worked at several literary mags as an assistant editor (ok, /humblebrag, finally) and I wouldn’t dream of self publishing my book without having a really brutal editor look at it. But that’s me. It would pain me to send something out into the world that has errors in it.

    The thing is, I’ve got the impression that a lot of people don’t really care THAT much about quality writing, especially when it comes to romance. And I say this both in reference to writers AND readers, because gosh, a lot of really poorly written books seem to sell very well, in addition to getting great reviews from their readers.

    I guess my point is that I can see why some writers don’t take the editing process very seriously since a poorly edited book can still do well. Unless my perception is skewed and that’s not really the case (certainly probable, given that I’m pretty new to the world of self-publishing and romance-writing).

    October 6, 2015
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    • Lovell
      Lovell

      Thats my feeling as well. If terribly written books can become, at the very least, internet sensations, then why bother with editors? Cleary you dont need them to make money. (Or so it looks like on the surface.)

      October 6, 2015
      |Reply
    • Lieke
      Lieke

      That, sadly, appears to be true. There’s a sizable number of readers who don’t seem to care about grammar, punctuation, character motivations, logic etc. As long as the characters end up together and there’s a happily ever after (I’m taking romance as an example here) then nothing else seems to matter.

      I’m not one of those readers. I can’t read something rife with spelling errors or internal errors. It annoys me way too much to still be able to enjoy the book. I guess that makes me a grammar Nazi or a killjoy or whatever. I don’t care. I just can’t. Thank God for competent editors or I’d probably never be able to read anything.

      October 6, 2015
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      • I will read almost any genre — except sci-fi or dystopian because I just don’t really enjoy those. I just want a good, well-written story, FPS. If I’m left scratching my head over plot holes and character motivation or if I spend half my reading time re-writing because the sentence structure and grammar are awful, I can’t enjoy a book.

        I read fluff and I read literature and non-fiction, you name it. As long as it’s done well, I will praise it.

        I don’t understand how people who read a lot don’t learn that good writing makes a book better! How do you read a ton of books and not notice the difference in quality?

        October 6, 2015
        |Reply
        • Lieke
          Lieke

          Yes! I don’t get that either. Everyone needs an editor.

          E.g., I read a book a while ago, which could really have benefited from a good editor. There was nothing wrong with the spelling, grammar and punctuation. Character motivations were clear (though dull) and the story was fine (though also dull). However, the author had a serious problem with personal pronouns, which made the book needlessly confusing. Every time two characters of the same gender were in the same scene, I had zero idea who was doing what because the author used she/he in places where it was unclear who was meant. I kept having to read the same paragraph to understand what was happening. It was really annoying.

          That’s exactly the kind of thing an author would overlook (because of course the author knows which action belongs to which character) and an editor would pick up on. It’s the little things, you know.

          October 7, 2015
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      • ElBandito
        ElBandito

        Man, I don’t get that. A writer may be lazy, but their work can fall into the hands of their own kids, or literally anyone 30-40 years from now. As a teenager, I really got into the gothic romances that were around during the 60s and 70s. I found books that were just plain lazy/crazy, some of them problematic (in terms of racism and ableism). But I still wound up realizing that there was SO much potential in some of the stories I’ve found, and somehow the author just wasted it (which always annoyed me about Barbara Michaels. The woman can literally write characters that you wind up caring about, and she CAN set up a great mood and spooky descriptions–it’s just that sometimes she’s terrible (or uncaring) with the way she wraps up her story).

        (Plus, I love writing–but I often dread the day when my relatives find my stash of fanfics when I die. I don’t want to be known as the crazy fangirl sister/aunt/mother with bad grammar and storytelling skills).

        October 7, 2015
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      • CIB
        CIB

        I have the biggest problem with poor punctuation, grammar, etc.; you can ruin the best story with that, in my opinion, because I will be too distracted by error after error. Even poor formatting gives me mental indigestion – I couldn’t read an acquaintances’ work because it had no paragraph breaks in its digital format. Just couldn’t do it.

        October 7, 2015
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    • Marty
      Marty

      Ugh, that makes me sad. I’ve started eyeing the idea of self-publishing, and the idea of a harsh editor feels like a huge boon I’d be blessed to have (truly, what’s the alternative? Have it ripped apart on the Internet instead?) All of these stories of authors acting badly makes me fear that finding a good, honest editor who doesn’t charge ridiculous sums of money for having to work with book-is-my-preeeccccious artists will be nearly impossible.

      October 6, 2015
      |Reply
      • Laina
        Laina

        Can I be weird for a minute? Besides Absolute Write’s where I found a couple great beta readers and is an awesome resource, I actually have a friend who’s looking to/beginning to work in freelance editing, and I think her rates are decent? I could get her contact info for you, if you want? I’m sure if nothing else, she’d give you an estimate.

        October 6, 2015
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        • Marty
          Marty

          I would love that, thank you!!!

          October 6, 2015
          |Reply
          • Laina
            Laina

            Awesome!! Do you wanna send me an email at Laina1312@gmail.com and I’ll email you her info as soon as I can? 🙂

            October 6, 2015
  4. Lovell
    Lovell

    In my writers group most of the members respect their editors. Except, of course, for one guy who insists, “I wrote a best selling young adult novel in the 90s! I dont need an Editor! Editors are idiots.” The rest of the writing group shake their collective heads (every time) and make sure to add, “sure, for you, maybe, but the rest of us need editors.” (This comes up a lot.)

    Personally, I like editors, because my sentence structuring and even paragraph composition can be a little wonky. I like run on sentences a little too much, I abuse commas and semi-colons, and sometimes write in incomplete thoughts. Sure, the editor I had didn’t really match my voice when she edited, but thats what the second draft was for!

    October 6, 2015
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    • I’m actually confident in my writing ability. However, you cannot edit your own work adequately because you read what you meant more often than what you actually wrote. And something will make sense to you that won’t make sense to others.

      Another set of eyes to pick out inconsistencies and mistakes is SO important, even for the best writer in the world. If you value the art and want to be the best you can be, you value editors and you accept and appreciate critique.

      October 6, 2015
      |Reply
      • Lovell
        Lovell

        This too! Yeah, definitely dropped that from my comment. But its very true, there are things, when you are in the thick of it, that you miss. Like having a character draw his or her sword twice in the same scene without once resheathing. Or changing a character’s name from one chapter to a much later chapter. Or other really big stuff.

        October 6, 2015
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        • And plot holes and poorly-developed characters that sound good in your head! And motivations that are clear to you, but not someone else.

          As a reader, I pick these things out all the time in professionally-published books and wonder why no one caught it and fixed it. Totally ruins a book for me.

          October 6, 2015
          |Reply
  5. Tam
    Tam

    Oh, yes. I’ve run into these problems, too. One very illiterate author who could not spell or bother herself to use the spellchecker in her word processor, sent me a manuscript to weed through. The thing was bleeding by the time I finished with it. Come to find out, she mistakenly sent the unedited version off to be printed. Errors and all. She had every opportunity to send the edited copy to her publisher with the explanation that it was the wrong on she also had every opportunity to send the edited copy to her publisher with the explanation that she had sent the wrong one originally. She wouldn’t do it. I asked her to please remove my name as editor, as it would reflect upon me and my work. She didn’t. So my name went on an unpolished turd. She didn’t care but I did. I think it’s because, as an author myself, I would be horrified if that had happened to me.

    I also had my fair share of authors who refused to have a single word of their precious prose changed in any way. It’s always the ones who need the most work who think their writing is flawless. Why are you even sending this to an editor if you don’t want to be edited? These are the same people who then blame the editor when their writing isn’t well received. I don’t have time or patience for people like that. Even the greatest authors, the ones who are always found on the top 10 bestseller lists, need editing and welcome it.

    October 6, 2015
    |Reply
    • Marty
      Marty

      Can I ask a hopefully not offensive question?

      How do these authors get away with this??

      I’ve been trying for many years to break into published writing. I’ve never had the guts to send any of my stories to publishing houses without having another pair of eyes look it over, because I KNOW there are plenty of errors to catch. But trying to find editors that affordable or beta readers that are willing has been very, very hard (probably cause of instances like this.)

      Did working with authors like the one you described kind of poison the well for you? How is it these sorts of authors can get eyes on their manuscripts and published even when behaving this way? (Forgive my ignorance, I’m very new to following the actual business of books!)

      October 6, 2015
      |Reply
      • Tamara
        Tamara

        Authors get away with it because they are not required to heed the editor’s advice.

        Sometimes, making the choice to ignore suggestions is warranted. That is rare, however, because editors typically know their market and they know what does and doesn’t work for it. Also, if the editor is not a good match for the author, their ideas on what works may not match well.

        I’ve done some editing for a friend. I got started helping her because I emailed her after reading her first book. She asked me what I thought, and I gave her a 3000 word review of the good and bad, as well as some errors I had noted.

        She asked me to read through her second book. I did, and then I sent the mangled, bloody remains of the manuscript back to her. She took most of my suggestions and rejected about 5-10% of them. When she sent the manuscript to her official editor who actually got paid for the work, the official editor mentioned how much easier it was to read through than the first.

        If you cannot afford a professional editor, try finding someone with a love of reading, a firm grasp of language, and no fear of giving you brutal, constructive criticism. Critter critique dot org is a writer’s crit circle you might look up.

        October 7, 2015
        |Reply
        • Carolina West
          Carolina West

          Apparently the domain is just critters dot org now, but it looks like the site’s still going strong!

          February 16, 2016
          |Reply
  6. Tam
    Tam

    And I don’t know what just happened with that post…typing on my phone with cats climbing all over me, wanting to be fed…somehow, it repeated part of a sentence. Weird. Where’s the “edit” button, here?

    October 6, 2015
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  7. Before I ever considered self-publishing, I knew I had to get an editor. She made my sentences sharper, and I didn’t have a single complaint about any of the feedback she gave me, because I’m sure my work would have been much worse without her. What pisses me off the most about this behavior is that the authors don’t seem to realize that the editors are taking the time to read and help make their work better. The editor isn’t actively trying to make the author miserable; he/she is trying to help the author SUCCEED.

    October 6, 2015
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    • KC
      KC

      Right? I am not a fiction writer, but I write scientific articles, and editors are brutal there too. Hearing this gives me hives; I would never DREAM of speaking in this way to my editors. If I did, my article would be summarily rejected and that would be that.

      It really shouldn’t be too much to ask authors to be professional towards other professionals. If you are offended by critiques (which I think is ridiculous– get a thicker skin because your readers will likely be 100x nastier to you) then bitch to your friends, not the editor, and not other professionals. Sheesh!

      October 18, 2015
      |Reply
  8. Oh boy, what I have to look forward too! For a semester project I’m starting up an online speculative flash fiction journal and I’m just praying that whoever I pick will not pick a fight with a cranky grad student pulling all-nighters to meet the very tight deadlines. -_- But if anyone’s interested in submitting, I’ll have more details next week as I want to open the submission session next Wednesday the 14th.

    Reading this also makes me want to put “no rape scenes or racial/sexual slurs” in the submissions guidelines but I dunno.

    October 6, 2015
    |Reply
    • Ooh, that sounds like a great project! I look forward to more info… 🙂

      on topic, I’m a high school English Teacher and it never fails to amuse (/engage) me when my own students ignore my suggestions. Like, uh… I’m literally the one grading your work??? Even if you don’t agree, maybe consider faking it till the end of the semester????

      October 6, 2015
      |Reply
      • Yay! And your students can submit if they want to too. I’m setting up the site/email this weekend, but can you email me at tjallen89@gmail.com? I have an idea for your students concerning the magazine.

        But…uh…wow, ignoring suggestions from your teacher? Like you said, at least fake it until the end of the year. XD

        October 6, 2015
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      • ^^^I’m right there with you, Peggy! My HS English students choose to not follow my advice. And they know I edit books.

        Foolish teenagers.

        October 8, 2015
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    • Laina
      Laina

      I would totally put it in the submission deadlines. Lay it aaaall out beforehand, and hopefully it’ll lead to less arguments. Or at least arguments where you can go, “It says it here!”

      October 6, 2015
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      • Laina
        Laina

        Deadlines, guidelines, same thing *rolls eyes at self*

        October 6, 2015
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        • Lol it’s all good, but yeah, I’m really leaning towards it just to save me the headache.

          October 6, 2015
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  9. I used to write. From ages 7 – 19, I was working on a series but, because I was so young and inexperienced, there were a lot of things dear to me that I later realised were cliché or problematic, or that became cliché during a certain YA boom. So I scrapped the stories and stopped writing seriously; I occasionally write parodies, spitefics, and stealth fics. The thing is, though, is I could have had my earlier stories edited into something decent or just self-published it and fuck the results. But I didn’t, because I didn’t want that stuff getting out in the world with my name attached to it. If I ever do publish a book, it’s going to be thoroughly looked over, and I’d work with my editors to tweak around scenes until it seemed satisfactory.

    October 6, 2015
    |Reply
  10. Laina
    Laina

    Man, I just – this boggles my mind. I do sometimes have “please God read this and tell me it doesn’t suck” readers, partly because, hey, everyone needs that, but also because an actual beta/criticism takes a fair amount of effort and I have friends who want to read my work but don’t have the time for that…

    BUT I don’t understand how you get to editor stage, and have never gotten any criticism. I WANT criticism, I can’t make this thing better without it! I’m seriously just… stunned here.

    October 6, 2015
    |Reply
  11. Jenn
    Jenn

    When I was in college, my writing professor shared with me a story that has stuck with me ever since. He had a friend who was an author and she told him of an instance where she sent her latest book to her editor, and her editor sent the manuscript back with the first three chapters crossed out and a note at the beginning of chapter four that said “THIS is where your story starts.” The author told my professor she was devastated and cutting those chapters was like “killing baby ducks.” but in the end it made her story so much better. He told us not to be afraid to “kill some baby ducks from time to time.”

    October 6, 2015
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    • xebi
      xebi

      My dad calls it “murdering [his] darlings.” He recently had to cut a really atmospheric scene that he loved, because a beta reader made him realise it was a bit clichéd. He’s just finished his first novel and had really excellent feedback from an editor. Sadly, he’s unlikely ever to get a publisher interested because it’s a rather unfashionable genre. He’s currently considering self-pub.

      October 7, 2015
      |Reply
  12. Carolina West
    Carolina West

    Considering all the special little snowflakes that are invading every field, I’m not surprised this behavior is becoming more common. Or more likely its always been this common and I just haven’t thought about it until now.

    I self-published my first book a few years ago. My editor said I had to cut a few chapters because “it was too long for my first work”, whatever that was supposed to mean. I didn’t like it, but I listened because, well, they were a professional and I was sixteen, trying to publish a mess I’d started at about fourteen. Let’s just say it didn’t make the story any better. I’m actually still trying to forget it even exists…

    The biggest problem, at least for me, with getting an editor is money. I don’t have the means to actually afford hiring someone. The last person I had look at it, we were editing each other’s work, and we just kind of gave up in the middle. And any time I put something online that’s not a fanfic, people don’t seem to give a first glance, let alone a second.

    Okay, that last part’s really just me whining, but still. Any writer, no matter how successful they might be, needs to listen to what their editor has to say and take it seriously. They wouldn’t have gotten the job if they didn’t know what they were talking about.

    October 6, 2015
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  13. Baesop
    Baesop

    Jenny, I am dying for you to read the new genderswapped Twilight. Dying.

    October 6, 2015
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    • Katie
      Katie

      When I read about it, the second thing I did was run over here to see if Jenny had written about it, and beg her to write a review. The first thing I did was to do some googling to make sure that it wasn’t a satire that had gone viral.

      October 6, 2015
      |Reply
    • Laina
      Laina

      She’s reading it on Twitter.

      October 6, 2015
      |Reply
    • Countdown to E. L. James writing generswapped 50 Shades begins now.

      October 7, 2015
      |Reply
    • Tracy
      Tracy

      I couldn’t believe this when I read it, then lo, I see the news. Stephanie Myers really is one-trick pony isn’t she?

      October 7, 2015
      |Reply
      • Kayla
        Kayla

        I kinda suspect she’s trolling E. L. James with this.

        October 7, 2015
        |Reply
  14. I have a stupid question; what does TSTL stand for? I haven’t come across this acronym before.

    I have been writing a book about depression on and off for years (writing about depression while you’re depressed tends to lead to long hiatuses…) and I have had an editor look at it and help me improve it. It’s currently ‘finished’ and in a major round of edits based on that feedback that’s making it so much better than it was and she helped me match my own writing style since every time I put it down and came back to it, I had changed a little as a writer, so she helped me make it more cohesive. She catches my propensity for tense shifts, when I screw up the wording, and she has just generally helped me make it a much better, more readable story. I wouldn’t be this close to finishing and publishing without her. You should always appreciate your editor. You know they want it to be the best it can be, because if it sucks that affects their business going forward 😛 Plus it’s my experience that most of them are just genuinely good people who want to read good stories.

    I understand the initial reaction of annoyance or defensiveness at any feedback that isn’t praise. Books can be very personal and you’ve been staring at it for months or years! You want people to love your work, and someone is saying something bad about it and that can *feel* like they’re telling you you suck. But that is almost never what’s happening, and you should suck it up and realize no one is perfect. Just because some changes would improve your story, doesn’t mean you failed as an author. Vent your frustration in private then move on.

    October 6, 2015
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    • L
      L

      “Too Stupid To Live,” I believe.

      October 6, 2015
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  15. Katsuro Ricksand
    Katsuro Ricksand

    You worked as an editor? You were doing the Lord’s work, friend. Last week I finished reading a horrible self-published Swedish fantasy novel that clearly had received no editing whatsoever. Poor grammar, horrible punctuation, and still the writer hadn’t bothered to have it edited. Not to mention that he committed every typical amateur fantasy writing mistake there is.

    And if you want a poorly edited book in English, check out Empress Theresa by Norman Boutin. It’s on Amazon. Good for a laugh.

    October 7, 2015
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  16. A. Noyd
    A. Noyd

    I’d really love it if the (amateur) group I translate manga for would provide an editor (an amateur like the rest of us) to knock my scripts into shape before using them. It’s really hard to produce natural sounding English while you’re also striving for accuracy and keeping things short enough to fit into word bubbles (which can be really narrow given how Japanese is written vertically).

    I do try, but sometimes can’t tell just how silly something sounds till I see it on the finished page, days later. Partly it’s because I’m not a very good writer, but it’s also because I know what the text is supposed to mean and sound like in Japanese, so it’s easier to overlook shitty phrasing in my translation. (Rather like what Lieke mentioned above with pronoun confusion.)

    But then, the readers of amateur translated manga aren’t terribly picky, to put it lightly.

    October 7, 2015
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  17. An eye-opening list. I loved my editor. She explained to me right upfront that she did not want to change my voice, just wanted to make sure that what was in my head made it to the page. Then, she proceeded to bleed red ink all over my manuscript. I used to use it as a prop to students in telling them not to take it personally when an editor marks up your work. They are just trying to make your work better. Thank you to all the editors out there.

    October 7, 2015
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  18. I’m acting as a freelance editor for a friend who writes short stories. We’re both writers and we’ve been helping each other out since high school, so we understand each other’s styles quite well. He knows I’m a very blunt person and he expects that when I review his work, and so far he’s been very receptive to my recommendations, including the one I made today to redo his entire narration (he thought it sounded authentically British; I told him it sounded like an Oatmeal cartoon). It helps to have that sense of each other’s strengths and personalities.

    October 7, 2015
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  19. Ash
    Ash

    Someone refusing to pay for editing work sounds like a breach of contract. If the statute of limitations hasn’t run, you might think about contacting a lawyer.

    October 7, 2015
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  20. redshoeson
    redshoeson

    Love that Trout Nation had such great comments on an already strong post. Enjoying reading the banter!

    October 8, 2015
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  21. LC
    LC

    I often work as first reader/editor for my sister’s books. (She just got a Sunburst Award for YA Science Fiction! Go her!) That led me to do this for some other friends. I will argue that is perfectly fine to argue with your editor, but make it an actual argument, don’t just pitch a fit. As someone else above has said, sometimes you look at an editor’s suggestions, and quite rightly decide to go another way with it.

    But lying, throwing fits, missing deadlines, and generally bad mouthing people?

    Don’t do that.

    October 8, 2015
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  22. I’m working on a speech to give next week to a group of teenagers about taking criticism like a boss. I’m going to quote this one: “Conversely, there are those authors who complain that the reason the edits were so bad was because the editor doesn’t like the genre or doesn’t understand the story”

    Excellent 🙂

    October 9, 2015
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  23. Alison
    Alison

    I remember reading On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King. What stood out to me was how much he respects and loves his wife, Tabitha King. One of my favorite passages is how he describes how he first met her.

    He has her read a lot of his stuff and she doesn’t hold back. She will tell him what’s boring, what’s stupid and so forth.

    And while he’s resistant sometimes, in the end he follows her.

    Maybe these authors need to be reminded that even the most popular, well-established authors out there can have not -so-great things on their drafts and need someone to tell them that.

    October 22, 2015
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  24. Rhiann
    Rhiann

    The worst is when an author thanks his/her editor yet the book is full of mistakes… like character names changing through out the book.

    November 1, 2015
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