Friday, May 25, 2012

What Editors WISH They Could Say

Photo by Marion Crawford
Like most authors, I get asked, from time to time, by aspiring writers, if I could spare a minute or two (what they really mean is a week or two) to look over their newly completed manuscript and give them feedback.

The problem is that complex and misunderstood word, "completed."

In the words of the infinitely wise Inigo Montoya in The Princess Bride, "You keep usin' that word. I don't think it means what you think it means."

After trudging through the muck of a raw, you're-obviously-not-smarter-than-a-fifth-grader, unproofed manuscript, I (and every other author/editor in the world) have attempted to sugar-coat my outrage at the audacity of this selfish person to ask me to waste my precious time when they obviously haven't even lifted a finger to truly complete their manuscript.

Let me make it simple. Completion = writing first draft + editing + rewriting + editing + rewriting + editing + rewriting + editing + editing + editing. If you've gotten this far, then you're serious enough to hire a professional editor to catch what you've missed and polish your work to a gleam before submitting it.


If not, please let me be of further assistance. I recently ran across this (real) editorial response that made me not only laugh out loud, but jump to my feet, throw my fist in the air and yell, "YES!!" just like I did at the end of Babe. (Don't roll your eyes - I know you did too). Notice how this editor starts out biting-her-tongue nice and then the cat begins to claw its way out of the bag.

Please, please, dear aspiring writer, do your spit shining before submitting your manuscript. Don't ever deserve a letter like this. I've omitted the names to protect the guilty. I really don't know why.

Dear Arrogant Idiot,

I am sorry, but I cannot be a part of this. Your manuscript is nowhere near ready for anyone to read, much less buy. It is extremely rough and I am finding that merely editing it is totally inadequate. There are entire sections that make no sense, and many areas demonstrate redundancy and extremely awkward constructions. The disorganization and lack of direction make it difficult for your readers to follow your thought processes.

Honestly, AI, I've spent almost an hour on one page trying to figure out what in the world you were trying to say.

After struggling through this horrendous manuscript, I find that you are not a writer, no matter how badly you want to be one. You will always have to self-publish because no editor of any reputable publishing house would read more than a few lines of your manuscript before tossing it in the trash. I fear that you will be cheating people by selling even one copy of this grossly inadequate book.

You need a reality check, AI. You cannot write! You are self-deceived and delusional. Find something else you are good at and develop it to the best of your abilities. Writing is not it.

Most sincerely,
Editor with a splitting headache



Kat Heckenbach said...

Can I add this, too? So many aspiring writers seem to think they are the ONLY one asking an established author for "a few minutes" to look over their work. Authors do want to help newbies, but they don't have time to read/critique/edit every manuscript of every aspiring author they meet.

I was recently asked after speaking at a writers group if I could please read someone's self-published ebook (which I'd have to purchase for 99 cents) and give her some "feedback."

Um, really?

If your manuscript is not polished, and it is still in the stages of needing "feedback", it should not be published. And do not, for the love of all that is good and holy, refuse to buy a legitimately published book from an author and then expect *them* to buy your self-proclaimed mess and do free editing work for you.