Working with Editors

by N. M. Cedeño

Nothing makes a writer feel more like a know-nothing novice than a marked-up manuscript from an editor. Whenever I get a document back from an editor, I take a deep breath before reading the comments because I know seeing the number of errors I made will knock the breath out of me.

Here’s how writing and editing short stories usually works for me:

Image by John Conde from Pixabay

1. Write story draft.

2. Review draft and add all the stuff left out of the first draft.

3. Let story sit a while in order to see it with fresh eyes.

4. Review the story and fix all the glaring errors and plot problems.

5. Review the story again, and again, and again, and again. Cut extraneous and wordy bits. Send the story to a beta reader or critique partner for comments.

6. Read the story aloud or have MS Word read it to me to catch errors and awkward wording.

7. Submit the story to markets.

8. Receive rejections while writing other stories. Submit the story over and over again until it’s accepted for publication somewhere.

9. Receive the edited version back from the editor and try not to be overwhelmed by all the stupid errors missed in the dozens of reviews completed before submitting the story. Hope the editor is wrong about some of the comments and redline markings. Carefully read the editor’s comments.

10. Acknowledge that the editor is right and fix the errors. Return the manuscript to the editor.

Image by Anne Karakash from Pixabay

I’ve worked with editors I’ve hired as well as editors from magazines and anthologies. With one exception, every professional editor with whom I’ve worked has improved my writing. I’m grateful to all of them, especially the one that said “your climax needs more conflict” and still accepted the story for publication.

Overdoing description is a fault of mine so each of the great editors recommended deleting wordy areas. Each made comments in the margins asking questions that I had to decide the best way to answer. They made suggestions on fixes, but left the rewriting to me.

The one bad editor I encountered was one I was considering hiring to help me edit a book. I sent that editor a sample chapter. When she returned it, every single line of the manuscript had been changed. I was stunned by the amount of red on the page. She had changed a character’s behavior and responses to another character, in effect rewriting the character. She changed the entire tone and voice of the story, making it her story instead of mine. Her version of editing stood out in stark contrast to the great editors that I had previously used. The bad editor didn’t make comments and leave the fixing to me. She came up with her own fixes and inserted them.

Consequently, that one editor taught me how to tell a good editor from a bad editor. Good editors tell writers what needs fixing and why. They may make suggestions on what might work to fix a problem, but they don’t do the rewriting themselves. Good editors leave the rewriting up to the writer. Great editors edit. They don’t rewrite.

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N. M. Cedeño is a short story writer and novelist living in Texas. She is currently working on a paranormal mystery series called Bad Vibes Removal Services. Ms. Cedeño is active in Sisters in Crime- Heart of Texas Chapter. Find out more at nmcedeno.com.

6 thoughts on “Working with Editors”

  1. This is all great, and now I’m wondering if you hit on something I’ve wondered about. A friend was writing a novel and asked me to edit. Her writing was on the level of an 8th grader, so I tried to help. In one place the paragraph was so convoluted and hard to read that I re-wrote it as “a suggestion” hoping she would see the difference. She nearly yelled at me that I was just trying to force her to write like I do, and put every word back the way it was. I basically “quit” at that point, but maybe I was out of line? Oh, well, I never charged her anything 😅

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Great post. I was fortunate to work with a wonderful editor on short stories for two anthologies. Editing is a skill. Regarding critiques: I sometimes have trouble explaining exactly what I think needs to be changed and why, and so end up offering an example of how I might do it (aka rewriting)–the “show not tell” that works in fiction but not in editing. My critique partners are tolerant and don’t yell. I admire those who can help improve writing without trying to make it their own.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Critiquing can be a challenge, but partners who don’t yell are a plus. And I agree, editing is a skill. I’m always grateful for good editors.

      Like

  3. Thank you for this! Excellent post and full of real-life advice that is needed and appreciated! Editing in all its forms is important and how you do it is just as important – don’t drown out the author but help her/him towards better writing…

    Liked by 1 person

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