Tag Archives: pick your editor carefully

Says the Editor: Verb? Adjective?


Is it a verb? Is it an adjective? No! This is a picture!

Seriously, though…

I had an interesting experience I wanted to pass along, because it’s about worldview, and it’s about word choice, and it’s about how every person brings something different to a piece and to the use of language, itself.

You see, I have a short story. I’ll be telling you more about this short story in the near future, but for now, let me say that I wrote a short story and I’m working with an editor on it. Yes, even editors use editors! (That’s because we understand the value of a second set of eyes, and we understand that it’s money well spent, and we understand how a fresh perspective (dare I say worldview can help us produce the best book — or in this case, short story — possible.)

And I used this phrase: At last, we quiet.

Or something like that. 😉

And my editor wanted me to change it to At last, we quieted.

So I took a look. Because I brought her on board to help me, right? And… I realized that the piece is in present tense, which is kind of rare for me but there it is, and approving her change means… a tense change right in the middle of the piece.

I pointed that out to her. She looked it over, thought about it, agreed, but said something about the phrase still bothered her.

I took another look, both at her request and because, frankly, I was intrigued.

And it hit me. She didn’t like that I was using quiet as a verb. So I changed it to an adjective by adding a verb in there and we were both happy.

It was a few hours later that it hit me what a brilliant change that wound up being. It’s one of those small, subtle changes that no one will ever be aware of (although now that I’m pointing it out to you, you might), but it’s a verb that echoes back to the genesis of the story, the action that sets the character on the path that leads us to the point where she finally quiets.

But hopefully — and this is what really good writing does — that one small word change, that one insertion, will give the reader a more complete reading experience, will heighten the emotion even if they don’t know the hows or whys they got there. That the reader will come away with a bit of extra satisfaction that they wouldn’t have had otherwise.

This is why we use editors, friends. I sent her the best story possible. She helped me make it better.

More to come about it, so stay tuned.


#SaystheEditor: I’ve Said it Before and I’ll Say it Again



Facebook has its uses. But like everywhere else on the Internet, the bullies reign.

Interestingly, it came this time from a fellow editor. Someone who should know the value of words, how to wield them most effectively, how to come across as a professional and someone whose opinion has value. When dealing with authors, I think this is an absolutely imperative list of skills. To be good at what I do, I have to step outside my world view and try to engage with the author’s. I’m helping them bring the best out in their book, not make them bend to my will. I’ve found that when I can consider the view of others in general, I bring a better approach and experience to my clients. Can’t always do that, but hey, I’m human. We all are.

And it takes all kinds to make the world, and it takes all kinds to call themselves editing professionals.

Now, we’ve all done slips of the tongue before. But follow the tale. This isn’t a bad choice of words. Nope. Not even close.

It began harmlessly enough with a question: how’d you pick your business name. Fun topic. People often ask me about West of Mars, and while the answer is long, convoluted, and private — and harshly reveals things I’d like to leave in the past — the simple answer is, “It’s where I live.” Nice and easy. So I was taking a break from editing for my client, Steve, and answered with that short, pithy phrase.

It wasn’t the timing of the reply, as the bully assumed. It was his wording. “I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again… (blah blah; lots more high-handed language)”

In other words: “I keep talking but you’re not listening, so I’m going to keep escalating the intensity of my response and keep saying it until you listen up and do what I say.”

Need proof?

Revisit your childhood. How many teachers, parents, adults in charge used that phrase on you? And what were they saying? “Shut up and do it my way.” Or maybe it was softer: “My way is the right way. You must follow.”

“I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…”

The implication is that the speaker isn’t going to shut up until not only heard, but obeyed.

Whatever, I thought. For me, it ended there. I’ve got two edits after this one; I’m not getting paid to engage on Facebook with people who are so absolute that their way is the only right way. I’m dropping in to take a break, clear my head so I can jump back in and give Steve my best.

At my next break, I took a look at my mail, including the notifications from Facebook. Seems my new friend has posted a brand-new post, broadly apologizing to the world for potentially offending anyone. And then he offered details about our exchange, including his assumption that I was miffed at him because of the timing of our replies.

And of course, his supporters showed up and began to bash this “mystery” member of the group. Editor dude, you are THE BEST. They must be having a bad day! What sort of jerk is that? Don’t they know you have a depth of knowledge that is unsurpassed? (and yes, that’s an almost direct quote)

Still doubt “If I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again” isn’t someone being the bully? He had to go and post a whole separate discussion in order to get one up on me.

And people pay this editor for help making their manuscripts better. Think about that. Does this mindset bring YOU the help you want/need to make your manuscript better? Can someone like this bring an open-mindedness to your work? Can they bring out the best in you, or will they harrangue you into doing it their way, even when your gut tells you it’s not the way that’s right for you? And if you dare to disagree, will YOU wind up as a conversation on Facebook, invited for ridicule?

I’ve met too many authors who have wound up in this position. People who feel forced to produce a book that they don’t love anymore. That the joy has been sucked out of. Some of them are stuck: they’ve signed a contract with a publisher. But others have used freelance editors who’ve left them feeling like this.

And that’s a shame.

There are a lot of really good people out there who look at editing as a way to bring out the best in the client. Who don’t make fun of their clients on Facebook. Who don’t ask others for grammar help; they know it, or they know who to seek out privately to find the answers.

If you’re looking for an editor, go find one of them. It’s YOUR book, YOUR vision, YOUR creation.

Don’t let someone pull that line on you: “I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…”

When you hear that and you’re an adult? Stop listening. Find yourself better people to surround yourself with.

(Oh, and for those of you keeping score, when I responded to a few geninue requests to understand what wording I was reacting to — with an explanation similar to what I said above– suddenly *I* was the one who had misunderstood *his* intent. He’s not a bully, merely misunderstood! Which… of course… perfectly explains all those other conversations inviting people to build him up while tearing me down. Can you say gaslighting, boys and girls? I haven’t been back to look, nor responded to the gaslighting, but you know his next move will be the personal attack. Yawn. Dude, go find someone else to bully. I got clients to take care of.)