editing the editor

A warm day was promised, so I went out early to water the transplants. I didn’t notice while watering, but the no-seeums were out in force and biting me all over (wasn’t wearing much). Noseeums are so small that sometimes you miss them. Then the itching begins. In a way they’re like a metaphor for an internal irritation, surfacing after the initial unconscious encounter. That’s the only connection with Maine this post will have, so we might even consider it off-topic.


Today’s post is a comment in which I edit the editor. I’ve had the good fortune to be associated with The Superversive in science fiction or fantasy.  The online zine, SciPhi Journal, recently published “Pilot of Varying Lights.” Right off?–glad to learn of it, grateful they like it. And I don’t think the accepting editor was responsible for this experience of …interference with my short story. (He editors another journal now.) If subtlety is lost here and there, the substance of the story is intact. But. It’s irritating to see it meddled with while increasing typos and copy edits that do the story–if not  wrong…. Well. Why do neophyte editors neglect the editorial work in favor of rewriting one’s story? …Without a heads up?

retrieve in space

One has expectation–levels of professionalism in publishing.  I would like that heads up if an editor is going to change my copy. On acceptance I’ll say something along the lines of, Let me know if I can change anything for you, shorten, etc.. I began doing this after seeing unacknowledged editorial changes to my work… which is hard on a writer, believing as we do that the piece as written represents our thoughts, style, themes….

It happened on the very first publication, but I found nothing particularly wrong with it: The light in the barn door was filled with motes, the editor changed motes to moths, a difference of one letter. What readers were seeing was changed. I didn’t care deeply if there were moths in the sunlight or motes. And that was the only change I saw. But later, on submission to less professionally edited magazines, I found the cringe-making. There go those dreaded no-seeums again: Really I did not cringe, but was able to say, So at least they did not change the story’s meaning or characterization — important. …And move on. Maybe it’s better not to read one’s published work?

There are times when a professional hand can make something almost worlds better. I do so like to receive suggestions from editors so I can make the piece the way they like it, and uphold their publication and professional standards. In the linked SF story (below), it would have been grand had the editor written to me and said, Don’t you think you might leave this out:

[It was manipulative but it worked.]

That line is all my fault. Trusting the reader more, I should have left it out. It inserts an unnecessary viewpoint, which is better solely suggested by the paragraph to follow.

Most of the editor’s own copy and typo errors in this piece are recognizable because some of the words added in are typos, run-on words: that is, space between words is lacking. Here is an example of what I would have seen avoided:

[it outshone the constellations, a shining ringgreat wheel—full of life.]

And another bad. Here are the typo and bad copyedits. The original reads:

[In polarity was the holding together—and the struggle to part.]

The editor made it:

[The two poles of her existence were In polarity was the holding together—and the struggle to part.]

Scroll for a link in our sidebar to download a PDF of the story, if you’re interested in reading the original piece.

I’ll mention one more irritant.  The illustrative covering, with the erroneous plural in its image.  Shuttle pics and walks, Gerard O’Neill’s well-imagined space station and Earth Island are all over the internet, and free on wiki and elsewhere. SciPhi’s image, while a good SF picture, is nothing like what you’ll find in the story itself.

Do you have no-seeums where you live? If you’re a writer, do these surprise editorial changes irritate you? Should there be a back-and-forth between editor and author if your piece seems off to him/her? Would you even write posts editing the editor, or is that unwise, ungrateful?



SciPhi’s Pilot of Varying Lights by S. Dorman

Recommended Superversive Reading


The interior of a Stanford torus. (Photo Credit: Don Davis/NASA)

3 responses

  1. I’m really sorry you had that experience. As a professional copy editor and editor, I get really angry about ignorant and careless mistakes that make a piece look **less** polished than it originally was, and as both a writer and an editor, I think it’s very VERY important that an editor consults with the writer before writing in different wordings and things.

    The work is the author’s creation, and I think the editor owes it to the author and to the world to let that work stand on its own merits. If there’s something that’s problematic, then by all means, ask the author about it and **suggest** potential changes. But don’t go rewriting the thing without asking. And, whatever changes you make, read them over to be sure you haven’t inserted typos! (I have to do this myself when I edit; I’m a careless typist.)

    Liked by 1 person

Letter & Liturgy

Christian Reviews of Ideas and Culture

The Green and Blue House

entering the Maine metaphor

vintage inkstand

words and images from the past

3921 kilohertz

dedicated to the better principles of ham radio

Fellowship & Fairydust

Inspiring Faith and Creativity and Exploring the Arts through a Spiritual Lens.

Rough fish in the river

Appreciating all the river has to offer

Planet Pailly

Where Science Meets Fiction

Prairie Yesteryear

Heritage Notes from the Prairie States

Andrea Lundgren

Book Coaching, Reviews, and Writing Tips

New England Nomad

All Things New England

Off the Shelf

Blog of the Marion E. Wade Center

Book Geeks Anonymous

I cannot live without books. - Thomas Jefferson

Letters from the Edge of Elfland

entering the Maine metaphor

Wisdom from The Lord of the Rings

A weekly blog exploring the wisdom of The Lord of the Rings

the traveller's path

The blog of L.A. Smith, writer

The Fellowship of The King

Literary Expressions of Catholic Homeschoolers and Homeschool Graduates


A topnotch WordPress.com site

asakiyume mita

A topnotch WordPress.com site

%d bloggers like this: