Editor and Writer: Marriage Made in Hell?

The answer to that depends very much on what kind of writer you are and the editor you’re working with.

If you think spewing out a ton of words and calling it done makes you a writer, chances are editors will despise your manuscript. If you don’t know basic punctuation or sentence structure, some of them will make a voodoo doll in your image and stick pins in it.

No writer produces a perfect story. Every single one of us needs to be edited. There are NO exceptions.

I know this because I write clean, beautiful prose every single time… until I go back over it and see I repeated the word “visible” twice in two paragraphs. Or junk words got into my narrative. Or I made a simple mistake like having a character sit down twice in the same scene.

When we’re in the zone, we tend to overlook stuff we are normally aware of, and that’s where self-editing comes in. Go back and re-read every single word; you will notice plenty that needs to be fixed. And still that isn’t enough! Because the story is still in our memory, we will miss things an editor catches, and that’s why we use/pay them.

If you submit or publish a book without using a beta/editor, you’re pretty much naked in public, all your fat hanging out and jiggling, and everyone will laugh at you. Your mistakes are out there for all to see, and trust me, for every reader who doesn’t notice, there will be one who does, and that reader will never buy from you again.

I’ve turned down countless free books because reviewers said, “Would have been good but the typos sucked” or “Enjoyed the story but the editing was terrible.”

So yeah, write the best story you can. Get it beta’d. Self-edit. And then get the best editor you can afford if you are self-publishing.

Can you trust publisher’s editors? To a degree, sure. It’s their job to fix your shit. BUT they are often inundated, tired, burned out, and will miss stuff regardless. The writer needs to do their job first so the publisher/editors can do theirs with the least amount of damage.

The editor is not your enemy. YOU are.


I’m tired of winter. Let’s revisit summer… Florida style. Yes, you do have to be aware of poisonous creatures there. That makes it interesting. πŸ™‚


I stayed with friends who had a house on a lake. Nice, eh?


At night… the lights shining on the water. It was warm enough you didn’t need a jacket. When I lived there, I experienced only a handful of days when you couldn’t wear shorts. I miss it!


Treasure Island on the intracoastal. What a fun place to hang out! Better at night though. Heh.


Lorikeet. If you visit the Tampa Zoo, you can feed them by hand. Beautiful, yes?


See you Monday!


About Fenraven

Fenraven happily lives in south Florida, where it is really hot most of the year. Find him on Twitter, Google +, and Facebook by searching on 'fenraven'.
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25 Responses to Editor and Writer: Marriage Made in Hell?

  1. Judy says:

    I love it when you give us a little insight to the editing process, but it spoiled me πŸ˜‰ Gotta be honest. Lately I bought a book of a series I really like …. and I discovered ‘junk’ words, repetitions, logical errors, tiny things, but they accumulated. Makes me wonder what I’ve missed before.
    And now I want a vacation, and a Lorikeet, dang! Have a wonderful weekend.

    • It’s hard for me to read for pleasure anymore, editing in general has gotten so damn sloppy. I’m referring mostly to indie-published books, but I’ve gotten a couple from publishers that should make them hang their heads in shame.

      The biggest problem these days is publishers accepting what I consider sub-par writing and then expecting editors to clean up the mess. Sometimes, that’a a very tall order, and it tends to burn out editors really fast. We’re supposed to edit, not make their writing legible; that’s the author’s job.

  2. Shelley says:

    Yes! I’ve flounced books for poor editing. I can forgive a few, but once it reaches that point it makes me cringe and irritates me that the author didn’t care enough to fix even the simplest mistakes. And I’m not even a grammar expert!

    Sending warm thoughts your way. Hope you thaw out soon.

    • I just wrote a review on Amazon for a book that had a really terrific little plot, but bad editing ruined it to the point where I nearly threw it aside. Authors have to realize this will cost them sales, because I’ll never buy from this author again.

  3. Lisa says:

    I agree Shelly. I can be forgivining on a few typos. So often, our brains will automatically correct what the eye sees so it may take a several reading before I actually see a mistake. But when something is so glaring as to take me out of the story, well, that’s just wrong. I remember reading a story in which the author called one of the mc by the wrong name. Twice!

    Theo, I’ve thanked you before for your clean writing but it is worth repeating. So, thanks!

    • You’re welcome, and it’s good to know readers recognize and appreciate that. I figure, if I don’t hear anything otherwise, the editing wasn’t noticed because the story sucked them in. πŸ™‚

      Concerning the book I just reviewed for bad editing, the tense kept changing, and every single time, it threw me out of the story. Horrible thing to overlook.

      • When my son was in second grade, his teacher sent home those little books they’re supposed to read in order to polish up their sight-reading skills. They were riddled with errors, and at one point I’d just had it with the whole thing. I scheduled a meeting with the teacher, and took with me the greatest offender, one in which the tense changed three times on one page. When I showed it to her, she gave me a blank look – you know, one of those, “So what’s the problem?” looks. When I pointed out the errors, she seemed puzzled for a moment. Then her expression cleared and she said, “We don’t worry about things like that until they’re in middle school.”

        It was my turn to offer a blank look. Seriously? This was a specially hired teacher whose focus was READING, and I’m absolutely certain she wouldn’t have realized there was anything wrong if I hadn’t pointed it out. Heck, I’m not even certain she understood what I was talking about. Tenses? We don’t need no stinking tenses.

        And we wonder why so many people who graduate high school are still functionally illiterate.

        Your post came to me through a Goodreads friend, and I have to say, your words are like a breath of fresh air. I agonize over every word before I send it out into the world, and that’s just when writing book reviews or essays for my blog. When it comes to my fiction, I’m stuck in this place where even sending it out to the beta readers who have volunteered makes me cringe. They all think I’m articulate and clever – now. What if . . . what if . . .

        See? Stuck.

    • Shelley says:

      Ha! Yes. I read a book that had so many five star reviews on GR, but the author used a common word incorrectly three times! I can’t remember the word now, but it was the same as confusing bought for brought.

      Whaaaaat??? Not ok!

  4. Karen H. says:

    I love it when someone sits down twice in the same paragraph…not, shit like that has me rereading the same paragraph two or three times to figure out what I missed and when I find out it was nothing that I missed I usually have to give up on reading for a bit so that I can clear my head because now I’m looking for errors instead of enjoying the story. Funny thing that doesn’t seem to happen with your books or AJ’s, hmmm…oh yeah must be the awesome editing they get.

    I have to confess my least favorite thing is when an author switches character names, I’ve encountered everything from switching names so that Character A is sitting down and it’s Character B’s butt that lands in the chair to having one of the main characters go for a few chapters with a different name and then suddenly switch back to the original name. But the one that drove me nuts was when I realized the author had suddenly switched to the main character from another book altogether. I lost it, I couldn’t decided whether to laugh, cry, rant or write a letter to the author telling him whatever his editor was paid it was too much. I never did get back into the story the way I had been before that happened. You are so right when you stress how important good editing is, there are a few authors that I’m hoping read your blog and get it.

    Love the Florida pics as always they’re gorgeous and have me wishing I was there or anyplace less white and cold, although it’s only -1 today which is considerably warmer than the -10 we had yesterday, so I’ll take it.

    • If we all keep saying how important editing is, maybe authors will start internalizing the need for it. They should submit only their best possible work, not the first draft that pours out of them when they’re half in the bag. There’s simply no excuse for not knowing basic punctuation and how a sentence works. No publisher should accept manuscripts this bad; it wastes everyone’s time. You know the old saying: can’t make a silk purse… it’s vitally true in publishing. Garbage in, garbage out.

  5. I have caught many errors when I go over my own work. I have face palmed and swore at myself for it. I then hand it in to my BETA, or a pre reader and get back the red sea. I don’t think I’m an idiot I think I’m a work in progress. In my opinion when an Editor or BETA or pre reader hands it to you with corrections to be made, and explain why, it can only improve your writing. Even if it’s ridiculous things the writer should know. It’s what the writer takes back with them. I might get back the red sea but if I learn from it, then it’s serving a purpose. IMHO.

    • Learning from it is key, but you’d be amazed how many authors never improve. This amazes me! Are they simply incapable of internalizing corrections? I’m guessing this has to be it, because who would purposefully keep making the same mistakes again and again? It’s always easier to get it right the first time.

      Getting back a sea of red is often depressing, first because it indicates you have a lot to learn, and second, it means a lot of work going through all the suggested corrections. I hate it, but I accept it as an inevitable and vital part of being a professional writer. It also makes me determined to do better next time around. Unfortunately, not all writers have this reaction. Some of them get pissed at you for pointing out things that need to be addressed… like major plot holes. πŸ˜‰ In their mind, they wrote a great epic. I only wish that were true more often.

      • I never get angry when I get back a sea of red, ever! They are doing what I need them to do, seeing what I’m not. I always try to improve each time and where I am now is leaps and bounds better then where I was. I have had bad Editors where they tell me to change that, add that, and comma comma comma. But never tell me why. So I went a long time not understanding and just doing because I figured they knew better. I see Editors as teachers in a way. I value their knowledge and use it to better myself. The first go I am sure I won’t get it all perfect, maybe even the second. But each time an improvement will be made and I will work had at trying to be the best at what I love. I’m not sure what you’ve seen in your “Editing nightmares” but I hope at least some of the writers you’ve helped have listened to you.

        • AJ does. But he never accepts my suggestions 100%, either. And that’s only right. He knows his story and characters better than anyone else and should have final say. There is a true collaboration between writer and editor, and when it works, it’s amazing.

  6. Jaycee Edward says:

    *wondering if you made a voodoo doll of me…* ;O)

  7. julio says:

    Reblogged this on julio-alexi genao and commented:
    theo fenraven brilliantly explains what i’ve been trying to say to three different people in six different conversations since yesterday.

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