How to Piss Off an Editor

Most experienced writers have dealt with an editor(s) who are so pinched, humorless and bitter that he or she most assuredly chewed broken glass for nourishment, dumped offal on the heads of innocent passersby from the garret window for fun and used the shredded dreams of writers as toilet paper.

Piss offNot all editors are like that, but all of them will – at one time or another – get you pissed off by not appreciating the effort it took you to produce 800 words on the fine points of buying canned vs. frozen corn. You will come to the conclusion that all editors draw their strength from reducing your carefully crafted – and knee-slappingly witty – work of word art into something unrecognizable.

Good writers take criticism on the chin and use it to make their work better, while others presume their writing has achieved such a level of excellence that they get insulted when editing or rewriting is required. How you deal with such inevitable requests is, of course, up to you – but getting pissed off at an editor because your ego is bruised ain’t the way to do it. Here are a few things that turn otherwise even-tempered editors into glass chewers.

Just keep typing

Get to the point. Run-on sentences are usually not created on purpose and everyone has written more than a few of them. When you do come up for air, do not leave them as is because you believe that – despite their length, they make perfect sense.

The truth is that reading them is exhausting and often confusing. You’re supposed to be a professional – figure out a way to break them up. There are many online entries (and claims to fame) for the “world’s longest” run-on sentence. Don’t add to the list.

Do the bare minimum

Whether you’re familiar with a topic or not, make the time to do some research instead of relying on your possibly sketchy and dated first-hand knowledge. When you do finish writing a piece, read the thing from stem to stern. You’d be surprised at how often you may have unknowingly repeated yourself a few paragraphs lower in the article.

If you’re asked for a revision or rewrite, don’t juggle a couple of sentences around and send it on back to the editor… you’ll just piss him/her off. Despite your enormous sense of justifiable indignation at the editor’s idiocy for not recognizing your genius, get the rewrite in on time and pout later. We all know you have far better things to do and far larger worlds to conquer, but hey – you wanted this fucking job, right?

Do your own thing

No matter how trivial the house (or editor’s) guidelines may seem, do what is required or don’t freelance for them. Editors have their reasons (speeding up the process) for asking you to follow specific formatting styles. Choke off that creative urge to “jazz” up your article with superfluous (and usually lame) jokes, bulleted lists and bolded or underlined bits of highly important text. Now.

Bitch on social media

Yes – you will be receiving unwanted, but hopefully constructive, criticism. What you do not want to do is publicly piss and moan about it every time you get called on bad grammar or punctuation. Giving your editor the proverbial double middle finger in public for less than stellar feedback is not only unprofessional – it could be a job killer. This is an insular business. Your shitty remarks will get around and no editor will want to deal with you.

Half-ass it

Most editors are also writers – they can smell bullshit a mile away. When you phone in a piece you’ve had plenty of time to work on, any semi-conscious editor will spot that crap almost instantly – and so would the client and most of your audience. When an editor is forced to: a) Send the mess back for a complete rewrite or b) Fix the dreck you cranked out the morning of your deadline – you’ve made a major mistake.

From that point on, all of your stuff – good, bad or indifferent – is under the microscope. The very sight of your by-line will crank up an editor’s radar. You’re doing your professional self (and reputation) no good by submitting un-researched, hastily-written and easily checked garbage.

When it’s all said and done, pissed off editors and butt-hurt writers don’t make much of a team – and certainly don’t accomplish much. If writing is what you want to do, then do it to the best of your ability. If you need help, ask for it. And above all, don’t try to bullshit an editor … we’ve been there and done that.

“I write one page of masterpiece to ninety-one pages of shit, I try to put the shit in the wastebasket.”                 – Hemingway to F. Scott Fitzgerald in 1934.

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