Dickens and His Editor

Dickens and his editor

What’s the most annoying, frustrating or head-scratching thing an editor has asked of you?

Have a good weekend!

  1. Nikole Hahn says:

    Mmm…an editor said he might accept a submission if I make a major plot change. Except, I think it was my inability to do a powerful pitch that made him think what he was looking for was not there. My book is unique. It’s not one person who saves the world, but a team whose lives all contribute.

  2. Bret Draven says:

    Nothing that my parole officer hasn’t already asked of me!

  3. Peter DeHaan says:

    I was once lectured that “telephony” was not a real word.

    More frustrating was in writing my dissertation. I quoted a passage from the Bible and my PhD-level reader quipped, “How will you be able to support this with your research?” Fortunately, he soon passed me off to another reader.

  4. joylene says:

    I once had an agent berate me because the protagonist’s kitchen was blue. I’ve had nice experiences with editors (knock on wood). In fact, some of my closest friends are friends of friends of friends of editors. Really.

  5. Mirka Breen says:

    The comments are as good as the cartoon. Poor overworked editors (semicolon deleted)- we get to pour our pent-up Fs (Frustration? Fury? Foulness? That other one?) on them.
    One editor wrote that he learned to edit when a well-known writer to whom he was assigned told his newbie remark to go someplace else. The remark was “Is this necessary?” to which seasoned writer replied: “No, it isn’t NECESSARY. It’s called ‘voice.’”

  6. David Todd says:

    So far my experience with editors is all for magazine articles. I can’t say that I’ve had any requests at all that would qualify as annoying, frustrating, or head scratching. My first magazine article, way back in 1993, went through with zero edits. I then had an article in an engineering newsletter. The editor cut out about 100 words for length, and while I thought they were critical to the subject, I decided that for $500 for a thousand word article they could cut whatever 100 words they wanted to.

    Since then, for an on-line article the editor asked me to stuff a few more key word phrases in to feed the Google monster. Google now advises that I was right and she was wrong; key word stuffing is a no no (note judicious use of the semi-colon).

  7. Staci Eastin says:

    I always feel like editors cut out my funniest lines. But I can sometimes tell when authors have achieved enough sway that editors are afraid to stand up to them, because their books can become bloated and wordy. I’m thinking that perhaps I’m not the only writer who isn’t quite as funny as she imagines she is. 🙂

  8. C. T. Blaise says:

    I framed my first rejection letter. It stated my work was well-written with an excellent plot, but simply all wrong for their agency. I’d love to ask if agents ever refer a writer to another agency.

  9. Jill says:

    I once wrote a universally unsuccessful poem, which was rejected in magazines and in a critique group scenario. I was quite surprised that one critic slipped me a note, hailing the poem’s worthiness because it had perfect symmetry in a numerological sense (which he outlined). Apparently, I had written a deep, albeit cryptic message only for the truly enlightened–and all in trochees, no less!!

    • Jay DiNitto says:

      Thanks for the compliments, Jill. I would think that if they knew it was ff they would have expected short short stories.

      Glad you liked the book, though!

      • Jill says:

        I have a thing for flash fiction and would like to learn to write it well. I know this has nothing to do with this thread, so I apologize ahead of time. FF has the potential for metaphysical or profound moments and ironic twists. This is why many of your stories are successful–because they work on that level.

    • Jay DiNitto says:

      So that was meant for the comment you left me on my comment. Whoops.

  10. Jerry Eckert says:

    Some years ago, the Op-ed editor at the Christian Science Monitor told me that the word “immiserate” did not exist and I couldn’t use it. Six months later, she let some other Yayhoo use the identical word in approximately the same context.

  11. I long to have an editor who would ask anything of me! I would do a Happy Dance if I HAD an editor!!

  12. My line editor is amazing and mostly she makes me laugh at myself. Which, could tell you a bit about me, I suppose. Every now and then she’ll write, “Is this a word?” And whether it is or not, I figure, if you have to ask…

  13. Ann Bracken says:

    My favorite editor comment is, “This is the best conversation, it really shows who these characters are. You need to cut it.” She was right, but it still made me laugh.

    Maybe one day I’ll find an agent who thinks it should go back in…

  14. Erin Healy says:

    Here’s a joke on the editor (me): I once sent out a mass of form-letter rejections in which I had (mis)typed, “Please be aware that our decision is not necessarily a reflection of the quality of our work.”

  15. Erin Healy says:

    Here’s another you’ll like: Shakespeare’s editor asking him to please rewrite Hamlet. Featuring Hugh Laurie. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IwbB6B0cQs4

  16. Donna Pyle says:

    Love the cartoon! I’ve haven’t received a weird editor comment…yet.

  17. Robert Lynch says:

    Dear Ms. Editor,

    Your criticism lacks a little… something, as well.

  18. Debbie Moorhouse says:

    Hmm, well, a beta reader once told me I was writing for someone more intelligent than she.

    I don’t think I was the one insulted. But a strange comment, anyway.

  19. Bri says:

    I have been very blessed that my rejections have not been on content or quality but length of the submission being too short to be published as a full book rather than a booklet.

  20. SJOlson says:

    I think we all have our own opinions on politics, religion etc. I had an editor tell me to change my views on medicine in the US in my first book to represent his!

  21. Keep it coming, Rachelle. You’re better than my morning coffee.

  22. Joe Pote says:


    The truly sad part is that Dickens would likely have trouble getting published, today.

    Although avid fans, such as myself, consider his works to be timeless masterpieces, most would consider his works unappealing to the modern reader.

    • Rachelle Gardner says:

      Joe, see my response to C.T. above, and read my post “You are Not Tolstoy or Dickens.”

      • Joe Pote says:

        Well put, Rachelle (in the prior post)!

        Actually, although it seems a little sad from a nostalgic viewpoint, in many ways it is both inevitable and a huge compliment to the authors of the classics.

        Progress can only advance as far as we can see standing on the shoulders of our forebearers.

        We do expect more from a modern writer, but that expectation would never have been attained were it not for Dickens, Sheakespeare, and the myriad of other great authors.

  23. “We wish you well on your journey towards poetry.”

    So it doesn’t qualify as poetry already? Ouch.


    “It just needs a little… something.”

    Oh. Well, I’ll be sure to apply that highly constructive piece of criticism right away.

  24. Toni Sinns says:

    I don’t have an editor or agent but I do let some friends occasionally look over my work. One day I was put in pure shock when I got an email back from one of my friends.

    “Hey, I loved your story but could you rewrite it in another point of view? I think it would be better if you did.”

    • C. T. Blaise says:

      I recently hired my brainiac daughter to be my editor as she is far more intelligent than I ever will be. My beta readers (none of whom are friends) love my work and do make suggestions. Problem is: the last agent I submitted to sent me an email rejection after TWO days…I call that a robo-rejection. Thank goodness I’m not doing this for money!

      • Toni Sinns says:

        I didn’t know agents had rejections that sent out that quick… wow.

      • Rachelle Gardner says:

        You realize, of course, that you’re setting agents up for a complete no-win situation. If we take weeks to respond, we’re taking too long. If we take hours to respond, we obviously didn’t read it.

        That’s bunk! There are times when I can give a query a complete read and all the consideration it needs… and respond 20 minutes after the query came in. I usually don’t, however, for the reason you state. The writer will assume I didn’t read it, even if I gave it my full attention and consideration. I get no credit!

        • Joe Pote says:

          Hah! Good point, Rachelle!

          I guess the agent becomes a convenient scapegoat whenever the answer isn’t what was desired.

        • C. T. Blaise says:

          I’m not pouring all agents into the same pot of mush, if that’s what you’re thinking. It is odd, at least to me, that agent sites clearly state a reply will come no sooner than a month after submitting a query, and to possibly expect no reply whatsoever, only to receive one in two days. For the record, I’ve never submitted to you, Rachelle, because I don’t believe you would be comfortable representing my work. I have great respect for what you do, however, and consider your blogs very informative and uplifting.

        • The bottom line is, “You rejected me! Oh how could you?” 😛

          Once an author grows a thick skin, they realize that agents are not English teachers handing out grades. Either the agent connects with a book or he/she doesn’t. Unless the query is a mess, the rejection simply means, “I don’t feel a connection with this and therefore won’t passionately represent it, but someone else might.”
          I would rather have a mediocre agent that feels passionate about my work than a top agent that puts it in the “when I get time” pile.

          Find a competent agent that 1. Has an opening and 2. Shares your passion.

  25. C. T. Blaise says:

    It’s as if American Idol has overtaken the universe! If Dickens approached an agent today, he’d never get published.

  26. Angel says:

    To this point in my writing career, my editors have been friends with english backgrounds, teachers in our local schools, that sort of thing. Our story is a little tough to stomach, and I think the hardest advice I’ve been given is ‘can you make this less about your specific relationship with God? I’m an atheist, but when (something similar happened) to my family…I raged at and cried out to the same God you did. Just don’t write like you have an exclusive reason to beg Him for answers. Unless you’re only writing to people who believe just like you- and please don’t, I need this book too.’
    I agree with her, appreciate her words, and still struggle all the time to not make it sound like God is just mine…that He just offended my family. It’s the best and most difficult advice I’ve been given so far.

  27. I had an article accepted by a small Christian magazine, and although the editor was lovely,one line of feedback left me speechless. “This will truly resonate with our readers, but we’ll need to work together to make it less God-ee.” Still laughing.

  28. Rachelle Gardner says:

    My 14-year-old has taken to editing my speech on a daily basis. We were watching “Friends” and I made a comment, and she just looked at me and said “That didn’t need to be spoken, mom. The whole reason the joke was funny was because that part was left unsaid.”

    I’ve taught her well. 🙂

  29. I just pinned this on Pinterest! This totally made me chuckle.

  30. The best and worst of comments (after sending Mr. Editor several sets of poems, each responded to by an encouraging personal letter of rejection): “My goal as an editor is to publish poems that convey in some way that life is worth living. These poems of yours, to my thinking, do not convey that message.”

    Poor man, must have been extremely depressed.

  31. Jay DiNitto says:

    I don’t have an editor because I’m not a real writer, but I did have a beta reader say a story I wrote made her think too much.

    I asked her if it was a criticism or compliment, and she said she didn’t know but she knew she didn’t like to think. Maybe I shouldn’t have picked her to beta read.

    • Rachelle Gardner says:

      Who doesn’t like to think?! Hilarious.

    • Joe Pote says:

      I would have been unable to resist asking, “Did it hurt?”

    • Jill says:

      The other day, I downloaded your free e-book of flash fiction and was a little floored that somebody had given it a 1-star rating because the stories were only a few pages long. Btw, you are a real writer. Your stories have voice, class, and intelligence. I read half the book in one night, when I meant to read only one or two stories.

  32. Jennifer Major says:

    When one writes in the vernacular of a drunken cretin and then is told to polish the spelling and grammar because who speaks in such a manner? Well, perhaps a drunken cretin?

  33. Janet says:

    My day started of with techno-frustration, but after I had crawled under the desk and replaced my non-functioning mouse with a backup before 6:00 a.m., I got to my email and clicked on the link that brought me here for a good giggle. Thank you, Rachelle. (I couldn’t help thinking “It was the worst of mornings; it was the best of mornings.”

    As for the head-scratching editor comment, mine would have to be an editor telling me to tell the reader more about my emotions in a section where I had written, “I was numb and either devoid of emotions or disconnected from them.”

    Um…it’s hard to describe non-existent emotions.

    • Rachelle Gardner says:

      I couldn’t feel a thing. It was as if I were anesthetized. My feelings were deadened. In psychological parlance, my affect was flat. I was, in a word, sensationless.

      • Marilyn Groves says:

        Oh nice 🙂

      • Joe Pote says:

        Yes, that works. So does, “I was numb.” ;^)

      • Janet says:

        Nice feedback, but still describing a lack of emotional response. My editor wanted to know what I was feeling. Short answer: nothing. When I take another look at that section, I’ll consider your suggestions.

        Oh, and thanks, Joe, for your vote of confidence in my use of the word “numb.”

  34. carol brill says:

    Fortunately (or unfortunately) I end up agreeing with every annoying, frustrating and head-scratching thing editors say 🙂

  35. Otin says:

    Without even reading it, someone said to me, “I don’t see how you could possibly fit all of that information into a short novel.”

  36. Keli Gwyn says:

    My experience with my editor was awesome. I used to work as a copyeditor myself, so the two of us clicked big time. I loved how she dug deep and helped me polish every word and punctuation mark in my story.

    However, when I saw that she’d suggested I add a semicolon to one sentence, my jaw dropped so fast I durn near bruised my chin. A semicolon? In fiction? The first thought that went through my mind was that wise and witty James Scott Bell says we fiction writers get one semi-colon each in our careers. I very nicely told my editor I didn’t want to use mine up on my debut novel. She understood, and the book was turned in sans semicolon. =)

  37. While I did not have a professional editor for Angel Blood: Family Secrets, I did have an English Lit Professor edit it. Picture the editor for a moment. She has grey hair, glasses dangling on a chain around her neck, and the smell of perfume long since abandoned by the manufacturer. After reading the following:

    “How did the Britons find out we were here? Who have you told?” demanded Horsa.
    “No one except the riders,” replied Osfrid fearfully. Horsa drew close to him, placing his head upon the bearded man’s forehead.
    “A boy in the woods?” asked Horsa. “You let a boy overhear you and live?” The Saxon leader flew into a rage. “You idiot!” he yelled. He spun his sword around and removed the head of Osfrid. Horsa then picked up the head and looked into its face. “I am sorry, Osfrid. I suppose I lost my temper.” Tossing the skull to the ground, he turned to one of his captains called Cynwise. “We must take the fortress, but we cannot allow those riders to set up a stronghold at the bridge.”

    The sweet old lady editor looked up at me and said. “You need more blood and gore!”

  38. Marilyn Groves says:

    I LONG to have a most annoying thing my agent said 🙂 One day… Mxx

  39. Julie Daines says:

    That is so funny! I love it!

    If you want a modern day version of this that is hilarious, go to this youtube link. So funny, you won’t regret it!


  40. Beth K. Vogt says:

    Way, way back in my early writing days, I sent in an article to a magazine that requested an interview with a woman who had some sort of lo-ong, crazy sounding name. I mean, the name was an endless string of consonants and vowels.The editor wrote back: “We do not make up names for people.”
    Really? Really?
    If I was going to make up a name, I would have gone with something much easier to spell.

  41. OMG, this made me snort my hot tea!

  42. I love it—can you rewrite it?

  43. I would not be surprised if this was taken from an actual rejection letter. It’s crazy how the rejections for many now-classic novels criticized the very things for which we now remember them!

      • Donald Hess says:

        I am in need of an agent. I am not sure what type of agent I am seeking. Initially I am thinking of making my story a novel, however, I would not be surprised if a decision were made to go directly to film. Mark my words, however, my material is “Best Seller”/ Oscar winning quality.
        I am placing this adverstment out massively, and I am certain there will be many people who do not take me seriously, and will balk at becoming my agent. But there is a reason for cocky athletes, confident actors, and arogant lawyers. They know they are good, and they know they are at the top of their fields. Likewise, I know I have quality “can’t miss” material, and I also know I have the ability help produce that material in an artistic manner as to entertain the public. I just need someone to help me get my foot in the door. Be smart and be the agent that takes the chance. I promise the first agent that contacts and signs me I will stick with throughout.
        The quanity of my writings are more than plentyful for a lengthly novel or film. I have personally written more than one thousand pages. In addition, most of the writings are more unbelievable and unique than fiction, thus, even the most proliveant imagination would have trouble matching its’ quality. I will follow with a simple outline of what type of material I have both on paper and in my memory, and from here on I will anxiously await a serious query from an agent who is as eager as myself for fame and fortune. Remember, I will produce an Oscar winning film, and I only need ONE agent.
        Just a little insight, my movie will be a “Forrest Gump” type format, except the story will be much more unbelievable, interesting, and uniqe. The story will also be entirely true.
        I realize this may be a unique and unpresicented outline of the material and writings I posses and the offer to an agent, but I feel it is the best way to show what I have and query what I need.
        I also realize I have many mispellings, due to the fact I can not figure out how to do spell check on my girlfriends computer. But all will take care of itself because the material is most important. So please bear with me for now. Thank you.
        *I have hitchhike more than 200,000 miles throughout the United States, Canada, and Mexico. I have been to approxiamelty 40 states and lived in more than 100 American cities. I have also lived in the Virgin Islands and the Phillipines.
        *I spent over 3 years in various American jails. Jail is the worst place on earth. Some of things that occured in the Orange and Los Angeles county jails were:
        I had the back of my head bashed in by a guy with a fox tail broom during my stay in the Orange County jail. The only thing I did to warrant the bashing was talk to loud to late at night.
        I observed immates forcing fellow immates to give oral sex while holding razor blades to their throat.
        I was placed in “the hole” many times. The “hole” was a four by six foot slab of cement with only a steel sink/toliet. I was put in the hole for things like making a headband from a towel, unsrewing light bulbs, or talking back to the guards.
        After a rebellious incident, I was placed in various parts of Orange County jail by jail officials to try and break my spirits. First they placed me in “PC “, which stands for Protective Custody. “PC” normally is for “snitches”, or immates charged with rape of acts against children. I was in jail for burglary. While housed in “PC” I was roomed next to a guy who was charged with killing his daughter, cutting her into pieces, and putting her in his freezer. “PC” immates wore Orange sweatshirts so as to be recognized easily. Once the jail officials discovered “PC” did not break me, I was put into “Hightower”. Hightower was usually reserved for very violent offenders, including murder. I was put into a cell with two brothers accused of manslaughter. The two brothers tried to force me into sex acts. They also somehow got ahold of a pair of scissors and cut my leg, as well as cut off my shoulder length hair. I suspected the guards gave them the scissors.
        *Around age 10, my 14 year old sister and I attempted to fool the police and pass ourselves off as two two “male negros” in order to attempt the theft of two horses. Our goal was to ride into the foothills and orange groves of southern California and live happily ever after.
        *I was offically labeled “incourigable” in 1963 at age 12.
        *While living in a “cave” in the foothills of Palm Springs, California, I met a beautiful Italian young woman who lay naked atop a rock reading a book. Once I got up enough courage to talk to the woman, she invited me to her residence…..a “treehouse” a few miles down the road from my cave.
        *At the same cave, one afternoon my partner and I met a strange gentleman sitting on top of our cave smoking a joint. The first words this guy said were, “hey man, did you see that?….the Beatles just flew by in a spaceship.” Later in the converation this guy tried to convince us he drove to the canyon in a small green car he had parked on a rock. He said the car had no floor and he called some weird name. Vic and I did not believe him, so we followed the stranger to the edge of the canyon. Sure enough, parked on a huge rock, was a German foreign car named a “Morris Minor”, with a rusted out floor board. The guy had to put his left foot on the dashboard as he drove. At one point he stopped at a red light, took a pencil from his glove box, got out of the car, and began drawing pictures of spacemen and spaceships on the outside of the driver door. This was in the center of one of the most rich and conservative town in America. The guys name was Clayton Freeland, but Vic and I immediately dubbed him with the nickname, “Flip”, which stuck for good.
        *After leaving the 1971 Mardi Gras in New Orleans, myself, Flip, and two other “hippies” met a waitress in a Dallas coffee shop. At the time, the waitress and her four young children were being physically and mentally abused by her husband, so she agreed to join our group and hitchhike from Dallas to Seattle. She also agreed to temporarily abandon two of her sons’, and let me and my female companion take the 8 and 10 year with us. Our plans did not work out as expected.
        *I have been married and divorced to four different women: two Cacausian; a Filipino; and an Indonesian. In addition to the marriages, I have had lengthly relationships with four other women: another Cacusian, an Italian; a Brazzilian; and another Filipino (currently). I have three sons’ and five grandchildren.
        *I have a sister who had sex with my father in order to obtain financial gain, which she did.
        *My sisters and I were taken into custody when I was 5 years old. My step dad tried to kill my mom by sufficating her in the sofa cusions. I actually liked Juvinal Hall because it was more safe than home and I had lots of food. At home my step dad would measure our milk and lock up the cereal with padlocks.
        *At around age 6, I watched as my step dad violently hit my real dad over the head with a full, hot coffeepot. Blood was everywhere.
        *My stepdad went to prison when he drove drunk and killed a young girl on a bicycle.
        *My mom was a full blown achoholic. She would to things like whack me with a broom while I slept just to wake take a bath. She would get so drunk from vodka she would say the same things over and over and over. That was why my step dad would hit her alot. The problem was he was just as drunk.
        *Later in life I wasn’t much better. One time I got pulled over from drunk driving with my mom in the car. My mom, as usual, was very belligerant to the cops, but that was no reason for the cops to physically jump on my mom and pull her to the ground. I jumped on the cops. Between the vodka and two packs of Pall Malls per day, my mom died in her mid fifties.
        *I never really knew my real dad, but when I was 16 he came and got me out of Juvie. I got arrested for stealing an eyebrow pencil for my girlfriend and spent three months in jail for the simple crime. Finally my dad felt sorry and got me out. The reunion did not last long. Me and him got into a serious fist fight not long after and I stole his check book and left. He never forgave me. He died in 1990.
        *I went to four different “rock festivals” in the early 1970’s. One in southern California. Guys came down in orange parashutes and landed in the fields and handed out “orange sunshine” LSD. The cops surprised everyone at that one in the middle of the night and kicked everyone out.
        The next was the “Satsop River and Tea Fair” in Satsop, Washington. I filled my Plymouth full of apples and exchanged the fruit for free entrance into the festival. It was ok for awhile, but alot of rain and mud made it hard. The last straw that made us leave was because some guy tried to “sell” watermellons for a buck each. Everyone protested and tried to take the mellons from his truck. He tried to dash out of the sight, but ran over a few people as they slept or lay in their sleeping bags.
        The third festival was in Granby, Colorado. Me and my girl, Cathy, got a ride to the festival from an old conservative guy whose son was supposively a “hippie”. The old guy went to Kmart and bought some Levis and a tshirt so as to not look so conspicuous in his suit. He joined us at the “Second Coming of Christ” festival so he could see how his son may have lived as a hippie. The old guy smoked pot and took a hit of Phylocibian that night. He slept in his car, and the next morning let us know he had a good time, and the best thing was had no “hangover” like he did with alcohal. He said he was going to the store to get smokes, but never returned. That festival ended with alot of smoke because everyone tried to built fires with green wood.
        The last festival was the best. It was in Evansville Indiana area. There was around 300,000 people at that one. Lots of music, sex, and drugs. I awoke one morning, or afternoon, with the sounds of Cheech and Chong. I went there with Cathy, but left with some fat chick from Indiana. I remember going to her parents cabin on the lake. We ate corn on the cob and had sex for a few days. Then, once my drugs wore off, I realized she was too heavy set for me and not my type. I snuck out the kitchen door and raced to the highway, hicthing back to freedom.
        *Which reminds me. I did the same with Kitten. Kitten was the girl that helped me with the two boys the waitress from Dallas let us take. But Kitten did not treat the boys right. She scolded them too much. My love for Kitten went away, so I also snuck out the back door with her too. Me and the two kids hitched away from Gallop, New Mexico and left Kitten hanging also.

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