Posted in Uncategorized, writers

What feedback do you expect from an editor? All bad can’t be all good.


The job is such that it requires a tactful flag on what won’t work for your audience. STYLO©

Are you someone who tells it straight, like you see it? When asked your thoughts about, say, an idea, would you use all of your feedback time to explain what doesn’t work about it? If yes, know that there are choice words others may be using to describe you—best shared when you’re out of earshot.  A tamer one is editor.

Consider what we expect an editor to do with our copy. In simple terms, an editor alerts writers on what’s wrong with their words, their construction of sentences and ultimately their ideas. Realistically though, the editor-writer partnership is complex. It’s no surprise then when the relationship turns contentious. Think Thomas Wolfe and Maxwell Perkins or Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes. Apparently, a passionate contention can still result in writing that’s well received.

But try looking at it this way

An editor doesn’t have to be the writer’s nemesis. The job is such that it requires a tactful flag on what won’t work for your audience. For example, depending on the type of writing and its intended audience, the following can happen.

Burying your key message in the last paragraph? That’ll get flagged.

Introducing what studies are saying without sourcing? Expect a flag.

Referring to people of colour as “coloured people”? It’ll probably be flagged.

Spelling a name differently throughout the copy? Definite flag.

Like everything in life, we need balance

Balance is the reason why editors worth their salt will review copy and also tell writers what works. Of course, it’s not their sole focus, but occasional comments confirming what’s effective can help move writing forward.

And honestly, editing copy is not a job of flagging as much as it is a job of supporting. As  writer, once you’ve communicated your goals, expect your editor to suggest how to improve your writing.  As well, feel no way to ask for feedback on the things you’re doing right.

In her words

When you think of good editors—meaning solid in every capacity—think of Toni Morrison. Consider her nineteen years of experience at Random House. She was editing textbooks in the late ’60s before joining the big publisher. She became its senior editor and worked on the writings of Toni Cade Bambara, Gayle Jones, Angela Davis, Boris Bittker, Henry Dumas, Ivan Van Sertima, and so many other voices throughout the ’70s. In a burgeoning era, these were writers of movements. Their words would make African-American lives relevant in a world that was closed off to the very idea—Morrison included; for it was also a time when she launched her own literary career. Her first novel, The Bluest Eye, was published in 1970. She would continue to write and publish while still editing illuminating works for RH.

Publishers Weekly features a 2016 transcript of the Nobel Laureate talking about that time in her career.


Posted in Uncategorized, writers

A variety of things can push us through in our writing.

2014-11-20 Cuba Nov2014 025 (2)
Photo credit: Saada Branker

When published writers expand on their process, we learn that it takes more than mere determination to find the words.

Calamity, serenity, even serendipity

I’ll always remember what Ta-Nehisi Coates said about creative breakthrough. Indeed, our roughest times in life can open us.  Sometimes we emerge from those dark days bleary-eyed but fortified. Our words flow with purpose.

And of course there are other ways to break through. Muriel Spark endorsed investing in a cat.  According to the novelist, its intrusive, unabashed stretch across our writing board can induce a serene state. Serenity attracts clarity. And clarity holds readers’ attention, no matter the form of writing.

What also pushes us through our writing is working with a good editor; someone who guides as we turn over ideas and position words; someone in sync with the writing goals and readers’ expectations.

Editing_STYLO sketch2_ filter_July 3, 2018 (2)
Photo credit: Saada Branker

If the intended message falls short, that editor brings us back to the idea, inquiring and suggesting seemingly weird, sometimes annoying, but mostly helpful things like: “Read that aloud. Do you hear that? Now let’s try turning your idea inside out. What do you mean to say here? Re-position your words. Consider trimming your paragraphs. Maybe try better words.”  Ah.

Posted in Uncategorized

Writing for an audience? Always include editing in your project budget.

… there are different kinds of editors just as there are different forms of editing. Know what you want done to your copy.

Calculator_PEXEL free
Allocate some resources toward editing. Photo by Benjamin Miller

Here’s the thing about editing. Anyone who writes text and sends it out into the world needs it reviewed. That makes how many of us in a day? Seriously, I can’t count that high.

For all of your projects that carry text, consider allocating resources toward revisions. This includes investing the dollars as well as spending time to work with an editor to get the copy’s readability where you need it to be. Reason being: think how disorganized writing or one-too-many misspelled words can turn people off. You lose them quickly. The next time you build your project budget, include editing. It’s an investment with returns.

Editing_STYLO sketch_slate filter_July 4, 2018 (3)

Here’s something to know when seeking an editor: there are different kinds of editors just as there are different forms of editing. Know what you want done to your copy. There’s developmental editing,  structural editing, stylistic editing, copy editing, proofreading and more. Finally, it’s definitely worth knowing that  many skilled editors follow standards. Check out the Professional Editorial Standards 2016 for a good idea of what clients can expect and what editors should be doing.



Posted in writers

A Slower Pace Reveals My Unhealthy Habit

A sensory experience in Barbados: Atlantic Ocean waves roaring in Bathsheba, St. Joseph.

Barbados is beautiful by its people and by its landscape.

Taking in flat terrain as far as my eye can see. Taking in warm breeze; as much of it as I can breathe.
In the countryside of St. George, I stop to watch the horses.

As the days progress and the frenzied pace decelerates, I truly feel this is my island in the sun. But here is the thing: I’m getting skinny. Stress can do that. Some people put on pounds; I lose them. In Toronto, planning for this work trip on Hurricane Janet had me skipping breakfast almost every morning.

My futile flex after an interview in Oistins.
My futile flex after an interview in Oistins.

That bad habit continues in Barbados, which now has me wondering why – when it comes to food – does maintaining our health and wellness feel like actual work?

When we’re skipping meals or reaching for sugary cereals and processed, fatty foods for our “most important meal of the day” (the debate continues over that point), our bodies suffer because of our food choices. We can count on that. There is no revelation or new news here. Most people, including myself, understand this correlation. Still, I think I’m slick. Just because I’m not falling over onto a hospital stretcher, I keep the bad habit alive. Is that Toronto-esque? Wait, don’t answer that. It’s just harebrained.

Clearly, my island in the sun is telling me about myself and the counterproductive lifestyle I’ve developed around daily meals. Let’s see what I can do to correct that.