The Frustration of the Long-Distance Editor

I’m re-reading a story I edited once already for someone and agreed to look at the next incarnation.

There’s always a level of stuff that one writer refuses to change on aesthetic and stylistic grounds, and that’s fine. I appreciate that. The things that you shouldn’t be refusing to change are things like correcting spelling mistakes and things that aren’t grammatical … and story inconsistencies/illogicalities/the stuff that just doesn’t make sense (why is the main character wearing a watermelon helmet in act one, but then switches to a fedora in act two?). That stuf isn’t messing with your creativity, it’s making the story the best it can be.

I suspect some people just suck at going through and implementing edits. So, a couple of hints, although I suspect I’m repeating myself:

1. If you’re the editor, mark up the manuscript with an obvious coloured pen – I know a red pen looks like a frustrated school teacher, but hey! It gets noticed.

2. If you are the writer, have an obvious coloured pen of a different and contrasting hue – when you make an edit on your electronic copy, then tick it off the hard copy in your bright shiny pen.

3. Make a list of things that may be large things that need to be changed in several places in the story: does someone’s eye colour change 3 or 4 times? Then note where those changes need to be made – make a master list! Then tick things off when it’s done.

4. In case the listing of things to fix makes you feel a bit depressed and queasy, then also write at the top of your list a couple of good points that have been made about the story. It makes you realise you don’t entirely suck as a writer.

5. Please work out how to use Word properly and become familiar with the track changes feature.

6. And always, repeat always, click the SAVE button after you’ve made the changes.

7. And don’t constantly use the word ‘things’ when your brain is too tired to think up other words.

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6 Responses to The Frustration of the Long-Distance Editor

  1. Meg says:

    Here here! I am a total fan of the list and the ticks and … things.

    🙂 m

  2. angelaslatter says:

    Things and stuff and things.

  3. Indigo says:

    Great list! I’m glad to say I’ve found a Beta reader that uses these methods with me. He goes one further – if there is something that doesn’t make sense to him or he feels could be reworded differently, I get the phrase underlined with REWORD in the margins. So far it works for me. I realize it’s not the concept of what was written, rather the need to find a better way to get it across. (Hugs)Indigo

  4. angelaslatter says:

    A beta-reader like that is worth his weight in gold!

  5. Hooray! I’m going to point all my writers to this list.

    I work as an editor and beta reader in the short story genre and there is nothing more frustrating than spending time correcting spelling, grammar etc in tracked changes only to have the next incarnation (or worse the finally copy sent) with all the corrections ignored and still in place. It makes me want to scream – why did you bother sending it to me, why are you wasting my time. Gratefully very few writers I’ve worked with fall into this category.

    Obviously my opinion on structural or narrative changes is just my opinion, but a spelling mistake… eek!

    When I have my work critiqued or edited I spend lots of time considering what suggestions have been made. If I’m working with several different opinions or correction (because I”m working in an older version of Word) I’ll print them out and tick them off as I work my way through them to make sure I don’t miss anything. The spelling and grammar are no brainers, as are obvious inconsistencies. All other suggestions I spend time thinking over and if I’m not sure – I’ll contact the person in question for a discussion (as I encourage all the writers who work with me to do)

    Thanks for an honest and forthright list Angela!

  6. angelaslatter says:

    It’s exhausting doing your best for someone who just ain’t paying attention. There’s also a factor you sometimes need to recognise that sometimes people just aren’t ready to learn.