Tag Archives: what editors do

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 Only Love You For Your Contacts


I kid you not.

I got this e-mail. I’ll paraphrase it, but this is the essence of it.

Hi, Susan.

I am looking for an editor for my fiction novel. Not only must she or he have an excellent command of the English language, he or she must have strong contacts with literary agents. Any editor I work with must guarantee that they’ll get an agent to read my book and quite possibly represent it.

Umm… Dude. (Yes, it was a guy)

First off, I’m the wrong editor for you. I’m friendly and easy-going. You aren’t. In fact, you’re a bit of a bully, to just walk into my life and assume I’m going to be willing to share contacts, people whose relationships I guard and hold close, both personally and professionally.

Second, if I don’t tell anyone who my clients are — and I don’t, unless they talk about me first — why would I share my contacts with you, a stranger?

Third, and most important: That’s not the job of a freelance editor.

You hire a freelance editor to help create the best book possible. That’s all. The rest, the heavy lifting, the marketing, the buzz, the social media… those things have nothing to do with editing. That’s why you pay me a flat fee: I work on your book with you, I do my best to bring out your best, and then I set you free. Oh, I’ll be here for moral support, and no one will cheer louder or harder at your successes, next to you, of course. And yes, I’ll be here to help you vet small presses or agents. But YOU have to do the work.

What frightens me most about this author is that this guy is setting himself up to be taken for a ride. Some less-than-scrupulous person’s going to sweet talk him and make promises that they can’t or won’t deliver on.

Frankly, that’s the sort of carnage I’m glad I won’t be around to see.

So a reminder: If you want me to work with you, be friendly, not a bully. And have clear and realistic expectations about what I can and will do for you. Helping you craft the best book possible? Yes.

Helping you dodge the query letter and go straight to an agent’s interest? Not even close.