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A view from the other side of the editor's desk


Codey

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I've been reading this section lately and would like to make a few comments from a new writers perspective.

A good editor by definition is one who makes an AUTHOR'S story the best it can be. When an editor begins to interject his personal views and opinions, he's turning the story into his own or at best a collaboration.

I recieved an e-mail from a friend a while back who also does editing for some new writers and I'd like to share his advise to to me and other new writers.

"Codey, speaking as an editor, let me throw a out few comments about editors and your work. Don't forget that what they are working on is your story. I know you think there are too many rules in prose, but rules are made to be broken, and a rule broken consistently is a rule in its own right (for example when you make up your own language with its own syntax and rules...see Drake's "A Royal Thief"). I guess what I'm trying to say is that you need to remember that the editor is there to do two things. First, to catch those annoying spelling and punctuation errors, and second, to help make sure your story stays on topic. If they want to change something you feel strongly about, stand your ground because it's your story!"

Someone who is a beginning writer, needs encouragement as much as he needs editing. There is no way a new writer will turn out a masterpiece in his first efforts. He needs the encouragement from editors and comments from the readers to perfect his art. That is if there is ever perfection in any art form. My personal belief is that all art forms are subjective and thier worth is judged from the viewer or reader's perspective.

I'm probably overstepping my bounds but speaking for guys my age, if an editor makes my writing seem like a school assignment then I'm dropping that class. I write because it's fun for me but if it turns "un-fun", I'm outta there!

I guess what I'm trying to say is that editors in a non-professional setting like the internet, need to be a little more lenient. If you want professional stuff to read, there's plenty to choose from on Amazon or your local bookstore. Given time and guuidance without pressure, who knows? Maybe one of the inexperienced writers on the net will become a new Faulkner or Hemingway. But not if they're turned off from writing.

Codey

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I'm not entirely sure an editor in a non-paid setting needs to be more lenient, though certainly some tact is in order. Liberties that you might be able to get away with in a paid setting may well just not fly in a volunteer one, regardless of whether they're the best way to get a point across. I'm not sure there's a tactful way to say "Have you considered not writing another word again ever? If not, could you?" to someone.

As important as it is for the editor to realize the author's a volunteer, it's important for the author to realize that the editor is a volunteer as well in these circumstances. I don't think it's inappropriate for both editor and author to cut the other some slack, and I think that a certain minimum amount of professionalism is in order regardless of whether there's money involved. There's a lot more to being a professional (IMHO, at least) than just getting paid. (and if there isn't I shall happily live with my delusions, thanks :) )

It's definitely true that an editor has fewer ways to coerce changes in a piece this way, which can make it more difficult (or potentially impossible) to get some changes made. One of the downsides to a self-service publishing vehicle like the Internet -- the author can always choose to ignore the advice of his or her editor. That advice is ignored at the author's peril (though, granted, not much peril...) even if the advice is poor.

Anyway, I think there's a limit to how much an editor should coddle an author's feelings, and a limit to how much editors and author should expect from each other unless other arrangements have been made. It's all volunteer -- unless you've stood up and say you're comfortable with what's essentially an intimate relationship, both sides should pony up some common courtesy and go from there.

-Dan

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Thanks for sharing with us Codey. Don't get discouraged. I'm sure Jamie and AJ could tell you some stories of the author/editor relationship between themselves.

For my own part, with the authors I work for, I offer suggestions for any changes that I may see. Then it's up to the author to make any changes they may agree with. After all, this is his/her work, not mine. You've seen first hand what I mean with your chapter of Collision. When I get a Collision chapter back, I'll do a quick check of the story before I call it final. Most generally, my suggestions are accepted.

I usually then switch to reader mode and give the author my take on the story. And I sometimes get a reply back on those comments, which I appreciate.

Jan

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Well, I must disagree my esteemed Codey.

I will not speak for anyone but myself, however when I give something to an editor I want him/her to do their very best job. I do not like an editor who tries to pull punches or even worries about my feelings too much.

Their job is to make my story better and if my feelings get hurt, well that's part of the deal. (That doesn't mean they should be mean, but if something sucks -- just say so, and don't beat around the bush.)

My best editor was absolutely brutal with comments like "I know you can do better than the dreck in this section" -- and she was absolutely correct. Very rarely did I overrule her comments unless it was for a good reason. (Serial editors don't know what's coming next and may demand, for example, and explanation of something you're deliberately keeping a secret.)

Editors should show NO MERCY when it comes to spelling and basic grammar. Complex grammar should come with appropriate explanations especially when dealing with a beginner.

However if you write "Your going to far" or "I like it's color" and your editor buys a gun and shoots you, you probably deserve it. In fact, I'll pay for the bullets.

If you want an editor and unruffled feathers, get your mom or dad to proofread. Otherwise get ready for a bruised ego.

Remember, as you get to be a better writer, you will have less trouble. And I don't get discouraged by my editors often. I enjoy the challenge of trying to improve my writing to meet their absurdly high expectations.

As an editor, I don't edit much because most people think I'm a bit harsh, but I do Driver's more recent work and a few others. He fights back and I don't mind. But other than the comma bit he doesn't require much work except I pay attention as a reader.

Do what you want but if you want to get good at something, it's going to be hard work. It doesn't matter if it's writing or skiing. Fun things require work just as much as not-fun things.

My two pence.

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I think there are a few things here, that may be getting confused.

The first is establishing a relationship with an editor. Like any relationship, the first steps are usually tentative and prone to misunderstanding. I had this with my very first editor for New Brother - he pushed me hard, pointing out where I needed to add depth to the story with description of surroundings and actions. I pushed back because I couldn't do what he wanted, and it was only after chatting with him that I learnt that he really liked the story, but was pushing me to be better. He thought I didn't want him editing for me any more. I said I did, because I was learning quickly, but I wasn't capable of reaching the standards he was aiming me at... at least not at that time.

So, early communications are important. A new author can get their ego bruised very easily if they get the impression that what they are writing is crap. It is very important to distinguish between real crap (as WBMS's editors do for him) and "good, but I think you can try to make it better". As soon as that first editor told me he really liked it, most of my anxiety disappeared, and I recognised what he was doing. We agreed he'd keep pushing, and I'd keep learning, but neither one of us was to get upset if I wasn't able to reach those high standards immediately.

The other thing in this area is that good editors are rare and tend to be overworked. For that reason, they are reluctant to take on "can you have a look at me story for me" too often. New authors have to recognise this unfortunate fact and accept that when they DO take a look, it's often a quick look to get a feel for (a) the story and (b) how good the author is presenting it. By it's very nature, this means that they may miss the point if the story is non-traditional in nature, but all authors have to accept that the editors are busy people who aren't just sitting around waiting for someone to give them something to edit or comment on.

Once a good working relationship has been established, then the gloves come off, because both sides are able to distinguish between personal and story attacks. I've had a couple of early readers tell me they didn't like something I wrote, and why, and almost always I make a change accordingly. Sometimes it's one or two lines to explain something, and other times it's a major re-write, but if those early readers have a problem with what I've written (for any reason) then I believe a lot of readers will have a problem -- and I therefore need to fix it.

My opinion only, of course.

Graeme

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Guest rusticmonk86

BEHOLD! A power struggle.

Which is more valuable, an author or an editor?

Who is more important?

Which is more easily expendable?

Is your editor your "coach" or your Judas?

Is your author an idiot or a savant?

One thing is for sure: Someone who volunteers to edit your stories is doing a favor.

However: Editors are not the end-all, be-all. And they as well should know their place.

What's interesting here is the interaction. I mean, all that stuff I just said is obvious, right? Both hands must work together.

But these are some questions authors should ask themselves before they choose an editor:

Can you seperate you from the story?

That's where most of the conflict here will be. Someone is going to read your story and find everything that's wrong with it. That's an editor's job. If you can't handle having that kind of stuff pointed out, you need to go back to n00b land for a while. There's going to be a lot of work, too.

If you're not used to the master/slave relationship between editors and authors here at AwesomeDude, you might want to think about a "safe word".

A safeword is a codeword or series of codewords that are sometimes used in BDSM to mean that a bottom or submissive is reaching a limit or for the Top/Dom to stop the sceneplay.

Now, editors/Id lick u 2 ask urself y u wont to edit that peice. iz 't 4 tha sadisfakshun uf wahtcnhg a riter get bedder? or is it because you really would like to beat some of us in the name of grammar?

.

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BEHOLD! A power struggle.

Yea and verily for it is so.

However: Editors are not the end-all, be-all. And they as well should know their place.

What about some of us who are both author and editor? :)

What's interesting here is the interaction. I mean, all that stuff I just said is obvious, right? Both hands must work together.

Of course both hands must work together: that's what makes great onanistic sex :)

Can you seperate you from the story?Someone is going to read your story and find everything that's wrong with it. That's an editor's job.

That is a fantastic point. I think that is the crux of the argument.

n00b land
Huh????
Now, editors/Id lick u 2 ask urself y u wont to edit that peice. iz 't 4 tha sadisfakshun uf wahtcnhg a riter get bedder?

DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE

or is it because you really would like to beat some of us in the name of grammar?

That really depends. Sometimes I edit because I am dying to read the author's work (Driver) and sometimes I edit because I am asked a favor (various authors). But I really don't treat the jobs differently. If something is good it comes back with very little colour and if it doesn't, it's laden with red and green and blue. When I teach someone a bit about grammar, I do feel better knowing I've made the world a more literate place.

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Guest rusticmonk86
A newbie is a newcomer to a particular field, the term being commonly used on the Internet, where it might refer to new, inexperienced, or ignorant users of a game, a newsgroup, an operating system or the Internet itself. The term is generally regarded as an insult, although in many cases it is used in purposes of negative reinforcement by more experienced/knowledgeable people, urging "newbies" to learn more about whatever field or area in question.

Variant spellings, such as newb, noob, nub, nib or n00b (in "l33tsp34k"), are numerous and common in Internet use, particularly in the Internet language Leet.

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  • 1 month later...

This is a dynamite discussion!

I agree with many of the points above, except to agree that it's important for an editor to be honest, but also provide comments in a way that's both helpful and tactful. That having been said, I think occasionally saying to the author, "hey! This sucks! You can do better than this!" is not necessarily a bad thing. And the other key is pointing out concept, character, and plot flaws while at the same time helping the writer come up with solutions to make everything work.

I've had good and bad experiences editing for other people. In some cases, my advice was mostly ignored, and I opted out of working with that person and wished them well. In others, they took most of my suggestions, but sulked because I had inadvertantly hurt their feelings. In yet another, I had a falling-out with an author (who knows who he is), because he started preaching the gospel to me in email, telling me that "all gay people are inherently immoral." I couldn't handle dealing with what was, essentially a self-loathing gay man who was married, but lived vicarously through the lives of his teenaged characters, who jumped into bed with each other about every five minutes. So you run into a lotta weirdos on the Net.

And I have no problem dealing with editors myself. I've had to develop a fairly thick skin as a non-fiction writer and journalist, dealing with magazine editors for many years. I had some good experiences, though, even when they started out badly; for example, I submitted a story to one technical magazine in the late 1980s, and it came in way too long and the editor was sorely pissed about it. I convinced him to publish it as two separate articles, and wound up getting paid twice as a result! So good things can result from harsh critics.

Codey brings up a good point, in that the editor doesn't have a right to force a writer to change his or her story. If people did that to me, I'd mull over what they had to say, but if it didn't work, I'd tell them why and would stand my ground. Other times, it forced me to re-think my approach, and I wound up going in a different direction, but still one I never would have come up with on my own. So even a suggestion that doesn't work can sometimes be useful.

I think my best editing experience was with Keith Morissette, because we shared a lot of similar opinions about writing, and we were both totally brutal in pointing out flaws in each other's work. I'm really grateful for Keith because of his skill and his honesty, along with the fact that he's a really talented writer (who I dearly wish would write more).

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Something I've experienced quite recently is also similar to what I recently read in a book on creative writing. In the book, the author, after publishing a medium length novel (~300 pages) was asked to produce a large novel (~600 pages) for his next story. He did so, and it was atrocious. What he'd done was take what he'd normally write for 300 pages and pad it out to 600 pages. It hadn't clicked that to make the story twice as long, he'd also have to have twice as much in the plot.

In my case, I'm listening to advice I've received and I'm trying to reduce my dependency on adverbs and speech tags. New Story is one my 'practise' stories. What happened with the first version of that story is that I removed the adverbs and speech tags, but then failed to replace them with something else. The result was the feeling of banter and love, which I've previous shown with adverbs and speech tags, in the interaction between the two characters was lost. One person told me that they felt like they were room-mates, not a couple in a relationship. Another person told me that the ending came over as spiteful instead of gentle fun. Once it was pointed out to me (I hadn't noticed myself, as I knew how I wanted the words to be interpreted), I then went back and put in the extra parts required to show the relationship I wanted between the characters.

What does this have to do with this thread? I'm glad you asked.... :D

Internet authors and editors are still largely learning their crafts. This means that changes will occur, and things that worked before may stop working as the skills develop and knowledge increases. I know I still have a lot to learn, and that I need to unlearn some of the things I've been doing. In the process, the quality of what I write sometimes goes down. I need an outside eye to pick up on this, and to tell me when I'm not delivering what I intend.

Graeme

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In the book, the author, after publishing a medium length novel (~300 pages) was asked to produce a large novel (~600 pages) for his next story. He did so, and it was atrocious.

That's the silliest thing I've ever heard! I've never had a publisher tell me to write something longer because they needed to add extra pages! I think this is a fruitless exercise, and the result should be obvious.

To me, what makes sense is to just write something and make it as long as it needs to be, and no longer. I can see the sense in writing long and then going back and paring it down to get rid of the deadwood, but not vice-versa.

As far as a dependency on adverbs and speech tags: I don't think any writing text advises to get rid of all of them. Just use them sparingly (like that one, right there). There's also a way to use other kinds of description to communicate the same idea:

"And how do you suppose we'll do that?" he said sarcastically.

vs.

He raised an eyebrow and gave me a wary glance. "And how do you suppose we'll do that?"

or

"Ha!" he said with a snort. "And how do you suppose we'll do that?"

All three communicate the same idea, but only the first uses an adverb, and it's clear to me it's the weakest of the three. Most of the books on writing I've read stress that just taking out excessive adverbs and modifiers isn't enough; you then have to beef up the sentences with stronger verbs and better construction in lieu of the adverbs.

And sometimes, an adverb is OK to use, particularly when the sentence is ambiguous without it. If a character is being sarcastic, the reader needs some clues to that effect, either from prior behavior, or his or her attitude during the conversation. Otherwise, the reader will get confused, and that's the last thing you want.

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I think maybe I should have been a little clearer in my post. I'm talking about young writers, teens. Believe me guys, we're a completly different animal. You can tell an adult that something he did sucks and that adult will think that he should take a second look. If you tell me or another teen that something we did sucks we hear it in an entirely different way. What we hear is 'you suck'.

When you're dealing wiith young writers, you have to play teacher. An author, whose work I really like, is doing beta reading for me on a story I'm writiing. He's tough but phrases things in a way that doesn't feel like personal attacks and is encouraging at the same time. Which sounds better to you?

"This sucks! You can do better!"

or

"I'm sorry, Codey, but I didn't like this chapter as much as the last. It's just not up to your usual standards."

By using the second approach this beta reader got me to go back and look and change some things and when I hear from the other Betas I'll probably have more to change. If he'd used the first approach, my reaction would have been "Oh yea? Wth does he know? I'm leaving it the way it is."

That would have hurt my story but that's the way teen's minds work. We're at an age where we're trying out our wings as adults and are very touchy about being TOLD what to do.

An editor working with a young writer (teen) has to stop and think back to how he felt at that age...and be realistic about it. Seeing your own teen years through rose colored glasses won't work when you're working with teens.

Some things we do will just have to not be very good...it's the way we learn and when we're older and more mature, we can always go back and redo them. I don't know anyone that started out as an expert in anything.

I recieved an e-mail recently from a well know teen author and he said something that was true for we teens. He said that one of my poems reminded him how scared he was when he first started posting his first story...that he was afraid of being laughed at.

That fear of being laughed at or ridicled is something teens deal with everyday and so why should we write if even the people who're supposed to be helping us learn to be a better writer, ridicules our work? I know...you'll say it's criticism not ridicule but remember that we hear things differently than you mean them.

Codey

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Thanks Codey. I'll keep that in mind.

I'm currently started working with a teen, almost 15, on his first story. Right now, it's mainly clean up. He has 41 chapters written and posted at his blog and at another site. He's never had anyone go over the chapters for him. (He contacted me about doing this for him thru another forum.) The story is based on his young life. He starts it when he was 8 years old. Other than mainly spelling and punctuation issues he seems to be doing a pretty good job. I always try to to be constructive with any comments. As a result, before he sends me new chapters to work on, he goes back thru them.

It started out a little slow, but its picked up and is getting interesting.

Jan

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Editing, like writing, is an art, a craft. It's also a working relationship between the author and the editor: a relationship that must work, and one that is about being workmanlike, professional. Each editor and writer, and ideally, each story, has a personality. On the web, it is most often done because, well, because they love writing. It's easy to blur the lines of being a pro and being a friend. That isn't always best for the editing and writing process, but sometimes it can work spectacularly well.

It seems to me that's part of what's at issue here: The style and attitudes that the editor (a critic) uses when dealing with a new writer.

Most writers of online gay fiction are amateurs. Remember that the root meaning of "amateur" is someone who loves what they're doing. Most online editors are amateurs too. That is fine. The whole point of having online gay fiction is, after all, about meeting the wants and needs of the audience. The genre isn't as welcome as we might like. (The editor in me notes I've begun to climb a soapbox and drift off-topic; back on-topic.)

Writers are an unusual breed; so are editors. I write, I edit, so do most of us, perhaps it's so obvious to the editors and beta readers out there that we forget it, at our peril. With that urge to tell stories, to have an audience, to make them the best stories out there, comes a great paradox: A writer's ego is a large and fragile thing, and it can be fierce and hard-nosed or it can curl up into a bawling ball. A trade secret: The same is true of those imperious, obnoxious, opinionated editors.

An editor looks at someone else's story from one perch (vulture-like? ;) ) and an author looks at it from another (my baby! paws off, you ****er!).

So, to the point. How can an editor relate to a new writer, someone who lacks experience, whatever the skill level at grammar or at story-craft? Your first answer is probably, "Treat 'em like any other author, they have to learn in the school of hard knocks." Maybe. But we're not at work / school, so let's take a little extra time with it.

A new writer is insecure about his writing, even though he loves it and knows it's good. Part of him is worried that people will take one look and...brutalize or even ignore the story and the author. Oh, the horror! More than one accomplished web author has withdrawn for that very reason. They are still around, lurking, sometimes posting new work, but...they are not...God, I just realized, those authors feel like they've been shoved "in the closet" of the web. Ugh. Sorry, I didn't know that metaphor was in here. (I'll pause while we all get past that.)

Well, we as editors and beta readers can be just as strongly opinionated and still encourage and build up the authors we edit. That's the goal, after all. Our job is to make our fellow writers' work the best it can be. A good editor doesn't have to be an adversary or a bully to bring out the best in an author.

An editor takes an author's story and points out all the ways to improve it. What are the flaws? What can obviously be corrected? Mark and change the spelling and punctuation. Mark to suggest changes. Offer suggestions where possible, or state where the author needs to make changes. Point out what's good and what works well. Be polite and be firm. It's just as easy and far nicer for you both to treat the writer as a friend or co-worker.

What does this mean for the newbie writers out there? Heck, what does this mean for the experienced writers who are lurking around? -- Simple: Any storyteller with a story worth telling is also worth an editor with enough style and grace to treat the author and the story right. You don't have to be a big name with lots of experience. Some of the finest stories on the web are from writers who'd never written a jot before but what they had to write for work or school. Yes, a few are even from writers who hadn't graduated high school yet. So what? Neither had quite a few big-name professionally published authors, when they started out. -- Don't let your inexperience or whatever your age is keep you from trying! Most of us who edit do it because we love reading and writing too. We're honestly just guys and girls like you.

As a writer, recognize that your story is made up of words. They are malleable, changeable. Save a draft and save a second version and rewrite from the second version or be really daring and start a brand new draft. Pick and choose the best parts and connect them with more flowing words. There is no such thing as a "perfect" piece of writing or art, just ask any creative writer or artist. They can tell you every blemish. -- Hey, watch it, those are my blemishes! Hey, don't worry too much about your own blemishes. Here's some zit cream. -- Each time you tell a story, it's different. So don't get hung up on criticizing a story. Put on your own editor's hat and look at what's good and bad in your own writing, and be prepared to talk about that with your editor.

As an editor, remember that the author whose work you're editing is a parent worried about how you're treating him or her and his or her baby. Treat that baby and that parent with care, and soon you'll have a growing, healthy family...one that is fitting into the neighborhood and gaining lots of friendly support.

Codey is right when he says that teens (or new writers) take what critics say differently than the adults or the experienced writers. How a comment is said is as important, perhaps more so, than the item remarked upon. If a new writer feels he or she is being unfairly treated, then why would that author want to keep writing, let alone working with that editor? There are enough editors that authors can find another one.

As an editor, I freely acknowledge that this is half-baked as an essay, in my opinion. Not bad for a first draft, but it needs work.

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.)

An editor takes an author's story and points out all the ways to improve it. What are the flaws? What can obviously be corrected? Mark and change the spelling and punctuation. Mark to suggest changes. Offer suggestions where possible, or state where the author needs to make changes. Point out what's good and what works well. Be polite and be firm. It's just as easy and far nicer for you both to treat the writer as a friend or co-worker. [/i]

Yes to punctuation, spelling and grammer. These have rules and some of us don't know all those rules yet. However when the editor suggests changes in style or content, he's the one that should remember those can only be suggestions. Style and content are the exclusive rights of the writer. When an editor insists on something being included or excluded, he's becoming author instead of editor.

As an example, in a chapter of Tribe I have a paragraph dealing with parents and how they discipline their kids. Two of the three adults who read this chapter think it should be modified and less strong words used. Of all the guys near my own age that have read this chapter all the comments have been positive and they think I nailed it.

Both writer and editor have to keep in mind the target audience. When dealing with younger writers the editors tend to view the piece as an adult writing for adults and that simply is not the case. If your experience dealing with teens ended when you were no longer a teen, then you tend to think in the way you did when you were a teen.

***A new writer is insecure about his writing, even though he loves it and knows it's good.***

Maybe some "know it's good" but most of us only think it's ok and only when enough people have read and commented will we know whether it's good or not.

Codey

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However when the editor suggests changes in style or content, he's the one that should remember those can only be suggestions. Style and content are the exclusive rights of the writer. When an editor insists on something being included or excluded, he's becoming author instead of editor.

Yes, that's right, the editor shouldn't demand changes and shouldn't rewrite. He or she should suggest and discuss. It should be a debating process, and the story should always win, not the editor or the author.

(About Tribe) -- Hey, that's not even published yet. Careful, you'll give away spoilers! -- But the advertiser in me says, hey, you've just piqued the audience's interest, cool! -- Yeah, if beta readers your age prefer your version, then stick by your guns when you talk to your editor. (Dang, he's cantankerous! I dunno about that guy sometimes.) It'll be good to see the other beta readers' opinions.

Both writer and editor have to keep in mind the target audience. When dealing with younger writers the editors tend to view the piece as an adult writing for adults and that simply is not the case. If your experience dealing with teens ended when you were no longer a teen, then you tend to think in the way you did when you were a teen.

You hit that nail on the head...I think you might've banged my thumb too. ;D Good point for adult authors and editors to remember: teens think and act differently; don't idealize or romanticize or sugar-coat it. -- And treat them as the intelligent adults in formation that they are.

About writers' insecurities -- Is my work any good, am I any good? -- What I meant was that, as writers, we generally have two streams of thought going on simultaneously about our writing:

* Oh, damn, I'm good, this story rocks! I got this and that just perfect, it couldn't be better! Woo-Hoo!

* Oh, damn, Am I any good? Is anybody gonna read this? This part and that part don't work the way I want them, and that part over there isn't quite what I wanted.... Man, I'm not nearly as good as Author-On-Pedestal, I'll never be as good as him! I suck.

See how dumb that second one sounds, when you see someone else write it out? Especially since Author-On-Pedestal feels just the same way now (maybe even about your work!) and felt that way for sure when he first started out (he said so, in fact).

The truth of it is, we need to tell both the angel and the devil on our writing shoulders to go soak their heads and shut up already, so the writing muses / twisted plot bunnies can do their stuff and we can write that great story.

Me, I'm waitin' on a chapter or two to edit from a certain person or two. Meanwhile, I need to take my own advice and write on my stories too. Heheh, and yes, I'll be nervous and opinionated when those get betaed and edited.

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Codey is right when he says that teens (or new writers) take what critics say differently than the adults or the experienced writers. How a comment is said is as important, perhaps more so, than the item remarked upon.

Yeah, I agree. I think there's a way to criticize something and be rude (ala Simon Cowell), and there's a way to criticize something in a positive way.

I think one of the ways for an editor to do the latter is to suggest a solution. One of my big concerns is "dangling plot threads," where a writer introduces a character or a situation, then never resolves it later on. Another is dialog that doesn't sound right for the situation; that can usually be worked out just by speaking it out loud.

And I agree, young writers (as the Wicked Witch one said) "have to be treated del-i-cate-ly." At the same time, it does neither the writer nor the editor any good if you're beating around the bush. If there's a problem, just say it, get over it, fix it, and move on. It ain't that big a deal.

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At the risk of annoying a few people, I'd just like to say I disagree with some of the things in the last few posts.

In my opinion, young writers should NOT be treated any different to other writers. ALL writers (and editors) should be treated with respect. Being polite is not something that should only be done if the other person is young.

Being rude/abrupt is only acceptable when you know the other person well enough to understand that they will take it in the way intended and not get offended. WBMS has made it quite clear that he's comfortable with receiving a reply "That's crap! Do it again," but he's told us that is acceptable for an editor to say when writing to him. It is NOT acceptable to do so to someone you barely know.

As the relationship between an editor and writer develops, they'll learn more about where the boundaries of acceptable responses lie. This is different for different authors/editors. Some authors DO take criticisms very personally and need to be handled adroitly. This applies to some young authors and some old authors. It is NOT an age thing.

Just my opinion. Going back to my hole now....

Graeme :D

PS: I'm not the sort to take criticism very personally, as long as the criticism is about the writing, and not about me. I DO take personal criticism hard, especially when it's justified....

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At the risk of annoying a few people, I'd just like to say I disagree with some of the things in the last few posts.

In my opinion, young writers should NOT be treated any different to other writers. ALL writers (and editors) should be treated with respect. Being polite is not something that should only be done if the other person is young.

Entirely right, and I'm annoyed :twisted: that I didn't get that point across as well as Graeme did.

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At the risk of annoying a few people, I'd just like to say I disagree with some of the things in the last few posts.

In my opinion, young writers should NOT be treated any different to other writers. ALL writers (and editors) should be treated with respect. Being polite is not something that should only be done if the other person is young.

Let me expand further. First, I agree you should treat all writers equally, but being polite doesn't mean you can't be harsh. That's not a respect issue.

BAD:

Dude, your ending really sucked.

BETTER:

Dude, your ending left me feeling cheated and maybe you should reconsider working on it more. Remember, if I feel cheated most of your readers will feel cheated. (Explain why you feel cheated and, if you're feeling generous, why you feel that way.)

BEST:

Dude, your ending sucked so bad I am going to hire a hit-man and have you killed. (Okay, maybe not.....::smile::)

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  • 5 months later...

Gentlemen;

Let me just say that this thread has been very educational for me, a job well done to each of you for presenting some very educational material on the editing process.

I am a newbie lurking in the background following any and all of the comments of Pecman. I am new to the writing world and my goal is to be the best writer I can be, just like Pecman, who so far is running the risk of becoming my Hero!

Keep telling it like it is suppose to be because there is someone out there listening and learning from all of you wisdom.

Thanks again;

Paul

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I think it needs to be pointed out here that when an author--no matter what his/her age--sends a story to an editor, it is for the purpose of soliciting the editor's opinion and reccomendations. This implies that the author recognizes that the editor's opinion may have some validity, as someone with a talent for grammar, punctuation, characterization, etc.

So, when an editor tells you 'this particular section needs to be reworked,' it makes sense to pay attention to that opinion--after all, that's why you asked for help in the first place.

Having said that, I will also point out that the author/editor relationship--just like any other kind of relationship--is based on mutual respect. Honest brutality is counterproductive for an editor, if the goal is to produce a better piece of writing. Brutal honesty is more acceptable, but it has its limits as well. It should come as no surprise that the best responses come from politely worded requests, in my experience.

The synergy that comes when an author/editor team really meshes is a wonderful thing. I've been blessed to have two of those kinds of relationships with authors, and i thank the gods every time I open a new chapter from either of them that I have been so blessed. It hasn't always been so--I wasn't brutal enough for one guy, and another wouldn't stop sending me rewrites (after rewrite 15, I threw in the towel) and kept posting stuff before I could look at the "final copy"--which, by the way, is the only hard and fast rule that I insist on. As an editor, the last thing I want is to have my name attached to something that I didn't have an opportunity to check before it went to post.

cheers!

aj

Hmm...looking back at this, I notice that it doesn't actually have a lot to do with the subject of the original post...so:

Codey, here's my bottom line: The work is what's important. The best work is produced by mutually respectful relationships between the author and editor, because they last the longest and produce the most consistent product. Don't let the editor run roughshod over you, and don't view the editor as a punctuation/grammar 'bot. The point of having an editor is workshopping your work with someone who knows something about writing, so grab the opportunity when it presents itself.

aj

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