Head-Butting With An Editor #amwriting

I’ve been in head-butting situations with editors as a writer.

In one case, I was asked to withdraw a story because I wouldn’t make the requested change. I explained that it would change the whole meaning of the story. She wanted to change the whole meaning of the story. I couldn’t change it. She couldn’t publish it.

In another case, the editor wanted me to make many changes to a manuscript I’d already worked over until I worked the life out of it, and didn’t get it revived until I had put in everything she wanted out. That piece was withdrawn, too.

We made our points courteously and parted on good terms. I wouldn’t hesitate to submit something else to either of them, and I believe they would consider my submissions with only the slightest hesitation.

If they did hesitate, I couldn’t blame them; now that I’m an editor, I know how much time and thought are put into those suggested edits, and I wouldn’t relish spending that time only to have my suggestions rejected.

More often than not, though, I’ve taken an editor’s suggested changes without demur. Sometimes, I was embarrassed that I hadn’t caught what they did; sometimes, I agreed with the suggestion wholeheartedly; sometimes, I didn’t care one way or the other and so agreed. Sometimes, I did not agree, but didn’t feel the piece was compromised by the change.

When I did not want the change, I’ve found every editor willing to discuss the disagreement. Usually, one of us convinced the other or one of us conceded, still unconvinced but willing to grit teeth and proceed. Occasionally, as noted, the piece was released to me unchanged and unpublished.

The thing to remember, on either side of the editor’s desk, is the work and good will that goes into creating and shaping work for a market. We all have our war stories about impossible editors and impossible authors, but most editors and authors, though on opposite sides of the desk, are on the same side of the effort: the effort of making a piece the best it can be and giving it the best chance it can have of reaching the people it would benefit.

A WRITING PROMPT FOR YOU: Write about two people butting heads.



I was born in Louisville, Kentucky, but now live in the woods in southern Indiana. Though I only write fiction, I love to read non-fiction. The more I learn about this world, the more fantastic I see it is.

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One thought on “Head-Butting With An Editor #amwriting

  1. Jane

    February 13, 2017 at 11:17am

    Like this post. Informative. Well-stated.

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    • Author

      Marian Allen

      February 13, 2017 at 12:24pm

      Boffo is how I often feel, when I’m on the wrong side of the exchange. lol

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  2. Dan Antion

    February 13, 2017 at 11:28am

    Even within an organization, with business writing assignments, these “editors” sneak into the process. We have to deal with them in many of the same ways.

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    • Author

      Marian Allen

      February 13, 2017 at 12:24pm

      Some business writing I’ve read, I wish there HAD been an editor. Not yours, of course!

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  3. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt

    February 13, 2017 at 3:13pm

    I don’t think I could work with an editor any more. My first (and only, until I published myself) published story was in an anothology from our Sisters in Crime chapter, back when I though I was a mystery writer (I may still be).

    I had to keep begging for more words! I think I might have gotten more than 20% more words than anyone else was allowed – and I needed evey one of them to do a skeleton job. Tried packing a whole story into a small space.

    That was a good experience, but other attempts have been fatal, and I had the sense to say, “Thanks,” and get the heck out of the arrangement. Still unhappy at what it cost me. Just because people get $60 an hour for something doesn’t mean that, even if they label themselves ‘professional,’ they are worth that to you. It was a Kickstarter I supported to a level higher than I normally would because the prize was four hours of help. I wanted to spend those four hours filling my deficiencies with advice from a pro – shouldn’t have bothered.

    I’m sure a less stubborn author would have fewer stories!

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    • Author

      Marian Allen

      February 14, 2017 at 8:24am

      Some editors are better than others, and some authors benefit more than others. An editor for a publishing house is a very different animal from an independent editor; they work for the author, and the author needs to tell them whether to edit for consistency and technical points (spelling, punctuation, grammar), or for plausibility, or what. I’m really sorry the editing you got wasn’t at all helpful. 🙁 Sometimes, an editor just doesn’t “get” you.

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