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August 27, 2014

A post from one of my writer’s group members prompted another return to one of my favorite subjects, editing.

Let’s face it folks. No matter how hard you try and how many edits, reads, folds, staples, spindles and mutilates you do on your work, once an editor at a publisher gets hold of it, you’re probably going to be surprised when you get it back full of red ink. It may be a real dash to your ego, it may toss you into the depths of despair, it may make you think you pursued the wrong career!

It may make you add your negative adjective here_____ editing.


The idea is not to take it personally, but look at it as another part of the creative process. Sure, you don’t want an editor to rewrite your book. If you find an editor ghost writing your story, it’s probably time to talk to the publisher and say “wait a minute.”

A good editor doesn’t do that. What they do is look for content, structure and grammatical mechanics. If your story needs a complete rewrite, that’s something that should’ve been caught by the publisher or agent before you signed a contract, and made clear they intended to do that. It’s also something you should be doing, not them. If they’re doing it, they’re basically stealing your story. You’re supposed to be the writer, not them.


The bottom line is that depending on the function of an editor, when you get to the red ink, you’re usually past the biggies, like structural changes. The first read will be to make those major story tweaks, big cuts and switching chapters. That may involve some red but, is usually more general in nature. These big issues have to be resolved by mutual consent. That may be a painful process when you have to kill off a favorite character or something, but if a story doesn’t need that character or scene, oh well. These initial stages catch those things as well as continuity errors, timelines etc.

The red ink is the grammatical things, sentence structure, point of view violations and such tweaks. A good editor could leave a lot of red per page, depending on your core skill.

Once those tweaks are made, a final read could reveal something nobody saw the first time. That could (or may not) lead to another round of edits. Be prepared!

However, seeing a lot of red doesn’t always mean a lot of work. It could still just be tweaking.


Your ultimate goal is to put out a quality story that shines, not something that will ceaselessly embarrass you down the road. The red ink now will do you many favors in the long run. Don’t look at it as a chore. Look at it as a learning experience and embrace it. Also, it’s another opportunity to once again, relive your story.

Happy writing!

4 Comments leave one →
  1. B.T. Economy permalink
    August 29, 2014 9:08 pm

    I’ve it before and I’ll say it again… I’m SO thankful for my editor and have learned to (and actually look forward to) letting her do her thing. Just wish I had an editor for my blog writing! Then life would be perfect 😉

    Good article!

    • August 30, 2014 1:50 pm


      Thank you! Yes, it’s always nice to have that second set of eyes for everything you do, though you can’t always have it, just like me and this web site. Plus my Let’s Talk Nevada articles. I just can’t find enough beta readers to go over EVERYTHING I write. I’d be bogging down all of my friends and colleagues on an hourly basis and they’d all hate me. There’s a limit!


  2. Peggy West permalink
    August 31, 2014 10:11 pm

    The key is, just as you say, not to take it personally. Writers work hard on their work, but the story has to be understandable to the reader. My book is understandable to me but there are pieces missing that, when added, make a stronger story. I want a strong book and it’s going to take someone other than me to make sure that happens. I read somewhere that it takes 4-5 years to write a first book. I’m at 4.5 years. There’s so much that I know about these characters that I need to convey to readers but I’m making a lot of assumptions at this point. I needed an editor and since getting one, I am enjoying the process again.

    • August 31, 2014 10:24 pm


      Exactly! We’re too close and can’t see what we’re not saying. That other set of eyes can. You’re right. It’s all just part of the process and we have to learn to embrace it as such. All the best!


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