Tag Archives: the editing process

Editing part 2, What Submissions Editors Want

In the publishing world, there are several different kinds of editors: line editors, structural editors, submissions editors, and so on. Each does a specific job within the industry. When you look at the annual salaries, you can see that none of these jobs pay well, so it’s clear that, while they like to eat and pay the mortgage as much as any other person, editors in all areas of publishing work in the industry because they love a good story.

toolsToday we are discussing a particular kind of editor: the submissions editor. When I first began this journey, I didn’t understand how specifically you have to tailor your submissions for literary magazines, contests, and anthologies. Each publication has a specific market of readers, and their editors look for new works their target market will buy.

I’m just going to lay it out there for you: it’s not worth a publisher’s time to teach you how to be a writer. You have to learn that on your own.

So, if magazine editors aren’t going to edit your work, what does the editor for that publisher do? Magazine editors look for and bring new and marketable stories to the reading public.

Marketable is the keyword. If your submission doesn’t fit what that magazine’s readers expect, the editor will reject it.

War_and_Peace_Franklin_Library_By_Leo_Tolstoy_First_Edition_1981The quality of your work isn’t the problem, and you have selected a publication that features work in your chosen genre. But your subgenre may not match what the readers of that publication want to see. After all, both spaghetti Bolognese and bruschetta are created out of ingredients made from wheat and tomatoes, but the finished meals are vastly different.

A person who craves spaghetti Bolognese won’t be satisfied with an offering of bruschetta despite the fact they both feature wheat and tomatoes. The genre may be Italian, and they feature the same ingredients. But the delivery method is a subgenre that may not appeal to every diner.

Editors for contests and large publishers of books do the same—they find and bring work they enjoy to the public in specific genres. If your story makes it through the publisher’s door and into the first part of their process, their editor may ask you for minor revisions, small things you may have missed when self-editing.

But they won’t offer you technical advice.

This is because they shouldn’t have to. Before submitting your work to an agent or submissions editor, you must have the technical skill down.

For the indie author, magazines, contests, and anthologies are the most logical places for getting their names out to the reading world. You must ensure you have a clean manuscript that is marketable to the readers of the publication you are courting. You may need to have someone in your writing group proofread it before submitting it.

Professionals do the required work and don’t think twice about it—self-editing and proofreading are just part of the job.

leaves of grass memeSome hobbyists expect special consideration and are offended when they don’t get it. Egos are rampant in this business, but in reality, no one gets to be treated like a princess.

Prominent publications have wide readerships. The more people who read and enjoy a short piece by you, the more potential readers you have for your novels. These people likely read books, and guess what? They might look for your novels when shopping for books at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other digital booksellers.

When you have a great story that you believe in, you must find the venue that publishes your sort of work. Know your genre. If you write fantasy, google magazines featuring fantasy and sci-fi. A good place to start would be the website Worlds Without End, an author resource site listing magazines that publish fantasy and science fiction.

Not all publications will be accepting new work, but some will. Be warned—finding magazines with open calls for submissions is a lot of work.

Anthologies with open calls might be more plentiful, but you have to know how to find them. Make connections through the many writers’ forums on Facebook and other social media platforms.

If you haven’t any short work ready for submission but would like to write something, do some research before setting pen to paper. Buy magazines, read them, and write to those standards. 

For those of us who can’t afford to buy magazines, you can go to websites like Literary Hub and read excellent pieces culled from various literary magazines for free. This will give you an idea of what you want to achieve in a story and where you might considJackie Onassis memeer sending your work.

Go to the publisher’s website, find out their submission guidelines, and FOLLOW THEM. (Yes, they apply to EVERYONE, no matter how famous, even you.) If you skip this step, you can wait up to a year to hear that your manuscript has been rejected, and they most likely won’t tell you why.

Formatting your manuscript is crucial. When the editor of a contest, publication, or anthology opens the call for submissions, they will get hundreds of entries, perhaps thousands. Their editors will have no time to deal with badly formatted manuscripts when a call goes out.

Editors are only one person, and they want to read every submission. Publishers have specific, standardized formatting they want you to use, and these guidelines are clearly posted on their websites.

Time is always of the essence in the publishing world. Publication dates are set well in advance and must be adhered to. Unfortunately, some great stories won’t even be read out of all the entries they receive. This is because the author didn’t format the manuscript in the way the submission rules stated.

Expediency kicks in. If the first page shows the manuscript is not formatted to industry standards, the editor will reject it and move on to the next submission.

A few simple formatting rules are universal to most publications. You should ensure the font is Times New Roman .12 or Courier .12 font and the body of the manuscript is aligned left.

  1. 1 in. margins
  2. Double-spaced
  3. 1 space after each sentence (NOT 2 as we dinosaurs were taught in typing class)
  4. Each page is numbered in the upper right-hand corner
  5. Has formatted indented paragraphs (DO NOT USE THE TAB TO INDENT!)
  6. The header contains the title and author’s penname
  7. The first page includes the author’s legal name, mailing address, and phone or email contact information in the upper left-hand corner

UrsulaKLeGuinQuotePlease, if you consider yourself a professional, format your submissions properly. You want to stand out but getting fancy with your final manuscript is not the way to do that—you will be rejected out of hand if you don’t make this effort.

Below are the links to two posts (with screenshots) detailing how to make your manuscript submission-ready:

Formatting Your Paragraphs

Formatting Short Stories for Submission

You have to keep trying, keep improving as an author, and keep believing in yourself and in your work. Most importantly, you must never give up.


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How the Process of Editing Works part 1 #amwriting

Editing is a process where the editor goes over the manuscript line by line, pointing out areas that need attention. These might be awkward phrasings, grammatical errors, missing quote marks, or numerous other things that make the manuscript less readable.

toolsMost editors will ask to see the first twenty pages of your manuscript before they agree to accept the job. Sometimes, significant issues will need to be addressed. If so, an editor will probably refuse to accept your manuscript. However, they will tell you why and give you pointers on how to resolve the problems.

This is because freelance editors book projects in advance and can’t take on manuscripts that will bog them down for months.

During the editing process, some editors will generate a word-frequency report. Also, a style sheet will be developed for usages and unique spellings that may pertain to your manuscript. Check your email regularly because most editors will want to verify the spelling of names, invented words, and common words that may differ from standard usages to create that style sheet.

Be prepared—the editor will ask questions regularly as they come up. You must respond promptly to enable the editor to meet your agreed-upon deadline.

Conversely, most editors respond to your questions as soon as they receive your email. If your editor doesn’t respond in a timely fashion, you need to find out why. On rare occasions, you may need to find a different editor.

to err is human to edit divineFor new and beginning authors, it may take an editor more than one trip through a manuscript to straighten out all the kinks. This may be a three-step process involving you making the first round of revisions and/or explanations, sending them back to the editor, who will make final round of suggestions. At that point, the editor is done. You have the choice to either accept or reject those suggestions in your final manuscript.

In academic writing, editing involves looking at each sentence carefully and ensuring that it’s well designed and serves its purpose. In scholastic editing, every instance of grammatical dysfunction must be resolved.

A client’s future depends on the quality of their finished dissertation as much as it does the content. Their work will be measured by the standards of their department head and the academic world in general.

f scott fitzgerald quoteFor creative writing, editing is a stage of the writing process. A writer and editor work together to improve a draft by correcting punctuation and making words and sentences clearer, more precise. Weak sentences are made stronger, info dumps are weeded out, and important ideas are clarified. At the same time, strict attention is paid to the overall story arc.

The editor is not the author. Editors can only suggest revisions, but ultimately all changes must be approved and implemented by the author.

Some editors return your manuscript with suggestions for revisions noted in the reviewing pane on the right-hand side of the document. You click on each comment, then choose to make that change or not, and then delete the comment.

This is the least confusing way for new authors, but it takes more time for the editor to work their way through the manuscript. This is how a manuscript with comments in the reviewing pane might look:

Track Changes 3 comments in sidebarEditors who have been in the business for a long time find it much faster to use the markup function and insert inline changes. A new author or someone unfamiliar with how word-processing programs work might find it confusing and difficult to understand.

Track Changes 4 inserted revisionsInserting the changes and using Tracking cuts the time an editor spends on a manuscript. Writing comments takes time, and suggestions may not always be clear to the client.

Tracked changes are only SUGGESTED changes. To become permanent, they must be accepted. You may disagree with some of the tracked changes and choose to reject them. Below are the instructions for accepting and rejecting comments, followed by instructions for deleting comments made in the comment column.

If an editor has to insert many changes, they can become distracting to the author. Many editors use both inserted changes and comments when that is the case.

Word has several ways to customize how tracked changes appear:

  • Simple Markup: This shows the final version without inline markups. Red or black markers will appear in the left margin to indicate where a change has been made.
  • All Markup: This shows the final version with inline
  • No Markup: This shows the final version and hides all markups.
  • Original: This shows the original version before changes and hides all markups.

Places where an editor inserts a suggested change will be shown in a red font and have a line beneath them. Deleted items will be in red and have a line through them.

To accept or reject changes:

  1. Select the change you want to accept or reject.
  2. From the Review tab, click the Accept or Reject
  3. The markup will disappear, and MSWord will automatically jump to the next change. You can continue accepting or rejecting each change until you have reviewed all of them.
  4. Click the Track Changes command to turn off Track Changes when you’re finished. Just click on it, and the gray will return to the same shade as the rest of the ribbon.
  5. To accept all changes at once, click the Accept drop-down arrow, then select Accept All.
  6. If you no longer want to track your changes, you can choose to Accept All and Stop Tracking.

How to Remove comments

If your document has comments, they won’t be removed from the comment column when you accept or reject tracked changes. You’ll have to delete them separately.

  1. On the Review tab, in the Comments section, click Next to select a comment.
  2. On the Review tab, click Delete.

To delete all comments at once, click the arrow below the word Delete, and then click Delete All Comments in Document.

To turn off the Reviewing Pane:

Track Changes 2

Those changes are not permanent or engraved in stone. All you have to do is use the Track Changes function and click accept or reject for each change.

Some editors offer a separate report detailing their overall impressions of your manuscript’s strengths and weaknesses. Others will want to talk via the phone or Zoom.

Hiring a freelance editor is well worth the cost if you can afford it. You will learn many things about the craft of writing as you look at their suggestions.

ok to write garbage quote c j cherryhHowever, many authors don’t have the money to hire an editor. If that is the case, you may have a friend in your writing group who has some experience editing, and they will often help you at no cost. Your writing group is a well of inspiration, support, and wisdom, and they are invested in your book. They want you to succeed and most will gladly trade services.

Each editor is different and has their own style and approach to the task. But no matter how they approach the task of editing, all editors are readers who love what they do.

Editors want to help you make your manuscript as clean as possible because they love books. Next up, we will talk about what editors for publications look for when they are acquiring new work.


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How to use the Track Changes Function #amwriting

Part of being a writer is going through the experience of having your work edited by a professional editor. Submissions that have been accepted by anthologies and publications may require a little editing prior to publication. We do our best to submit a clean manuscript, but none of us are perfect.

Editors often use a function of Word that is called “Track Changes” along with inserting comments in the right-hand column. When you are new to this process, it can be confusing. It may make you think he has “mucked up your manuscript” because he may have made changes that are marked in red and which surprised you.

Trust me, you have the final say on all changes that have been made, and you can “accept” or “reject” each suggested change. If you reject a suggestion, the text reverts back to your original prose.

Just a note: before you submit your work to an editor, you must do what I think of as “Due Diligence.” If you have hired an editor for a novel-length manuscript that was poorly proofed, tracked changes can be distracting, looking like a wall of red. If that is the case, the manuscript probably wasn’t ready for editing. Editors can only do so much – you must submit work that is as clean as you can make it, and they will help you clean up the rest.

A good way to catch the majority of typos and dropped or missing words is to use the “Read Aloud” function (on the review tab) or read it aloud yourself.

When a manuscript is too rough, some editors will choose to edit only the first few chapters and put most of their suggestions into the comment column rather than using tracking. Editing via keying suggestions in the comment column can be quite time-consuming. They will ask you to consider the suggestions they have made and make revisions in the whole manuscript accordingly, and then resend the ms once those changes have been made.

MS Word has four ways to show tracked changes:

  • Simple Markup: This shows the final version without inline markups. Red or black markers will appear in the left margin to indicate where a change has been made.
  • All Markup: This shows the final version with inline markups.
  • No Markup: This shows the final version and hides all markups.
  • Original: This shows the original version and hides all markups.

When I am editing for a client, I use “All Markup” and add comments as needed.

Places where I insert a suggested change will be in red and have a line beneath them. Deleted items will be in red and have a line through them, or in the case of commas, above them.

To accept or reject changes:

  1. Select the change you want to accept or reject.
  2. From the Review tab, click the Accept or Reject
  3. The markup will disappear, and Word will automatically jump to the next change. You can continue accepting or rejecting each change until you have reviewed all of them.
  4. When you’re finished, click the Track Changes command to turn off Track Changes. Just click on it, and the dark gray will return to the same shade of gray as the rest of the ribbon.

The automatic comments generated by “track changes” will disappear when you resolve the suggested changes. Those will say “Inserted” or “Deleted” followed by the word or punctuation that was changed.

If your editor has made separate comments regarding larger issues, such as suggestions to move a section to a different place for continuity, they won’t disappear from the comment column when you accept or reject tracked changes. You’ll have to delete them separately.

  1. On the Review tab, in the Comments section, click Next to select a comment.
  2. On the Review tab, click Delete.

To delete all comments at once, click the arrow next to Delete, and then click Delete All Comments in Document.

This is how a document might look when it comes back from the editor. The left column shows a line indicating a change was made, the change itself is in red, and a comment was automatically generated explaining what that change was.
Some authors get exceedingly angry when the editor of an anthology requests some changes in the story they have submitted. Editors have a vision of how the whole book will flow when it is complete, and they may ask for some small changes so that the stories transition well.

If the changes are reasonable (and most are), do make them. If you strongly disagree, wait until you cool down before responding.

Once you have a handle on your irritation, write a note explaining why you don’t feel those changes are right for that piece. It could be that the editor just didn’t understand where you were going with it, and a few minor tweaks along with a calm discussion will resolve the problem.

Google Docs has a track changes function, and I am sure all other word processing programs do too. Their processes will likely be similar to what I have described, and you can go online to find out what the differences are. But Word is the program I use, so I am most familiar with that.


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