Tag Archives: editing


This is more a ‘creativity’ post than a specificially druidic one, but, writing is very much part of the bard path for a lot of fellow travellers, so hopefully someone will find this helpful.

For writers, editing is an essential, but not always easy or happy process. No matter how good you are, everyone makes mistakes and a fresh eye to go over the manuscript and help with the polishing is invaluable. For the author who is protective of their work and sensitive to criticism, it can all feel very uncomfortable.

Over the last ten years or so, I’ve accumulated a fair bit of experience from both sides of the fence – writing, and editing. So, here are some thoughts on what good editing looks like, and when to dig in and demand to work with someone else. There are dreadful, inexperienced, self-important editors out there, and I’ve fallen foul of a few along the way, and heard tales of others. There are also a lot of brilliant, dedicated helpful people.

A good editor will improve your work. It might sting a bit, having the flaws pointed out, but if at the end you get a better story for the changes, then the editor is good and you just have to learn to tolerate the process. A good editor will not only pick up on typos and grammatical errors, but will flag up continuity errors, phrases that don’t make sense, flaws in the story logic, anachronisms and other weak spots. Generally, good editors will identify the problem and either make suggestions or leave you to figure it out. In the ebook world (at any rate) heavy handed editing where the changes are made for you are rare. However (putting the editor hat on) there are authors who prefer to be heavily edited rather than being left to their own devices. If you run into an editing style that doesn’t suit you, it is worth asking if the editor would be prepared to tackle your work in a different way. If you’re going to be with someone for any length of time, it’s worth negotiating to find a way of working that suits you both. Very good editors may well be flexible, or willing to pass you on to someone who better suits your style.

When should you resist the editing process? I’ve had experience of editors who were determined to change my voice into theirs. Now, I gather some big publishing houses are very keen on this. My feeling is that if you get a big publisher, that may come at a price, and you might well want to grit your teeth for the sake of higher sales and visibility. However, there are a lot of small epublishers out there, and if you find the editing process with one of them totally unacceptable, you can always try somewhere else. If the editor’s work damages your plot, or results in the manuscript being less clean, run away. I’ve had both happen, and this is not good editing. If the editor is rude or abusive about your work, contact your publisher immediately and complain. (I’ve had that one happen too.)

It is not easy, especially when you are new to writing, to judge what is unfair editing, and what is the grumbling of a bruised ego. None of us really enjoys having our mistakes flagged up. However, it is really important to determine between the two. Having a hissy fit over good editing will not help you in the slightest. Tolerating bad editing won’t help you either. The critical question to ask is, does the process make my book better, and more saleable? If you aren’t sure, ask – it may be that there are conventions you need to learn about. A good editor will help you learn. If you feel that the process is genuinely harming your book, then contact the publisher. They took your book on based on what they saw of it, after all. In my experience, a word to the publisher can result in a change of editor when needed. If all else fails, and you really aren’t happy, then walk away. Sometime it pays off in spades.

The vast majority of editing is good and helpful, but don’t be afraid to complain if the process doesn’t work for you.

A Thicker Skin?

It’s one of the first pieces of advice new authors tend to hear – you’re going to need a thick skin. I watched with interest a facebook debate yesterday, talking about harsh criticism and a tough industry, stinging knockbacks, and critiques that rip your work to shreds. A surprising number of folks saw these as good and useful things. On an egroup this week there was also some talk about the more brutal end of being reviewed, and what that does to an author. So you’re a creative soul and you want to share your work with the world? Grow a thick skin.

What makes us creative? There are undoubtedly a lot of answers, but it’s very hard to make art in any form unless you posses some sensitivity. Creative types, bard souls put work out into the world because we have something to share, a desire to be heard, perhaps a need for affirmation. Sure, there are people who are also doing it for ego, and a desire to be famous, but it’s hard work creating something and finding a way to share it. Anyone who gets that far has to be worthy of some respect just for trying.

It’s a learning process. Every creative person, when they first start putting work out there, will not be as good as they have the potential to be. There is always more to learn. Editors, reviewers, agents and so forth often have more experience, and there’s scope to learn from them. Being over-protective of what you’ve made and unable to hear where you need to develop, is a recipe for failure. But that doesn’t mean you have to give up on the integrity of your own work and let an editor make you sound just like everyone else. And some will try. There’s a balancing act to find between commercial viability, and artistic integrity, and it’s a challenging balance to strike, but it can be done.

I also work on the editing side. I’ve had fleeting encounters with authors who do not believe that their work needs anything doing to it. I’m aware of prima donnas who won’t be told and who cry ‘but this is my style’ when you try and explain that really, the mixed metaphors are not a good thing. Again there is a balance to find. If you are an arty person, then yes, odds are you are a sensitive soul and you may have some artistic temperament, but when you start dabbling with the business end, with the industries who might or might not pay you, a change is needed. Like it or not, you become a business person with a product to refine and sell. A cool head is handy.

All of that said, I strongly resist any suggestion that it’s good for creative types to be ripped to shreds by anyone who decides they know better. The pressure to ‘grow a thicker skin’ is not a healthy one. The industrial end of creativity may find it more convenient to make us behave like cogs in a machine, but we are not cogs, we are people. Industries of all kinds, institutions and anywhere that treats people as numbers, can be guilty of this. There’s a culture of expecting people to take whatever heartless crap is dished out, and to label as immature, over sensitive or otherwise neurotic anyone who cannot tolerate being bullied.

It is possible to tackle flaws in a piece of work without totally demoralising its creator. It is possible to nurture talent without ripping anything, or anyone apart. Having your work verbally annihilated is not a necessary rite of passage.  It is as well if you can learn from bad experiences, but they should not be celebrated. People who set themselves up as authority figures do not always know best. I once had an editor who edited out my subplot and tried to change the description ‘sex fiend’ into ‘sex kitten’ making nonsense of the entire story. She thought that bullying me and telling me I needed a thicker skin was the way to go when I disagreed with her. I protested to the publisher and got someone decent to work with.

I may be naive, but I believe that we should, as far as is humanly possible, treat each other like people, regardless of the circumstances in which we are working. Start from the assumption that the person you are working with is a decent human being. Treat them with respect. There may be a flaw in their work, or they may have just given you a shitty review, but they remain a person, and the world would be a radically better place if more of us could remember that. Then no one would need to grow a thicker skin, which could be a really good thing.

Fellow Author Marc Vun Kannon has blogged on a similar theme – http://authorguy.wordpress.com/2010/06/23/what-do-you-think/ so do check out his thoughts too.

Geez, Who peed in your Pepsi?: Typo Causes Uproar

I wanted to start my column off with a topic that is very familiar to me and to other writers, editors and publishers. It’s the dreaded typo. I never could have guessed a typo would cause such a problem for one publisher.

Due to a typo that caused outrage, a publisher had to reprint 7,000 copies of a cookbook called The Pasta Bible. The pasta recipe called for ‘salt and freshly ground black pepper,’ but instead, due to a typo, it was printed as ‘salt and freshly ground black people.’

Wow, I didn’t know that cannibals ate pasta.

The article did not reveal the identity of the enraged party.

This story really got to me because I know how difficult it is to find every typo or grammatical error in a manuscript even after reading it over and over again. A great editor will find most errors, but editors are human and can miss something. And spell check would not have caught this type of error because ‘people’ is an accepted word and spelled correctly. Sure, this is an embarrassment for the editor and the publishing company, but to make it more than that is ludicrous to me.

Mistakes happen. Live with it. The typo in The Pasta Bible is a silly, unintentional error, and I don’t understand why someone would become upset over it. I doubt that a group of cannibals are trying to push their recipes on unsuspecting individuals. As a society, are we really so sensitive that we cannot just laugh this off? Whatever happened to the days when we just brushed off a negative comment? Now, we cause a stink over every little thing that happens, suing people over trivial matters like this.

The reprint cost the publisher $18,500. What a waste of time and money. The good side to this situation for the publisher is that due to the typo, this book is sure to be a best seller. The books that were already shipped out with the typo will probably be a collector’s item someday. I am sure there will also be some people that will demand a replacement book because the typo bothers them.

Do you think people are just too sensitive these days and are too quick to get angry, especially over something so ridiculous as a typo? Are there any cannibals out there offended by this?

Kelley Heckart

‘Timeless tales of romance, conflict and magic’





Lessons Learned

Bloodied Quill

I was going to go on and write something uplifting and spiritual this week, but I find myself totally drained of anything even remotely resembling happy or spiritual. Next month, I promise. 😉

For the past month, I’ve been drudging my way through the requirements of resigning my position at a small publisher. I’ve one small batch of emails to forward tomorrow, and one CD to burn, and then I can wipe my accounts and hard drive of any trace of those companies.

Sadly, I chose not to leave when I first drafted a resignation letter in October of 2008, only a short nine months after being promoted to editor in chief. I continued on until February, when a colleague talked me out of resigning once again. The owner then gave me a sham excuse to fire me, but keep me as editor. That got my Irish up, and I fought back. Eventually I realized it didn’t matter. We were fighting a losing battle with a company that doesn’t care about authors, contracts, or promotions. The bottom line – not even the bottom line matters, so long as they get their own way.

My heart has broken with each email I read from authors, former editors, former authors and even booksellers who write to offer support and encouragement. Each one tells a tale of horrible business practices.

I look back to the summer of 2007, not long after I began with the company, and I received an email from the owner. She’d noticed I’d done something in one of my edits that she didn’t approve of, and took me to task. I in turn asked the then-editor-in-chief, as I was simply following the guidelines given to me by her, and in fact, written by the owner.

I did receive an apology, with a weak excuse. I accepted it and continued on. Looking back now, I see it was the first warning sign, the first whisper from that inner voice that we should all listen to. Too often we ignore our own instincts in favor of doing what could be better for us.

Now, after late royalties, a bounced check, defamation (bordering on slander/libel) from other staff and those stories I mentioned above, it’s very difficult to find any faith in the publishing world at all. Even one as lucky as I have been – I’ve found another place to work really rather quickly – still feels the sting when something goes so horribly wrong.

Lughnasadh is coming up very soon, and I believe I’ll be burning the printed copies of edits in the bonfire at our gathering. Generally I don’t find the harvest months ones to learn lessons in, but this year, it seems that is what Morrighan and Dagda have in store for me. I’ve learned another round of lessons the hard way, and this time, I’m paying attention. A lesson learned in day-to-day life is sometimes far more harsh than those lessons dealt by the gods; this time I concede to the karmic go-round and thank my lucky stars that I’ve still got time to make up for the mess this job made of my life.

Take note, writers…and editors. If you get a bad feeling from an editor, publisher or company – follow it. Don’t squish it down and ignore it, thinking you’re doing what’s best for you. Do what your heart – and your head – are telling you to do. Research your potential market/boss/agent to the fullest extent. Don’t just walk into something without educating yourself, make sure you know what’s what.

Good luck.

Jodi Lee