An editor’s life isn’t all buttercups and adoration

tana jung via photobucketRealization

I realize that some writers dread the edit – I’m the type that looks forward to it! I love it when my editor picks apart my prose, my grammar, my dialog.

I love a good dragon-powered edit from my BFE (best friend/editor), Shawn MacKenzie. See Shawn’s editor-at-large page. If you want her new book (and you should!) click Dragons for Beginners.

Hold your breath and cringe

The writer holds his breath once he sends an MS to his editor.

The writer cringes when she sees “Your MS Critique Letter” in her inbox.

What about us editors?

Yeah, we suffer too.

I have been bitched out, effed up and down, slammed against the internet wall, told, “Never contact me again,” and, “You don’t know what you’re doing because my Aunt ______ loves my book!”

Why do so many writers play the “aunt” card?

Just a few curse words

I had a writer curse me out because I wouldn’t give a carte blanche and a recommendation on her publishing company (I edited her book, but I knew nothing about her publishing company).DSC01608

A nice reply

Friend Denise Hisey (who has an awesome blog, you need to check it out) had some very nice things to say about my recent critique letter to her.

What Denise Hisey said: Criticism can be hard to take. I didn’t feel like you were criticizing though, I felt you were helping. I’ve grown too much in other areas of my life not to grow in this one, too! I may never sell a thing, but I want to improve as a writer just the same.

Ah, Denise. Your email was like a tender spring breeze among the apple blossoms.

Denise also said, about editing and editors: Yes, I imagine it could be nerve wracking on your end, too!

You got that right.

Throwing poo

I don’t just throw editor-flavored poo at you to make you feel bad.

I throw good poo at you – based on what I’ve learned about editing and proofreading, from reading blogs about editing and proofreading, and from reading blogs and industry articles about publishing, books, and writing.

And remember, I read grammar, punctuation, and style manuals for fun.

I hold my breath and cringe too

Every time I send a critique letter or a mass of comments on an MS, I shrink from what might come back from an “offended” writer.

But then I get a great testimonial, like from Elizabeth H. Cottrell. Elizabeth sometimes has me edit her non-fiction articles.

What Elizabeth said: Not only did [Karen] get the work back to me quickly, but the critique she provided was thorough, intelligent, and highly professional. She is very knowledgeable about proper and effective writing in general and blogging in particular, so her suggestions added clarity and energy to my articles. It’s an investment in the honing of my own writing craft.

Elizabeth and I developed a friendship, and we commiserate on many subjects (not just writing related).

So, your editor

How will you respond to your editor the next time?


Shawn MacKenzie. She’s an editor extraordinaire if ever there was one.  

Shawn MacKENZIEShawn MacKenzie had her first Dragon encounter when she was four years old and happened upon a copy of The Dragon Green by J. Bissell-Thomas. That was the beginning of a lifelong friendship. Author of The Dragon Keeper’s Handbook (Llewellyn Worldwide, 2011), and Dragons for Beginners (Llewellyn, 2012), she is an editor and writer of sci-fi/fantasy. Her fiction has been published in Southshire Pepper-Pot, 2010 Skyline Review, and as a winner of the 2010 Shires Press Award for Short Stories. Shawn is an avid student of myth, religion, philosophy, and animals, real and imaginary, great and small. Her ramblings can be found on her blog, MacKenzie’s Dragonsnest and at her web site.


Denise Hisey. I don’t like to define Denise by “survivor,” because she’s so much more than that.

Denise Hisey 2Denise Hisey is a survivor of chronic, severe childhood abuse. Asking for help didn’t come easy, but she highly recommends it. Her memoir is still stuck in her head, but screams to be set free! She lives in Washington State with her husband and enjoys riding her motorcycle when weather allows. Her growing family is her pride and joy! Find her blogging at Inspired 2 Ignite or reading on Goodreads.


Elizabeth H. Cottrell. Elizabeth is my most-fave client ever.

Elizabeth CottrellElizabeth H. Cottrell, a.k.a. RiverwoodWriter, is a Connection Curator, collecting and organizing information and resources about the power of connection to present them in ways that provide meaning and value. She is a passionate student of everything related to life’s essential connections: with God, with self, with others, and with nature.

Elizabeth shares her findings, inspiration, and guidance at Elizabeth also teaches small business connection strategies at

Connect with Elizabeth on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest.


Friendship is a single soul dwelling in two bodies. – Aristotle

True friends stab you in the front. – Oscar Wilde


Opening Photo – Tana Jung via

Quotes from


Filed under Editing & Proofreading

21 responses to “An editor’s life isn’t all buttercups and adoration

  1. Thanks for the spotlight, Karen! As I’ve shared with you before, when I opened that first critique from you and saw all the edits and comments, I seriously felt sick to my stomach. Maybe even a bit aggravated (Surely it couldn’t have been THAT bad!)

    But as I worked my way through your suggestions, by the time I got to the fourth or fifth one, I realized that without exception, each one made my writing clearer and stronger. In no time, I was completely over feeling bad and starting to feel excited that someone could help me so much.

  2. I’m happy to know that I make you sick! Take a Pepto because I’m not going to let you get away with any bad habits!

  3. Thank you, Karen for the kind words. So much to live up to. Personally, I think a great editor is wonderful. A real gift.

    • And a great editor cannot be found by ‘googling.’ I can’t tell you the number of prospective clients that come to me “in a hurry” “by Christmas” “by the end of the month” … You deserve the praise, Shawn!

      • Ain’t that the truth. Someone who wants a rush edit will get just that, all slipshod and replete with hap-dashery (tis the season for making up words 🙂 ). The mere request shows either a misunderstanding of or disrespect for the editor’s labors and expertise. “By Christmas!” Humbug!

  4. Hi Karen!
    Thanks so much for this amazing shout-out! You never cease to stop surprising me!
    I agree with Elizabeth…the editing comments are exciting (after the nerves calm down) because to have help is to move forward!

  5. This is a good reminder for us writers. I hadn’t thought about writers responding nastily to their edits until I read a blog post by another editor talking about it. Seems like a good way for a writer to burn bridges.

    Shannon at Writing From the Peak

  6. Shannon – about burning bridges – yup! There are a few writers I would not work with again.

  7. Shawn – if a writer wants their book done by Christmas, they should start thinking about it at the Fourth of July picnic, right? I know you worked on your new book all year. It’s not something that can be cleaned up over a weekend.

  8. Karen, kudos on your “most-fave client yet”! I am so fortunate to know her personally. And I thank Elizabeth for introducing you and me.
    Now that we are “off the road” for a bit (at our son’s house), I need to decide if what I’ve been dashing off daily or so is really an exercise in writing or simply a way to keep friends updated on our travels. I think I’ve taken reasonable care in editing but I’ve let “limited time” and “lousy wifi access” define my writing. Maybe now I can give it more attention. I have to because I know you are following!

    • I don’t critique or edit unless directed to! And I do not like grammar and spelling internet Nazis! I think your travel blogs are awesome. I don’t always reply, but I am reading. Elizabeth is a gem – I hope I get to meet her some day.

      • Karen, I know you don’t critique unless asked. That would be giving away what you do for a living. I do know you are reading, so it keeps me on my toes. Today, just as I was uploading, I realized I’d changed tenses a couple of times in one paragraph. “OH NO…Karen will see that. Gotta fix it! So I did.
        If you ever get to our lovely Shenandoah Valley to see Elizabeth, you must let me know. I live not more than a couple of miles away from her.

  9. Enjoyed your post. I agree, editors sometimes get a bad rap, but most I’ve come into contact with have been amazingly helpful and professional. Here’s a virtual buttercup from me 😉

  10. Awesome post, Karen! You indeed have a tough job, but I am so grateful you do it, because as a writer I know my work has been improved immeasurably by excellent editors. Thank you 🙂

    • Thanks, Cyndi. I think most people (who have never been edited before) expect me to point out a few typos and an errant comma here or there. As you know, it’s so much more than that.

  11. I always try to remind myself that I asked for the feedback. I don’t know why people think they have a right to ream people anywhere. This year I’ve been on the receiving end of lots of (unwarranted) attitude in my non-writing life, and it just gets tiring to have to deal with it. I do think it would be tough to be an editor. 😉

    • Thanks, Lara! No, sometimes, not so much fun. But when I have great clients and friends – awesome! My mother always told me if I had nothing nice to say, don’t say anything. I wonder if she thinks about my editing from atop her cloud saying, “Told ya so!” 🙂

  12. When I won some free editing from you Karen I was so pleased. The advice and comments on those first few pages was incredibly valuable and got me on the right track with my WIP. I will always be grateful.

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