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Ten Things That Annoy Your Editor
By Mysti Parker
At least this editor, though I’m sure it applies to most of us. We want to help writers polish up their stories, but we also LOVE it when we get to work with writers who know their stuff. We want to get all wrapped up in your story and forget we’re editing so we can concentrate on all the big stuff like plot holes and characterization, with a little proofreading on the side. We want to be your partner in crime, not tripped up by things you ought to know already. This is a good thing for you, too, since a lot of us charge by the hour. So here are my top ten things that you should try to avoid when sending that manuscript off to your editor:
1. Apostrophes do NOT a plural word make: Unless it’s used to make a word possessive, don’t use them to make a word plural. If you have five furry purr boxes, you have five CATS, not CAT’S. You’d only write cat’s if you’re talking about something belonging to the cat, like the cat’s hairball. Eww.
2. Beginning every sentence the same way: Variety, people! Readers like variety. So do editors. It makes reading much more interesting. If you’re writing “He…” “He…” “He…” to start every sentence, it sounds like you’re in labor. Gerunds are even worse: “Running through the red light…” “Tearing up my ticket…” “Texting while driving…” The problem is repetition. And repetition is noticeable. Anything noticeable in writing draws the reader from the story, and that’s the last thing you want to do.
3. Misplaced modifiers: Janet sure was hot. Wearing a skimpy negligée, Joe drank his beer and licked his lips. Wait…what? Who’s wearing the skimpy undies? Joe or Janet? Do we really want to know? Make sure your modifiers match who they’re describing, please.
4. Dialogue tags:
Joe said, “Whoa, Janet, you’re hot!”
Janet said, “No, I’m not.”
Joe said, “Yes, you’re much hotter than my ex-wife, maybe not as much as my last girlfriend.”
Janet said, “Where’s the baseball bat?”
When two people are conversing, keep the dialogue tags to a minimum. Once you get a nice back and forth go
ing, a few action tags/inner dialogue is all we need to keep things straight.
5. Head-hopping: Few authors can get away with switching POV within a scene. Most can’t without it being jarring to the reader. Whose head are we in? Unless you’re really good at that omnipresent narrator who knows everyone’s inner thoughts at any time, keep us in one squishy brain per scene, please.
6. Inconsistent tenses: Is it happening now (present tense) or did it already happen (past)? Maybe it’s all going to happen later (future tense). But it can’t happen in all those time periods at once unless we’re in some weird space-time-messed-up-continuum story. Pick one and stick with it.
7. Commas, commas, everywhere or nowhere! Learn, where, to put, commas, please. If you have a dog cat horse pig cow and chicken, you need commas between those or you have one weird looking critter! You don’t, however, need them before a conjunction unless it’s introducing an independent clause. Don’t believe me. Go check the Purdue Owl.
8. How’s this? And this? How about this? Treat editing rounds like drafts. Don’t email your editor about every little change. Should Tom be Tim? What if I make the car blue instead of red? Do I need a comma here? If you have a pressing question about a plot twist or something you’re trying to iron out, then contact your editor. Talk it out. Trust yourself for all those little cosmetic things. If you want a blue car for your serial killer, then give him a blue car. Call his victim Tim or Tom or Gabriella Santiago-Mercury. If your editor didn’t mention it, there’s a good chance it’s OK either way.
9. Resistance: There are times when you won’t agree with an editor. There are times when you’re right to disagree. It’s your creation after all, but be mindful of how often and how vehemently you are opposed to changes. Depending on your publishing path, you may or may not have a lot of say in how things are edited. Either way, your editor isn’t out to hurt you. They want to help you make your story the best it can be. If you’re an indie author and you disagree with something your editor suggests, you’re in the captain’s seat. Change it if you want. If not, don’t waste time arguing. Just move on to the next suggestion.
10. What can I do to guarantee a ton of book sales? If I knew that, I’d be rich. As would all editors. Making it big in the book business is kind of like winning the lottery. As we’ve seen with some recent successes, you don’t even have to have a superbly-written book. All the proper pieces have to be in place at the right time. An editor would have to be a psychic to know exactly what those are. All we can do is help you polish up your manuscript to be the best it can be and wish you luck as you send that baby out into the world!
Mysti Parker is a wife, mom, author, and shameless chocoholic. She is the author of the Tallenmere standalone fantasy romance series and The Roche Hotel romantic comedy series. Her short writings have appeared in the anthologies Hearts of Tomorrow, Christmas Lites, Christmas Lites II, Christmas Lites IV, The Darwin Murders, Tasteful Murders and EveryDayFiction. Her award-winning historical romance, A Time for Everything, will be published this summer by EsKape Press.
Other writing pursuits include serving as a class mentor in Writers Village University's seven week online course, F2K. She has published one children’s book, Quentin’s Problem (as Misty Baker), with another (Fuzzy Buzzy’s Treasure) coming this spring. When she's not writing fiction, Mysti works as a freelance editor and copywriter. She also reviews books for SQ Magazine, an online specfic publication, and is the proud owner of Unwritten, a blog voted #3 for eCollegeFinder's Top Writing Blogs award. She resides in Buckner, KY with her husband and three children.