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.

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.