Friday, April 9, 2010

The Horror of Editors

Posted by LD Keach on Friday, April 9, 2010

(Or, please, put the red pen down before someone gets hurt...)

So, one thing I like to try to do with this feature—this lovely corner of the internet that’s been so graciously given to me to spew words on—is say thing things writers might not say in public. I like to write about things that, mayhap, we’re all thinking, but might not actually give voice to for fear of dire repercussions.

So, I’m going to say it, even though the dark gawds or writing may strike me down where I sit:

Editors are scary.

Editors scare me a lot. Sometimes, I have dreams where flocks of editors come charging through my apartment windows under the cover of night to devour my soul.

Editors are the creatures who hold our very hopes and dreams in their hands. Whether trying to convince them that, yes, you like my story, you really do, or if they’ve already been convinced and now you’ve got a sale that just a few changes need to happen before its ready to go… Editors are scary.

And “Bad” editors are even worse.

Once, I sold a novelette (in a very loose definition of the word), and I got to have the experience of being gnawed alive by one of those “Bad” editors. It took six months for that editor to reduce me to bone and gory sinew, six months to murder a 20,000 word piece of writing that I actually liked before it was accepted. After the “tidying up” process was complete, the novelette that remained had been so chopped up and re-phrased in the editor’s own words that it looked like it’d been written by a brain-dead gopher flopping across the keyboard.

I’ve never been the same. *eye twitch*

So, yes; I know from first-hand experience that there are those kinds of editors out there. Those kinds of editors who failed at writing themselves so now seek to re-make your words into something that looks like they wrote it so they can live parasitically off your publishing credit. There’s no telling how many there are out there. But, I can say with confidence, and from first-hand experience, that most editors are less maniacal.

Most editors are good people who like fiction and writing, which is why they got into the job in the first place. Most editors do what they do because they want to bring high-quality stories to the public to enjoy. Editors are people, too (in most cases.) And those “Good” editors are going to tell us things about our fiction that we don’t want to hear. Which, I believe in, when it’s in the spirit of enhancing and improving our work so it’s at optimal enjoyment capacity for the reader.

For that, we should love the editor (like a half-crazed stalker lurking in the bushes outside their bedroom window at night, mua-ha..ahem.) We love them so much, we just can’t live without them.

And they can’t live without us, either. Sometimes, as writer, we can forget that, and elevate the editor to such a high pillar that suddenly they’re the dark gawd and we’re the subservient peon. In reality, the writer is just as important than the editor because, without us, they wouldn’t have anything to edit. And that’s good to remember if you ever get one of those “Bad” editors that want to break your heart and chew up your writing before pooping it out in a steaming pile of unrecognizable crap.

If that ever happens to me again, I’ve now procured a brain-dead gopher to aid me in the editing process. His name is Howard.

And I think he actually writes better than I do. Damn.


  1. I've had the misfortune of dealing with crap editors before, mostly in the form of douchebags who don't even bother sending rejection slips. When that happens, I rescind my submission, cross their useless publication off my list of places to submit to and track down someone way cooler.

    I've had a TON of great editor experiences, though, and for that I'm forever grateful. It's a wonderful thing when you can make a connection with an editor that goes beyond just subber/rejector and become buddies. I've found, over the last year, that there's a certain circle of people in the small press horror community that are just absolutely badass to run with. They've offered criticism, glowing praise for my persistently bruised ego and most of them also put up with my drunken ramblings on Skype on the weekends (and tolerate my constant insistences that yes, I would totally do Anderson Cooper if I had the chance - it frequently comes up when I'm hammered).

    I love one of my editors so much I made a Facebook group telling the world how much I want to hump her.

    I'm not without my editor issues, though. As a reviewer (and even when I was reading for pleasure only), I have stumbled across more than my fair share of stuff that's been improperly edited. Tense switching, misspellings, grammatical errors, the whole thing. I've scratched my head and wondered just how something so sloppy made its way to the printer. It's not all the editor's fault sometimes, but still... If a writer submits something that is so obviously a first draft (and needs a hell of a lot of work), and you and/or the publisher accept it, you need to grab your pen and scalpel (and possibly a chainsaw, too) and get to work. Sometimes I think the problem, especially outside of the huge publishing houses, is that people are assigning themselves jobs they're not always qualified to be performing. A person may love reading and writing, but if they can't recognize issues when they present themselves then they're not doing anybody any favors by elevating themselves to the role of editor.

    I think the whole point of my long-winded rant is this - You will run across stuck up assholes and possible a handful of clueless but good-hearted people who aren't qualified to edit, but when you find that magical editor comrade you'll be golden. Don't give up heart or hope, because they are out there.

  2. Found a typo. I meant to say "possibly," not "possible." And I'm supposed to be an editor. FAIL.

  3. Ha! Don't worry, no fail; typos are a force of nature, unlike gravity. Very hard to defy. I've had stuff published with typos in it--that've gone through the same kind of editing you just mentioned!

    It is good to hear about awesome editors, and we all need to remember that just a few bad apples spoil the bunch. I've had a few good experiences myself that help--plus, Randi = awesome. Maybe I should make a Facebook group about wanting to hump her... ;)

  4. *"like gravity." Ha, yet another typo. You see? They're going to get us! They're goinG too EAT us ALiVE!!!!1