Friday, August 23, 2013

By the Pricking of My Thumbs

Editors are evil.  This has been known since the first petroglyph carver, Urrgh, met his editor Giselle.  (What?  It’s my article.  Anachronisms are fun.)  Urrgh had just pounded the last mark into his masterwork, and turned expecting the buxom, blonde Giselle to have nothing but praise.  High praise at that, for his effort.  He was shocked, shocked that her face was not glowing with the pride of just being in his presence.

“Urggh,” she said and shook her head sadly, “passive voice, bad.”

That’s an editor for ya!  Here are some things that you should understand about your editor:

It’s Her Job
You’re the talent here.  Your work is perfect.  You know it.  I know it.  Sure, there might be some misspellings or a missing comma.  But that’s because your genius works faster than your fingers can type.  Those little corrections are understandable.  But editors are only in this for the money.  If she found nothing wrong with your work, she wouldn’t get paid.  A proofer could do her job for her.  So obviously she’s going to start finding things “wrong” that really aren’t.  Sometimes, your work is so perfect, she has to make up new rules, like: It’s is the contraction of “it is” not the possessive form.

She’s Jealous
Those who can, write.  Those who can’t, edit.  Your editor is an editor because she can’t write.  She’s tried, and failed.  Probably for years.  But your work is elegant, poetic, and mentally stimulating.  Your characters are deep, complicated and realistic.  Reading what you’ve written was probably a life-changing event, so how else would a broke-down, sad, bitter editor feel when she sees your glowing manuscript?  You are succeeding where she can’t, and she’s going to try to make your life a living hell because of it.

She’s a Grammar Nazi
The rules of grammar aren’t set in stone.  They’re more like guidelines.  They’re suggestions meant to help lesser writers, which an expert author like you can ignore at will.  Of course you wrote it that way on purpose.  It was a style choice.  You weren’t worried about rules.  You were writing poetry.  You were breaking through the stagnant walls built by generations of writers who blindly adhered to such restrictions.  You are a writer of vision with purpose and you can do whatever you want.  Who cares if grammar and spelling make it easier for the reader to understand your story?  Who cares if this is only your first or second novel?  Does Stephen King have to put up with this?  This is about the art!

She Doesn’t Get It
Your story is so eloquently and passionately told, that the publisher wanted it.  But you’re editor got “stuck” with you, and she’s not smart enough, not knowledgeable enough, not even clever enough to understand the intricacies of your plot, the characters or any other element of your writing.  She’s so mired in “logic” and “rationale reasoning” and “realism” that she can’t see the genius that is your book.  So what if she’s been doing this for ten, fifteen, even thirty years, successfully shepherding authors through the publication process?  So what if she’s read, literally (pun intended) millions of words from hundreds or thousands of stories.  This is your book.  It’s fresh, it’s new, it’s inventive.  It is unique.  It can’t be compared.

So remember your editor hates you, hates her job, and hates everyone around her.  She’s definitely taking it out on you, and it’s definitely personal.  She’s been having a bad day since the mid-90s.  She isn’t trying to make your book better, to make the story stronger, or try to help you sell (even though that’s where she makes some of her money).  Nopers, she’s doing everything she can to thwart you, make you feel small, and cackle the entire time.  It’s the one joy she has remaining in life. 

So give her a break, huh?  It’s not her fault she’s evil.  Or maybe it is.  But she’s evil, and that’s what you should keep in mind.


  1. WOW, Rob, you nailed it--evil laugh while rubbing hands together and consulting my minions. Wait, I don't have minions. How can I be evil without minions?

  2. Replies
    1. Haha, I was just thinking that same thing. If you don't have minions, you're probably one of them.