Sunday, January 4, 2009

Seeking Encouragement: Emerging Authors Want To Know!

Dear Exalted Editors,

Okay, so I've worked myself to the bone, keeping all of your suggestions in mind. It hasn't been easy, you know! I'm starting to get a little bummed thinking about all the work I still have left and how someday, an editor like one of you will tear my work to shreds.

And now it's after the New Year, and I want to take a break from fretting over my writing and freshen my mind with some positive thoughts. I read a guest post by author Marvin Wilson over at Helen Ginger's Straight from Hel blog in which Marvin mentioned that an editor once said he had a "strong writing voice," and that she (the editor) "was looking forward to working with [him]." What are some of the nice things you've said to the authors you've edited, or that you've heard said? I'd like to know that there is some light at the end of the tunnel. And in return, I promise to kill my darlings!

Signed, Seeking Encouragement

Maryann Miller: Please don't fret so. We promise to give you a sedative as we tear your work to shreds. :-)

As to your question, what I hope I can tell each client that I work with is that they have talent and their work is good enough to put in the time and effort to smooth out the mechanics. If a writer has a good story, but awkward craft, the craft can always be fixed. No matter how good an editor is, he or she cannot make a good storyteller, so I am thrilled to find one and so happy to be part of helping to smooth out the kinks in the writing.

Helen Ginger: I don't know of any editor who sets out to tear a writer's work to shreds. Having been on both the receiving and the giving end of editing, however, I know it can feel that way.

As an editor, I read a client's manuscript at least three times, each time making edits and comments. Those comments are usually why I think something needs to be changed or why I made a particular edit. Oftentimes, though, I highlight a piece of writing and tell the writer that I liked the phrase or sentence or image they created. These I often find on the first read through. I think, ooh, I like that, so I note it. When I email it back, the writer has not only edits in the manuscript, but lots of sidebar comments, then I add comments at the end of the manuscript. In those, I put my overall concerns and one or two great things about the work.

My hope is that I, as an editor, never put a nick in a writer's heart.


Emma Larkins has a dream: to make a living as a published author. Her publication credits include a story titled Midsummer Disc Dreams in the outdoor literary magazine, In the Mist, and an article called The Writer's Passion on the Feminine Aspects website. For more information, check out her blog and her website.

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  1. Yes, editors are real people, not meanies. They just have a job to do and do it the best they can.

    Morgan Mandel

  2. Remember that nitpicking is a form of bonding in chimpanzee colonies. The same in writing communities! LOL.


  3. I also add comments and highlights like Helen does when I read a ms and like a phrase or scene or whatever. And yes, that's usually on the first read-thru. By the 2nd & 3rd time through I'm all about perfecting this piece and doing my job which is not always Mr. nice guy, but ALWAYS in the best interest of making the author's book the best it can be.


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.