How to Piss Off Your Editor in 3 Easy Steps

Fair warning: I’m feeling a little stabby about “professional” writers at the moment. The language of this post is a mite stronger than usual. Uncensored honesty, and such.

I have more experience as a semi-professional editor than as a paid writer. What I do for work now involves a fair amount of editing work–probably at least as much as it involves writing copy. In college, I interned as an editor’s assistant, served on the editorial board of the school paper, did copyediting for the academic journal, and ran the student literary magazine. In short: I’ve been on both sides of the manuscript, and I promise you, if you love the starving artist mystique and don’t actually want to make a living from your pen, there are three easy things you can do to send your editor into a bloody rage spiral.

1. Miss Deadlines. Repeatedly.

One missed deadline, dying parent, sick kid–it happens. Fine. Two missed deadlines…well, you’ve got a drama-filled life, maybe we’ll try to cut you a break. Three missed deadlines in a row? You’re an inconsiderate asshole. Do you think your piece of writing flutters from your email directly to the printer? Do you think photos done’t need to be sourced, layout doesn’t need to be managed, or that the abundance of typos you created by vomiting out your piece in a last-minute felthesh of desperation are destined to be paradigm changers for the world of literature? When your work is late, you either force nice people into working late and missing time with their sick kids and dying parents or you lower the quality of the publication you’re working for, and by god, if you have an editor who will stand for it, you should fall to your knees and thank the muses who are looking out for your unprofessional self.

2. Ignore Word Count. Astronomically.

If you work for a print publication, you’ve had this lecture. More words means more money for the print job, and that is not going to fly with the publisher, even if you do have the kindest of editors, one who looks upon your egotistical rambling with motherly affection. In the information age, text is cheap, and you probably take that as licence to babble on and on. You might think that the low, low cost of being able to say as much as you want automatically negates the age-old saw that being forced to shorten your work improves your writing. You might think the cheapness of online text means that readers will put up with endless, badly written drivel. Your editor, if you’re working for a respectable publication, has no such illusions. Lengthy text will either force your editor to spend hours doing the thoughtful editing you, dear writer, should have done in the first place, or it will force your editor to bury your not-as-lyrical-as-you-think meandering as the self-indulgent pile of elephant feces it is.

3. Reject Revisions. Gracelessly.

Now I am enough a writer to know that when you’ve opened your veins onto a page, having someone suggest that you might need to bleach out a few of those bloodstains makes you a bit light-headed. Nauseous, even. But the truth is that you don’t end up as an editor if you have a dead ear for language, and, in fact, the very nature of editing means that editors are getting their hands dirty with bleedings of a much wider variety than writers tend to. Editors hear all the time, “I think I know how my blood ought to splatter a lot better than you ever could. Editors are just failed writers, so how right could you possibly be?” What you’re ignoring, to your peril, is that editors have something you can’t have: perspective. They also don’t spend their entire working lives with their heads up their own rumps, as writers, by the very nature of the work, sometimes must. So yes, go ahead and call your editor a burned out, washed up, talentless hack for the sake of preserving the first draft sanctity of your blood-soaked rags. You don’t need publication or a paycheck to validate how much of a literary giant you are, right?


With a Little Help From My Friends

Never say that this dudette don’t meet her deadlines, ayuh.  With a little help from the Great Pumpkin, a ridiculously damaging October snowstorm, and a wonderful husband who knows when I need to ignore him for a while…I’ve done it. I’ve survived the second major revision of last year’s NaNoWriMo novel. Now I need your help. My book is far from perfect, but I’ve rewritten so much of it that I can’t distinguish between storylines that are, were, and might have been. I need detailed constructive criticism, and I’m not above offering bribes to get it.  Here’s a look at what all I’m asking you to read:

Autumn’s Daughter

Niamh Brennan is changing into…something. Something that can incinerate objects with a glance, move objects with a thought, inadvertently dematerialize a moving vehicle, and that’s not even the half of it. When Niamh’s sister Birdy is kidnapped by an entity no one else can even see, Niamh and her best friend plunge into a strange world of magic and theoretical physics to rescue her. In pursuit of the missing girl, Niamh discovers that she is more deeply connected than she could have imagined to the politics and scheming of a not-as-mythical-as-she-thought people who call themselves the Sidhe.

Edit My Book Fast Contest Extravaganza!

To enter:

1. Email me at the following address: with the subject line “I want to rip your manuscript into tiny pieces to make it better, for reals.”

2. Receive a reply from me containing a checklist of feedback I’m looking for and Word document attachment.

3. Email me again when I inevitably forget to attach the attachment.

4. Read my checklist, then read my book.

5. Make no less than 30 comments, changes, and/or suggestions using the comments and “track changes” features on Word or Open Office. If you don’t track it, I might not be able to find it to count it towards your total.

6. Save your copy and email it as an attachment back to me.

Grand Prize (first five valid responses)

> 1 batch of homemade cookies (chocolate chip, peanut butter, oatmeal raisin, or snickerdoodles, your choice, and please don’t neglect to mention any food allergies if you win)

> Custom-designed mug sweater (they’re cute and they keep your tea warm!)

> Mention on my “Thanks” page when I eventually get published

> My eternal gratitude

Awesome Prize (next five valid responses)

> Custom-designed mug sweater (they’re cute and they keep your coffee warm!)

> Mention on my “Thanks” page when I eventually get published

> My eternal gratitude

Not Too Shabby Prize (any other valid responses)

> Mention on my “Thanks” page when I eventually get published

> My eternal gratitude

Bonus Prize for Artists!

If you’re and my book inspires you to draw anything from it, I would LOVE to see what you do. If you send me art based on my book (along with your permission to put it on my blog), I would be delighted to share it with my readers and link the post to your web presence.

I am heading into NaNoWriMo as of now and I still have a mountain of Christmas knitting to accomplish, so this contest will remain open at least until December 16th, longer if I have not received ten valid responses. One week after I announce the close of the contest, I will announce the winners. Prizes will be sent out by the end of January.

Writer’s Workshop: Contest Coming Soon!

I was so excited about summer, back in May. It was going to be my magical time to write and revise and edit…my golden ticket to the candy factory of getting paid to make shit up. I had a brilliant plan in place. In the weeks I had between the end of school and the beginning of camp, I was going to revise my novel to a point that I would be content sending it out for review by agents. By the end of September, I planned to have researched agents, written query letters, and sent out my first pleas for rejection to leave my free to spend October and November outlining the sequel.

Before you laugh, I have to defend my lofty plans by saying that I have a track record of being a damn fine editor. I have taken a hundred-page academic thesis in a discipline that is not my own and polished it in under a week on more than one occasion. Can do, have done. In my mind, whipping 70,000 words of fantasy into shape should have been a cake walk. And…if it was someone else’s work, that might be true. Have you ever tried major reworking of a story? It’s like telling your quirky kid that he need liposuction and a few hours in the tanning bed. Well, okay, more like a change in diet and some moderate exercise from time to time, but even though the changes will improve my novel immensely, I’m finding them extremely difficult to make.

I buckled down on Monday and spent some quality time writing a query letter and researching agents. Three paragraphs took me about as long as two chapters of the book itself. I’m still not pleased with them, but it looks like I’ll have plenty of time to edit it: every piece of advice I’ve come across recommends having your manuscript in mailing form before you send our your query letters. Apparently nothing kills interest faster than not being ready to mail out a manuscript if an agent asks to read it.

So here’s my plan: I’m begging for help, for which I will pay with cookies. I’m telling you this now to keep myself accountable. On October 31st, I will have finished my first major revision of my novel, according to the plan I have outlined. On that date, I will be publishing a call for editors. I will send out my manuscript via email to anyone who volunteers to help, along with an outline of what I intend the book to be. The first five people to read my manuscript and return it to me with edits made via “track changes” and “comments” will receive a batch of homemade cookies and a custom-designed mug sweater. The second five to read it and return it will receive a custom-designed mug sweater. Everyone who reads it and returns it with comments will receive immortality in print if ever I land a publishing deal, as I will thank you all in my front matter using the nom de plume of your choice. I will give more details about the sort of feedback I need in the October 31st post. It is not a task for the faint-hearted, but knowing my few (but loyal) fans are cheering me on with their blue and red metaphorical pens will help me plow through the writing of book number two during NaNoWriMo.

So…who’s with me? Do I have any editorially-minded takers out there?