Hi guys! Sorry I missed my blogmas post yesterday—finals week is super hectic! But I’m back today with another writing-related post for both fiction and nonfiction writers and authors: here’s what your editor does not want to see.
When pitching your nonfiction work to an editor, if you commit these writing sins, they’ll probably throw your article straight to the trash. Alternatively, even though it’s your fiction book editor’s job to fix your manuscript and make it the best it can be, it can be a lot cheaper if you can fix these things before you send it to them. Plus, fixing some of these will just make you a better person and writer all around!
BONUS: Read to the bottom of this post for a super deal on editing from yours truly!
1. When writers don’t capitalize the first word of sentences/character names/etc. or when writers use apostrophes to indicate plurality.
These, and so many other basic grammar/mechanics rules, are no-brainers. As an editor, I’m happy to fix the more advanced grammar issues, like misplaced punctuation and confused modifiers, but if you mean to say “editors” and you say “editor’s” or you use the letter “i” without capitalizing it on more than than just a few occasions, I’m probably going to get pretty annoyed.
2. When writers put two spaces after a period.
This was important way back when typewriters were used to ensure that sentences didn’t run together—but that’s not an issue anymore! When I edit, it drives me nuts to have to go through and delete this extra space after sentences. You don’t see it in books or any other publication, and it shouldn’t be in your manuscript.
3. When writers make excuses before editors have even had a chance to read the manuscript.
Dear writers: don’t sell yourself short! You’ve spent days, weeks, months, or even years slaving over your work—give it the credit it deserves. Don’t tell your editor that “it’s not that good,” or “it needs work”—let them decide this for themselves, and be confident in yourself and your writing.
4. When writers try to write in a dialect or version of English other than their own.
As Americans, we can kind of get obsessed with U.K. English sometimes—I know. But when I was first learning to write, I read in a book that it’s a terrible idea to try to write in Canadian/British English if you’re accustomed to American English, and vice versa, even if you’re writing for an international publication.
There are likely differences that you aren’t immediately aware of between the two languages, and your editors will see right through you if you only change the word “color/colour” and not all the other word variations. Leave it to your editor to make these changes for you if they/you wish.
5. When writers can’t summarize their own work.
When an editor or publisher asks you what your book or article is about, you should be able to give an immediate answer to fit the situation.In person, you should be able to give a quick synopsis in two to three sentences. In an email, you can probably suffice to provide a little more background. Pull out the important information and leave the rest for when they actually read your work.
6. When writers don’t use proper grammar and mechanics in your correspondence.
It makes a writer look unprofessional if he or she can’t write a sensible, error-free email. That means start with a salutation, end with a signature, and try to use complete sentences in the middle. And for goodness sake—don’t just send one-word emails!
7. When writers don’t get back to them in a timely manner.
As an editor, I want to work with the writer to create the manuscript they really want—but I can’t do that if the writer never talks to me.
I’ll usually ask for feedback on my editing style or look for clarification on the content at least once during the process, and I’m hoping the author can get back to me within a day or two so I can keep moving forward and meet their desired deadline.
8. When writers write about subjects that they aren’t familiar with or haven’t researched.
My boyfriend is an EMT, and whenever we watch medical sitcoms, he immediately points out things that are actually impossible in real life—and it sort of ruins the show for him.
The same applies to writing. Just because the average person isn’t an expert in the subject doesn’t mean that one or more of your readers won’t be—and they’ll be quick to call you out in the reviews if you have inaccuracies in your copy.
Avoid this issue before publication (and before sending it to an editor) by researching your topics beforehand. If you aren’t sure how something works or what is and isn’t possible in a certain field, find an expert who can give you the information you need.
9. When writers don’t read over their own work before sending it in.
This is especially important for nonfiction writers who are sending articles directly to an editor in hopes of publication, but fiction authors can benefit from this, as well. A lot of times, after you finish writing something, you have a totally different idea in your head of what you wrote than what actually made it onto the page.
When you finish your manuscript, do yourself a favor and take a few days off, then come back to it and read it over. If you can fix a lot of the content and grammar issues from the get-go, you’re more likely to get published or a much cheaper price for the editing.
10. When writers can’t take criticism.
A wonderful writing professor that I had in college used to say all the time that you can’t fall in love with your words. Fall in love with the concept, fall in love with your characters, but don’t ever fall in love with the actual words on the page—because they’re going to change.
Sometimes, when you’re freelance copywriting, your publisher will change a word to one that makes absolutely no sense, but they’re paying you, so you have to accept it anyway. And sometimes, if you want your book to sell, you need to make major changes.
There’s nothing wrong with just writing for yourself, but if you’re writing to be published and to sell your work, you need to seriously consider all reasonable criticism you receive. Ask your critics/editors/beta readers to explain the justification behind their recommendations, and then allow yourself to put real thoughts behind their suggestions. They just want what’s best for your writing and your success—it’s not a personal attack!
If you can try to eliminate these writing errors and things that editors can’t stand, your writing (and your personal brand) are going to be infinitely better. Plus, you could save yourself a ton of cash.
Are you guilty of any of these? How have you overcome them? Share with me in the comments!
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