The Writer-Editor Project


The Writer-Editor Project

I’m working on another new project, and I’d like some assistance. This new project is just one of the reasons I’ve not been blogging as much.

Let’s discuss it

In a series of blogs, I will post questions about writing and editing, for both writers and editors.

I would like some discussion, so feel free to respond (kindly please) to others’ comments.

Keep in mind, if you respond, you may be quoted. If you want to complain about a certain editor, please do not mention her/him by name.

Writers first

These first questions are for writers. And don’t worry editors – you will get your chance to grouse about writer nightmares!

The questions

1.  What’s the harshest – and most helpful – comment you ever had from a good editor?

2.  What’s the most significant thing you have learned from an editor?




Filed under Editing & Proofreading, Special Events

36 responses to “The Writer-Editor Project

  1. The harshest and most helpful piece of advice that I’ve gotten was a not-so-gentle reminder that it is not helpful to tell people how to build a clock if all that they have asked for is the time.
    The best editing advice that I happily take and cheerfully give is to read, read again, read it one more time, sleep on it if you have time, and then, if you are completely satisfied, hit “send” or “publish.”

    • karenrsanderson

      I love the clock analogy, Susan. I know one day, I’m going to have to press “publish,” but I ALWAYS find something I’d like to change – in short stories, poems, even blog posts. I guess we just need to accept we have to let it go.

  2. What’s the harshest – and most helpful – comment you ever had: that I was writing too much in my head. I got lost in the artistry of the prose at the expense of the emotional/accessible side of the story.

    The most significant thing I have learned from an editor is that there are times when less is more.

    (Love this project, btw, Karen.)

    • karenrsanderson

      When you say writing in your head – not putting enough of it on paper? Or not making it accessible enough to the reader? Can you expound?
      Less is more – yes, sometimes. I know I have read some stories, and they have huge chunky paragraphs of information, when “it was a dark and stormy night” would have been enough!

      • I mean that I stay too cerebral and objective – don’t tap into the emotional reservoir so much – or at least don’t always make that part of the story accessible. I think it is the downside of being a Gemini.
        “It was a dark and stormy night” certainly cuts to the proverbial chase. 🙂

        • karenrsanderson

          I find that when I do tap into the emotional side (like in Ruth Tees Off, you have read that one), I am better at expressing frustration and angst. It is difficult to put yourself out there, but ultimately, that’s when we can rock a story.

  3. loraneleavy

    Sounds great, Karen – and good to hear the ‘sound’ of your voice. What’s for Superbowl snacks this year? Lorane Leavy. . . .

    Sent from Windows Mail

    • loraneleavy

      Most helpful – though at time painful – suggestion from editor: Piece MUST have visuals. Harshest? Been fortunate to NOT deal with the harsh. However, often, I am told I’m being too esoteric. (I figure MY folks worked hard to get me an education. Readers’ supporters should do the same.)

      • karenrsanderson

        Agree on the visuals. I love a writer that can paint a picture in my head.
        I find esoteric (mostly) enjoyable. It makes me work a little harder, look up more words, do research, etc. And I love learning about loads of subjects. If a book is too simple, I lose interest.

    • karenrsanderson

      Super Bowl snacks – I have no idea! 🙂 I am not sure where I will be that day. Probably at home working.

  4. The harshest comment was not painful…except that my deep purple haze sky was too Jimmy Hendrix (lol) and other times, I used too many cliches, being completely unaware that so much of how we speak cannot be used effectively in writing. Best advice: My editor supported my story ARC from the beginning and did not change it at all. She improved (suggested replacement) descriptive words to enhance sentences. Also, as writers we can pretty much drop using the word “that” much of the time. As a result of working with my editor for a year (before the manuscript was published), I am conscious of my old faults and can avoid them.

    • karenrsanderson

      Cliches – yes, I sometimes see them used a bit too often. I like your editor, just suggesting, enhancing. As an editor, I prefer to not take a cleaver to an MS, but a scalpel. THAT – OMG, yes! What’s with that word?

  5. The most helpful comment was from you Karen. You said I needed to keep in mind many readers will not have been to Calgary and I need to remember to look at it from a first time visitor’s perspective when describing scenes. Such valuable advice when you are writing a scene that is too familiar to you. This comment is also the most significant thing I’ve learned from an Editor and has helped shape my WIP. I constantly remind myself of it. Thanks so much!

    • karenrsanderson

      Oh, thanks, Darlene! I find myself, when I’m preparing a scene in my head, I become comfortable with it, too familiar. But when I go to put it on paper, the writing of it may be too obscure for someone else. We all have different perspectives, experiences.

  6. Bonnie Culver

    Hey Karen, I love this idea and it’s great to read the comments of others.
    The harshest and most helpful comments from my editor were to stop having a love affair with comas, and to interrupt high tension moments with comic relief to extend suspense. The best advice was keep my audience in mind at all times, don’t write down to them, and listen, listen, listen.

    • karenrsanderson

      Love affair with commas – I like it! I would also encourage some writers to introduce themselves to the proper use of commas. Believe it or not, this is one of the determining factors for me when deciding if I want to work with a writer.
      I agree with the tension/comic comment – how many times have I read page after page after page of suspense – it takes the breath away! Readers need an occasional break.

  7. 1. What’s the harshest – and most helpful – comment you ever had from a good editor?
    you need to re-write the entire book – tighten it down – focus it more – don’t over-write it so much. — that was what would become Tender Graces, and she was right, for the book became better – in fact, I could tighten and focus it even more now!

    2. What’s the most significant thing you have learned from an editor? To trust my instincts – that I have a gift and I’m not using it as effectively as I could because I don’t believe in myself or my gifts. And, that I over-use certain things that are almost like “tics” — won’t go in to all those, but soon as she said this, I went “omg, I do!” and I watch for those things!

    • karenrsanderson

      Well, Kat, about #1 – I’m glad you did all that, because “Tender Graces” is an awesome novel! About #2 – I think I have a gift, too, though haven’t published near as much as I’d like – I’m working on that. I also realize that not everyone is going to like my poetry, but they might like my horror (I have a sick sense of humor!), and so forth. Funny thing, when I started to edit seriously, I realized that I was making some of the same mistakes in my own writing that I was telling my clients about! So all this helps me as an editor and as a writer. I can’t believe how bad some of my old stuff is! Yes, when some little thing is pointed out, it’s an AHAH! moment.

      • Life, and writing, is all about those AHA! moments – I still have them and hope always to have them – imagine not having them! 😀

        • karenrsanderson

          Honestly, while actually busy working in writing or editing or proofreading, I have aha moments all the time. Thank goodness! It means I’m learning and getting better.

  8. Fantastic idea — and I hope (ahem…) that you’ll be working your findings into an ebook. I’m ready to help you sell it.

    “Harshest and most helpful” input from a good editor. Well, nothing truly harsh, once I caught my breath from all the RED in the edited copy :-). All that comes to mind is one day when my editor asked me if I was okay because my writing was pretty blah (okay, she didn’t use that word, but that’s what she meant). Turns out — of course — she was right and once I got my head back in the game, the writing started to sparkle.

    Three really helpful things I learned from my editor come immediately to mind: 1) my overuse of clichés, 2) my overuse of the word “that,” and 3) my tendency to say “things,” “something,” “someone,” “anything,” “anything,” etc. when a more specific, interesting alternative can be used.

    Oh, and here’s a fourth that’s in sync with Karen’s #2 answer — your editor can’t always know the context or thinking behind what you’ve written…only that it didn’t come across clearly or vigorously. So when you disagree with an editor’s comment, you should always look for ways to improve what you wrote, BUT if there’s an overriding reason to leave it the way it was, trust your instincts.

    • karenrsanderson

      You are at the top of my “Helpers” list, E. You sure are gonna be involved.
      Was all this me editing? I should have mentioned, if you want to extol my editor virtues, you CAN mention me! Ha!
      This is what is so awesome about having a great writer-editor relationship. I can tell when my clients are off their game. “That” – ack! I have a hate-hate relationship with “That.” My opinion? – you can toss it 9 out of 10 times. The “thing” words. Yeah, they need to go, in most cases.
      Exactly right about context or thinking – I don’t always know where the writer is coming from. Again, it helps to have a relationship formed. What I always tell my clients – use what you want, trash the rest. The writing is, ultimately, the creation of the writer.

  9. This is a great project Karen and I’ve enjoyed reading all the input here so far. I suppose the advise I received that stuck the most was don’t always try to be clever in telling your story. You don’t have to be clever to be interesting.
    The most significant thing I’ve learned is there is a whole lot of talent out there from all sorts of backgrounds for which I have a great amount of admiration and respect.

    • karenrsanderson

      Clever – you make a good point, DiAnne. Many times, simpler is better. At times, ‘clever’ just pops into my head. But often, it’s the simpler stuff that impresses me. Stories well told, simply.

  10. What a great idea Karen!!
    Best advice so far: show me, don’t tell me
    Nothing too harsh yet…I’m still in infancy stages!

    • karenrsanderson

      “Show, don’t tell” is one of those bugaboos. I know when I don’t see it, but I can’t always edit to make it work. You want to make a book? You practically have one written with all your blog posts. No really, think about it. Check out Nina Amir, “How to Blog a Book,” recommended by Elizabeth H. Cottrell. Nina also has a blog.

  11. Interestingly, my critique group has been my best editors (I did have my first book edited by a professional, and she did suggest I change the ending of the book a bit, which was a great idea, and did help). But the harshest criticism/advice came from my bi-weekly critique group. They didn’t like my use of adverbs, and I’ve been much more careful to edit adverbs out since then.

    • karenrsanderson

      A good critique group can work wonders! So many opinions, so much input. I would love a good critique group. Maybe I should start one online, because I sure can’t find enough serious writers here in Minot.
      I go back and forth on adverbs…sometimes I like them, sometimes I don’t. I guess, for adverbs, less is better. Too many and it feels like the writer is trying too hard.

  12. I don’t really have much to add but I’ve really enjoyed reading other people’s responses to this!

    • karenrsanderson

      I am glad you enjoyed reading the responses. Save this blog – you might need it later! 🙂
      I will have more blogs covering the writer/editor thing, coming soon, so stay tuned!

  13. Pingback: The Writer-Editor Project II | Karen R. Sanderson's Blog

  14. Glad to see I’m not the only one who needs to show, not tell! My Achilles heel.

    • karenrsanderson

      Once you realize it and have a few pointed out to you, it’s easier fixing it. Sometimes that all it takes – just a ‘see here, you have done it again.’ Thank you for commenting, Merry.

  15. Pingback: The Writer-Editor Project III | Karen R. Sanderson's Blog

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