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10 Red Flags to Watch for in Editors

Continuing what is apparently a heated series of blog posts on editors, I do feel the need to explain why I have such a deep passion for this subject.


In short: Because an editor changes everything.


They can inspire an author to keep going. Or can completely dash an author's dreams. I've had both happen to me with good and bad editors.


Editors—if not properly coached—can get a power trip from editing.


They get to call the shots. They can decide what happens to your stories.


And if you don't have a publisher who sides with authors, you might find yourself falling prey to a power-hungry editor. So whether you're hiring one to polish your manuscript before you query, or working with one at a house, watch out for these red flags. And if you see them, tell your publisher or run.


🚩🚩🚩Making you delete entire chapters/sections🚩🚩🚩

This is extremely lazy editing, and let me tell you why.


Good editors work within the framework given to them. They understand that authors had a reason for every chapter and scene—even if not initially apparent to the reader.


If they tell you to slash entire chapters, they're doing their job incorrectly. A better editor will tell you how to make a chapter more relevant to the story.


🚩🚩🚩Not showing you where to make the edit in the text🚩🚩🚩

You know what's not helpful? An editor commenting, at the end of a chapter (or in an overview of notes they give you afterward), "This chapter was boring. Make it less boring."


Thank you? Mind telling me where it was boring? Mind pointing out specific sentences?


Good editors know how to diagnose problems IN THE TEXT itself. If they make general sweeping statements without providing examples, move on to someone else.


🚩🚩🚩Making you take out important elements of your story🚩🚩🚩

Editors may not understand everything that's happening in your story.


But they should have a sense of what is a nonnegotiable. If you have a story about wizards, it makes no sense for the editor to pout and say, "I'm mad there was magic in this story. Take out the magic."


If they can't seem to grasp what makes your story YOUR story, move on.


🚩🚩🚩Not respecting the prose🚩🚩🚩

Editors have to be extremely respectful. The best ones understand that they don't know everything about your story. Therefore, more changes suggested should be left up to the author. If an editor INSISTS on changes simply because they would've written the story in XYZ way, they're not an editor. They're a glorified writer who passed some grammar classes.


🚩🚩🚩Rushing🚩🚩🚩

Most editors have deadlines. Publishers can give them anywhere from 2-6 weeks to edit a book. But if you can tell they blitzed through a book because they wanted to get that paycheck, and the comments feel more haphazard instead of thought out, find another editor.


Editors should take their time. Go through the book twice. Delete comments where they had their questions answered later in the book.


🚩🚩🚩Not providing solutions to issues🚩🚩🚩

"This section is dragging."


Thank you. Yes. Mind telling me how to make it snappier?


Good editors can tell you precisely AT LEAST one way to fix a problem in a section. Slow pacing? Maybe make the dialogue a little snappier. Cut out some of the description. Add spicier foreshadowing.


It's not enough to identify a problem. They need a solution as well.


🚩🚩🚩Not taking the path of least resistance🚩🚩🚩

Editors not only work within the framework they have, but they give the easiest solution to the author.


Example:


An author has a section where one character isn't dynamic enough do you.


A) Give the character a few more interesting aspects in their personality


or


B) Slash the character entirely, causing the author to have to completely redo certain subplots


Obviously, A. That's far easier to do. Sadly many bad editors opt for B.


🚩🚩🚩Trying to change absolutely everything🚩🚩🚩

Editors shouldn't make a change unless there's one needed. If you randomly want to make my character allergic to essential oils for no reason ... okay? But that adds nothing to the story and is just an unnecessary change.


We're trying to fix a roller coaster track, not create an entirely new roller coaster altogether.


🚩🚩🚩Only looking for grammar🚩🚩🚩

In this case, we're talking about content editors (not copy editors or proofreaders). Editors should still find ways to make the story even better. If their only comments are on some word choices, they probably didn't read too thoroughly.


🚩🚩🚩Condescending to you🚩🚩🚩

Although editors do provide great solutions, they should do so with respect. If an editor is belittling you, talking down to you, being snarky with you, they aren't worth your business. Take your money elsewhere to someone who will treat you correctly.