Working With an Editor

You’ve just found out that your story/article/interview is going to be included in a nationally published magazine/anthology/journal. The excitement can be overwhelming at first.  Enjoy it because there is more work ahead.  Your job does not stop here! Soon, you’ll hear from the editor and the next step will begin.

If this is your first major publication you may be in for a bit of a shock and it might hurt a little.  I’ll never forget my surprise when I opened the attachment of “The Picture”, sent back through email as an attachment from the editor at Cup of Comfort.  It was my story alright, but it was decorated with these funny red marks all over the pages.  These were her suggested edits.  Words were rearranged, entire sentences crossed out, words subtracted, and there were many comments in brackets – all in that glaring, editorial red.  Honestly, it scared me.

My first thought was, “I didn’t think I was such a bad writer!”  Then I wondered why they had accepted the story if they didn’t like it the way it was.  The thing to remember is that when editors do this they aren’t telling you you’re a bad writer.  They are just helping you to be a better writer for their publication.  Every publication is unique and has a specific target market.  Editors know their audience and they want to assure that your story is enjoyed by all of them.  It is an editors job to make sure that each story included in their publication suits their readership.

Of course, editors are also looking for readability.  As an editor they are used to looking for wordiness, redundancies, and sentences that simply don’t flow.  As we write, and even as we do our own editing, it is easy to miss over these aspects.  Of course, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t bother with your own editing process.  If you submit your story without bothering to edit, that is a sure sign that you just don’t care that much whether it gets accepted or not. Your work will not be published if it is obvious that you haven’t put a significant amount of work into making your work the best it can be.

Finally, if there is part of the story changes that you disagree with, you can defend your original words.  However, be prepare to put forth a concise argument about why that particular change affects the tone of your story.  If you can not defend your choice of words in a logical manner, or if you are argumentative, your defensive will not be taken well. Chances are your story may be dropped or if it is published, you will likely not work with this publication again.  On the other hand, if you can show the editor why your choice of wording will reach out to their readers, there is a good chance that they will be open minded.

Work with your editor for the best stories you can publish together.  An editors job is to help you submit better stories. They truly do know what they are doing.  If you work with editors in a cooperative manner,  the likelihood of publishing with this publication in the future will increase!

At the very least, you’ll learn what to watch for next time you are editing a story.

By Danielle Gibbings


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