Tag Archives: editors

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 Heartspoken.com. Elizabeth also teaches small business connection strategies at RiverwoodWriter.com.

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 Photobucket.com.

Quotes from BrainyQuote.com.


Filed under Editing & Proofreading

Quick Editorial Tips

For nearly every client – especially those for whom I am doing a beta-read or full edit – I write an Editorial Letter. In that Editorial Letter, I note (among other things):

Writing Problems

Repeated Bad Habits

Recurrent Punctuation Snafus

For those of you about to send your manuscript to an editor, here are a few things to check and/or avoid:

Overuse of pronouns

If you have more than one SHE and more than one HE in a scene, chapter, whatever, and all you use is he/she throughout. I’m confused. Your readers will be confused too.

List of Chapters

You have a list of chapters at the beginning of the book, say 30 chapters. But the book has 31 chapters. Oops.

If you are going to list chapters at the beginning of your novel, check and double check that the chapters in the Contents agree with the number of chapters in the novel.

If you name your chapters, make sure they translate from Contents to text.

Michael or Mike?

Throughout the book you call a dude “Michael.” Then in one chapter you use “Mike.”

I’m thinking, “Who’s Mike?”

Or you spell a character’s name Karen and then later you call her Karin.

Ellipsis …

A mark used to indicate that something has been omitted from a text.

Why are so many writers using these … on every dang page?

Or in one place you have…. and then you have ……. and then in another place you have …and then in another place…

If you must use the dot-dot-dot, then make them the same throughout the manuscript. Type them with a space before/space after or no space before/no space after. And the same number of dot-dot-dots.

Consistency. That’s the ticket!

Moving on …

Continue on

This is one of those things my Mother would chide me about. Continue ON is redundant. Or lift UP. Or drop DOWN. Or jump OVER.

Learn to use commas

And then you can break the rules – if you want to.

Good resources –

Diane Hacker, Rules for Writers

Strunk & White, The Elements of Style


He sat in a dark, red velvet, plush, antique chair with a heavy, green, cable-knit sweater around his shoulders with a well-worn, old, leather-bound book on his lap.

Okay, this is an exaggeration. But still. Some of y’all are using way too many adjectives.

I’m reminded of Anton Chekhov: Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.

Show, don’t tell.


Stayed tuned for more Quick Editorial Tips. A special Thank You to editor Shawn MacKenzie for her beta-read on this blog post.

See her Website, Blog, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

Photos from pb_homepage, BryBuy8, and lenakhalid – Photobucket.


Karen S. Elliott was raised by a mother who wanted to be an English teacher and who worked for Merriam-Webster as a proofreader and an aunt who could complete the Sunday NYT crossword in a day. Their favorite expression was, “Look it up!” Karen reads punctuation and grammar manuals for fun.

Karen is an editor and proofreader, blogger, and writer. She edits fiction and non-fiction including: sci-fi, fantasy, children’s, mystery, paranormal, western, horror, literary, historical, and journalism. Karen completed her writing coursework through UCLA and University of New Mexico, and was the winner of the SouthWest Writers 2009 Writing Contest – The Best Hook. Her short stories have been featured in The Rose & Thorn Journal, Every Child is Entitled to Innocence anthology, Valley Living Magazine, BewilderingStories.com, and WritingRaw.com. She is currently working on collections of short stories and poetry.


Filed under Editing & Proofreading, Quick Editing Tips

A little editor tough love


I am not one of these schadenfreude people. If you don’t know what this word means, perhaps you need to improve your vocabulary. I like the word-a-day websites Merriam-Webster, Wordsmith, and Wordnik.

I don’t get the shits and giggles by telling you, the writer, that you need to work on your story-telling skills. Or that your punctuation is P.U. stinky. Or that you overuse adjectives. Or that you sometimes use run-on sentences and I have trouble following the point of the sentence and the point your are trying to make by running the sentence along for a whole huge paragraph is making me all-out crazy.

I critique and edit and proofread and make loads of comments because that is my J.O.B.

“I’m insulted”

I’ve heard this a dozen times from clients (former clients). Honestly, I’m a little sick of it. I think you are insulted because I’m not all “Oh, your novel is fabulous!” or “Oh, your book is wonderful!” like the rest of your inexperienced beta-readers and family members.

Your insulted-ness

Writers ask for my opinion and then wave their insulted-ness wand over me like it’s going to change my opinion.

Fat chance.

Your writing still needs work, no matter how many mommies, daddies, inexperienced beta-readers, and H.S. English teachers peruse your novel and say, “I love it.” And nothing else.

I ain’t your mommy

I know my Mom, and I know my Aunt Agnes (the two wonderful women that raised me). Read my About – they are mentioned.

If Mom and Ang were alive, they would peruse my writing and say, “You expect to sell this?” or “I wouldn’t read this past the first paragraph.” They would be critical of my grammar, punctuation, and story-telling prose.

And then Mom would probably give me a piece of cake to help me recover.

Do you want to improve your craft?

Elizabeth H. Cottrell (of Heartspoken, mentioned with permission) is the best client ever.

Elizabeth doesn’t accept every comment I make on her work. Nor should she. She asks questions about my comments. Sometimes she disagrees with me. Love it!

And she loves what I have pointed out – what’s lacking, what’s extraneous, what is unclear.

Googling “editor”

You take two years to write your novel. And then Google “editor,” send me an email, and expect me to know you. To “get you,” overnight.

Not gonna happen.

R. S. Guthrie concurs

If you are not convinced you need an editor, please see R. S. Guthrie’s Power-Wash Your Writing blog at Rob on Writing.

Even editors should have an editor

Shawn MacKenzie – editor for my poetry collection, my horror short stories, my memoir and historical short stories. Shawn is the editor’s editor.

I have spent two years commiserating, writing emails, and sharing blogs with Shawn.  She “gets me.” You can’t find that in a day by Googling!


The following is from Shawn MacKenzie, editor extraordinaire!  

Editors are people, too. We have our idiosyncrasies and foibles, and if you prick us, I assure you, we do bleed. Personally, I want to enjoy my work—I want to labor over prose or poetry that stirs, if not (yet) the soul, at least the imagination. Of course, if everything that crossed my desk was that good, well, frankly, I’d be fast out of work, and the state of modern literature would be cause for unremitting celebration. Not there yet.

So, yes, my meager coffers are indebted to awkward phrases and muddled plot lines, stilted dialogue and clichéd metaphors, not to mention sloppy punctuation and whiplashing points of view. But editing goes beyond the basics of grammar and punctuation, ultimately being more subjective art than objective rules and regulations. Hell, even grammar and punctuation can be tossed out the window if it serves the author’s story and voice.

This is what I try to do as an editor: to serve the author’s story and voice. I try to help them fulfill their literary vision as clearly, creatively, and uniquely as possible. My approach to an edit will not suit everyone, which is why I offer a sample of my work before taking on a new client. Making informed choices is essential for both editor and client. Up front, there are a couple of things that personally and professionally drive me frakking nuts.

1)      People who present what is essentially a first draft and expect me to do all the work to fix it. I am not a collaborator or a ghost writer. I am an editor. By the time I see a manuscript, especially for a line edit, I expect it to display a degree of polish, at the very least evidence of careful attention paid and work done. Anything less is a waste of my time and a client’s money.

And the flip side of this:

2)      People who are looking for a rubber stamp to their flawlessly exquisite prose. Much as we love unqualified praise for our words, that’s not my job as an editor. For one thing, I don’t believe in perfect writing—and I say that as a writer. Anyone who really thinks their work is perfect is apt to ignore all editing suggestions out of hand (as their right) and, again, waste my time and their money in the process. I will neither coddle nor eviscerate, but I will do my best to make the work better.


Shawn MacKenzie

Shawn 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. A graduate of Bennington College, she’s a writer of sci-fi/fantasy and an editor of crossword puzzles. Her stories have 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. Thoughts, writings, and ramblings can be found at her website, MacKenzie’s Dragon’s Nest or at her Dragon’s Nest blog.
Shawn’s other links –



Filed under Editing & Proofreading, Publishing