Monday, August 31, 2015

Who Needs an Editor...

...when they have kids? 

Since this month has been devoted to writing about kids, or including kids in our stories, I thought I'd share a bit about writing around kids. Several years ago I wrote a blog piece here about how our kids  Help With Our Writing, and this piece today is how mine helped me with editing. This excerpt is from my humorous memoir, A Dead Tomato Plant and a Paycheck, and originated as a column for a Dallas suburban newspaper, which is where I was first legitimized as a writer. 

 In those early years of writing I didn’t have an editor who did more than a copy edit of my work, so I was on my own when it came to content. Thank goodness I lived with five eager little editors who were willing to help me with my work and my conversations. They took it upon themselves to keep the record straight and bail me out of the perpetual state of chaos and confusion in which they were convinced I lived.

"Last Monday, when I went shopping —"

"That wasn't Monday, that was Sunday."

"Okay, so it was Sunday. Anyway, I bought six Twinkies--  "

"No you didn't. You only bought five."

“I distinctly remember buying six Twinkies."

"That was two weeks ago on Tuesday—"

"Okay, stop. I don't really care what day it was. Who ate my Twinkie?"

If they truly cared about the state of my mind, they would have realized that my mind was in fairly decent shape before they started messing with it.

At least I knew where my Twinkies were.

It became a major undertaking for me to carry on a conversation with a friend over coffee, without having one or more of the kids run into the kitchen to remind me that I was not relating an incident exactly the way it happened.

"You did not send me to Grandma's by parcel post."

"I didn't say I sent you, I said I wanted to send you parcel post:"


"Because I wasn't looking forward to a long car drive with a thirteen year old know it all."

"I don't know where you ever got that idea."

If I commented that my house looks like the Ninth Infantry just marched through it, a friend totally understand and overlooked the minor exaggeration, but the kids had to know why I didn’t call them to see the parade. They just had no appreciation for the subtleties of exaggeration, and by the time they finished correcting me, they’d wrung all the humor out of a story and it had about as much appeal as a limp dishrag.

I didn’t let them near my columns.


Please do share how your kids have helped or hindered your writing. I know any young mother can relate to the challenges.

Posted by Maryann Miller - novelist, editor and sometimes actress. Her most recent mystery, Doubletake, was named the 2015 Best Mystery by the Texas Association of Authors. She has a number of other books published, including the critically-acclaimed Season Series that debuted with Open Season. Information about her books and her editing rates is available on her website. When not working, Maryann likes to take her dog for a walk and work outside on her little ranch in East Texas.


  1. So funny, Maryann. Neither of my sons have read anything since I forced them to read my first book. One is too litahrary (misspelling on purpose), and I don't have enough action for the other. Best that way, I'm thinking.

    1. I could just hear your son, Polly. Thanks for chiming in with your experience. We never know how our kids are going to react. When mine were real young, they told folks I was a typist. LOL

  2. They are also very good at asking, "But why?" and pointing out things that are "lame." :)

    1. In the earliest days of my writing the humor column, I only had one kid who really liked to point out issues. His was that I wrote about the other kids way more than I wrote about him. He wanted to know why. LOL

  3. Except for a single article published years ago, my kids were grown and out of the house when I began writing. Typically (with an occasional exception), they don't read my manuscripts.

    1. Since I started writing when I was twelve, it was hard to not write when I had kids. Hard to write, too. LOL But until I started my humor column, I didn't think I'd ever get published.


The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. Some of our contributors are editors, some are authors, and some are writing sheep. Yes, sheep.


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