Writer, Editor, Somewhere in Between

Being both a writer and an editor can be a weird position. The editing has improved my writing (at least I think it has!) and the writing gives me sympathy for the authors I work with. Now that I’ve seen both sides of the fence, I can understand the complaints both sides have. Editors complain about a flood of unpolished manuscripts that could benefit from a major rewrite, authors think editors enjoy rejecting manuscripts for no reason.

In my own experience, I’ve seen a few mss that need work, but with enough work they could probably get picked up by a publisher. There are also some that will never be publishable and the author needs to move on to the next project.

I’m ashamed to admit that when I first started on the writing adventure several years ago (long before I became an editor), I wondered if the editors I submitted to were on some kind of vendetta to keep me from getting published. Then I learned more about writing and figured out why my submissions kept getting rejected. If any of those editors remember me and read this, I am so sorry for submitting something that badly written. I blame it on youth and lack of experience, and you’ll be happy to know my writing is greatly improved from those first attempts at publication.

Writers, keep in mind there’s always a good reason your manuscript has been rejected. Even if the editor just sends you a form letter with no explanation, there was a reason for sending it. Contrary to popular urban legends, editors are not cold, heartless beings who enjoy rejecting authors. We’re human beings with feelings and we hate rejecting manuscripts.

That brings up another important point. Editors aren’t rejecting you, just your manuscript. It may feel personal when you get that rejection letter, but the only thing the editor rejected was your manuscript. As a writer, I know how easy it is to take a rejection personally. I’ve even done it a time or two until my brain kicked in and said the ms was the only thing rejected. The editor probably didn’t have an opinion of me as a person one way or the other.

Now, here’s a tip for writers that you’ve all hear a gazillion times before: make sure the first couple of pages grab the reader’s attention. I always thought it was some kind of myth that an editor or agent could judge a story by reading just a few pages. Then I became an editor. Trust me, it’s possible to have a pretty good idea of how the rest of the story will be after reading just a couple of pages. If you get a request for a partial after sending five pages with your query, that’s a good sign. That means your writing has passed the first test.

Queries are something that tend to get overlooked. Always, ALWAYS take the time to revise and polish your query. If you don’t, it won’t matter how much time you spend on the manuscript. An atrocious query letter will prevent your ms from ever being seen by the agent or editor you submitted to. Remember that the query is usually the first sample of your writing they see and if it’s bad, the logical assumption is that the manuscript will be just as bad. Besides, editors appreciate well-written queries that show the writer understands submissions are like a job interview and appearances are important. So, put your best foot forward with an awesome query polished to perfection, and I’m sure you’ll be pleased with the results.

Now, I need to follow my own advice and polish a query waiting to be sent. Everyone have a wonderful weekend, and tune in Monday for a brand-new post!


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