Seeing Red…

I have been writing for what seems like forever. Editing… not so much. For the most part I wrote, finished project, and moved on to the next. This is before I finally decided I wanted to try to get my work published. I tried editing on my own, going over my book again and again and again. I thought I had it fixed up just wonderfully… the few people who read it never made any comments about things such as punctuation, tenses, structure, tone etc.

Then someone who knew what they were doing looked at it. Would I like to see the notes they made? Most definitely! What caught me by surprise was the comment to please not cry, or be angry. Okay…  I looked at the pages they had edited for me. There was a LOT of red, and many other colours, lines crossing whole paragraphs out. There wasn’t much of my writing untouched.

I will be honest, I was a little dismayed, though not at all the red. I was upset with myself for missing so much. I set to work fixing the problems, and went through the entire book again.

Jumping ahead, I was lucky enough to have another most wonderful friend look at a chapter. Again when it was returned I got the .. please don’t be mad at me!  Yes, there was a lot of red. And other colours. And lines crossing out whole sentences. This time I felt almost disappointed, there was a lot less red! Of course I was also happy about this too. LOL Yet again, I fixed the problems through the whole book.

The most helpful thing my editors did was include explanations next to their changes. This sentence is rough or choppy. Punctuation here is incorrect- and then explained. This word has been used too frequently. You get the idea. So not only was I able to improve my book, I learned so much along the way!

Having someone with fresh eyes, and who knows what they are doing, can do wonders for the quality of your book. I am assuming, due to the ‘please don’t cry or be mad’ comments, that some authors don’t take kindly to this help. Personally, I am eternally grateful for all the time and effort my editors put in. Their input and suggestions have been invaluable, even though occasionally I went I different route, I at least was made aware there was an issue and could fix it in my own way.

My main point of this post however is geared towards authors. Appreciate your editors, be they professionals or friends. Don’t get angry when they suggest changes. You don’t have to take them, however seriously consider what they are saying. If their suggestions to fix the problem don’t suit you… try something else. Obviously there is an issue.

Don’t be upset when you see all that red (or whatever colour it may be). Consider it a challenge, a way to improve your book and your skills even more! Smile, you can do this. Everything you do will make you a stronger writer, a better writer. Your stories will thank you for it.

Editing is of course a time consuming and occasionally frustrating experience while your attempt to find the perfect words. I recommend getting yourself one of these…

Have editing stories, tips or tricks as a writer or an editor? Please comment!


About jlwylie

Stay at home mom of 2 boys, avid reader and writer. Published by Untold Press

15 thoughts on “Seeing Red…

  1. kdmccrite2 says:

    Great attitude, Jen! I wish more writers were like you. Yes, it’s hard to have our work slashed red and blue, but look how a plant grows. Pinch off the parts that are unneeded or unlovely, sometimes clip it back to the roots. Then the energy goes to the good, and it becomes beautiful.

    I ALWAYS ask any writer who comes to me for feedback, “Are you gonna get mad or hurt?” Invariably, they say “Of course not!” But many do. I’ve been cursed at, had things thrown at me, and even lost a friend. And please understand, my critique is very gentle, with lots of margin notes as to why this or that doesn’t work and how to improve it. I’m a nice person, for goodness sake, and my motto for critiquing is: “Always to help, never to harm.” Sometimes, when I see a new writer approach with a manuscript, I just want to run the other way. But I don’t.

    Defensiveness has no place in the writing game. Glad you learned from your readers!


    • jlwylie says:

      I love the plant analogy! So true!

      A very good point about critiquing nicely as well. Had those who edited my work been nasty in their comments I would likely feel a different way. However they were very kind, adding humour and gentle swats 😀 Had I been called an idiot I truly may have cried.

      I learned so much in those edits I’m really looking forward to my next opportunity. I know I still have much to learn, and will always be learning, and am quite excited to do so!

  2. Hi, Jennifer. If none of the positive thoughts work, you can always think about being a rich and famous author who can break whatever writing rules that you want! Lol!
    Okay, maybe not, although there is some truth there.
    Thanks for posting. I remember when my publisher sent back my debut, last Christmas Eve morning. It is an e-book right now and soon to be a paperback. In any event, I opened my e-mail that morning and was suddenly put to work. Each and every non-Christmas moment that I had for the next few days I was busily hitting that Accept button for each and every one of her million corrections that she wanted. I hit the decline button maybe three times, only when I was absolutely sure that I had to have whatever it was. It can be a very trying time.
    Good luck and take care.

  3. JenB says:

    I’m late because I just saw the link you posted on Twitter, but as a copy editor, I LOVE this post. If only every author could see past the “red ink” and see edits as a polish and shine rather than criticism.

    And you know what? Even editors are blind to their own mistakes, which is why most publishers send books through several stages of edits before publication. It’s also why editors who are also authors still have to send their books through formal edits instead of just self-editing.

    Great post. 🙂

  4. Karen Syed says:

    It is very nice to know that when someone takes the time to offer advice and critique that they are acknowledged and appreciated. I know so well what it feels like to get the Rainbow Critique back from someone.

    When I send critiques out I think most people just get angry with my hacking and slashing, they forget that I was and still am a writer myself and I can teach from my mistakes.

    I am always discouraged when I send something out and no one has anything bad to say about it. I know that is crap because I have nothing on the NYT best seller list. If I was that perfect, James Patterson would be trying to buy me dinner and pick my brain for my secrets to success.

    This was a great post. Nicely done


    • jlwylie says:

      I know I still have SOO much to learn. I love learning and look forward to seeing more red! I know my writing has improved (at least a little) from the few edits I have had so far.
      It’s too bad more writers don’t jump at the chance to learn more from the editing experience.

  5. […] via Seeing Red… « Jennifer Wylie’s Blog […]

  6. As a writer, it’s hard to separate out the ego and you need some tough guidance. As a freelance editor, I learned to give honest, tough guidance. Oddly enough, or maybe appropriately enough, I started giving even tougher guidance to myself. Everybody wins.

    Scott Nicholson

  7. joannehuspek says:

    I’m like you. I like the challenge of the red. If my readers agree with me too much, then I know something is wrong, because I already KNOW it’s not perfect.

  8. Kirie says:

    Hi Jen,

    I’m with you. If people are going to take the time to look at my work then I will definately listen to what they have to say. Even if I feel a little hurt at some of the comments, I swallow it back and read it again and again until I can see their point clearly. Like you, I value all critique as it can only improve what we have. Good luck with everything, great blog, and one day, it will be you helping others in the same gentle way.

    Kirie 🙂

  9. Excellent post, Jen. I enjoy the editing process, too b/c I know I’ll have a better book once it’s done. Constructive criticism is invaluable.

  10. Oh well said!
    I’m a reluctant editor too – more because of time management than anything else – but I truly value this kind of feedback. It hurts to have one’s creation torn apart but if the advice makes it a better story, then I’m all for it 🙂

  11. Adam Lowe says:

    I actually love the editing process, from both sides (as a writer and an editor).

    Maybe that makes me a geek 😛

  12. jlwylie says:

    Not at all! 🙂 That is awesome it isn’t a chore for you 🙂
    Happy writing! (and editing!)

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