June 6, 2016

Editing Your Submissions

I am not an extremely picky editor. I don't immediately discount a submission based on a missing apostrophe or a misplaced comma. That's what editing is for--on my part. And posts with errors do end up on EC, including ones I've written, which is why I am not harsh on others in this regard. To write is to err.

But I am shocked by how many submissions I receive in which even rudimentary editing is missing. I suspect some people are lazy, some are bad at catching their own errors, and a great many others figure that EC is "just about fairy tales" and high standards aren't necessary.

I'm not being bitter with that last point. People who edit horror stories or romances or westerns know that millions of people see all genre fiction as simple-minded stuff. They just assume that if a work doesn't send them to the Google machine every other page, it must be easy to write and the editors must have low standards. So why bother to edit? Surely the editor will be grateful for an effort from a mind that is really too good for fairy tales, but condescended to submit anyway. Just for fun.

No matter what the reason for failing to edit well, it will cost you, because there are always excellent submissions with few or no errors. Editors don't need to bother to finish reading a submission that has three errors in the first paragraph. I certainly don't. And, I repeat, I am not especially hard on writers about error.

So, what should you do to reduce errors in your writing? First, don't wait until the last minute. Hurried writing is messy writing. Second, have an editor in your life. My editor is my husband. (He's a mechanical engineer, but he can spot an error faster that most people with degrees in English.) Find a smart person who loves you enough to point out your errors. Don't be shy!

In addition, try to read your work in a new format before you send it. Example: If you have a printer, print your poem or story out, and look it over carefully, reading it out loud and marking errors on the page. Reading out loud helps you hear your mistakes. Seeing your story or poem in a new format, from screen to page, really does the trick for writers on the alert for errors.

Finally, always read your story or poem one last time before pressing send.

Don't let your writing die the death of a thousand cuts. All of those little errors add up!

Illustration by Kay Nielsen.


  1. Great advice. I have been guilty of waiting to the last minute. The worst part is that sometimes a few days after I submit I read it over again and find really embarrassing and unnecessary mistakes. Early drafting makes a huge difference.

    1. We've all done it, including me! That's why I posted this. :)

  2. Your article was an interesting window into an editor's mind. I definitely agree with your points. Just when I think I have a finished draft, I look over a printed version and find so many more errors...then I read it out loud and find awkward wording..then I have someone else read it, and they find points, that although I see them clearly in my mind, they are not sure what I'm trying to say. Excellent advice for writers, Kate. Also, love the illustration with your article. Kay Nielson's exquisite art feeds the creative soul.

    1. I will be offering more tips as I don't provide feedback.
      And I love Kay Nieksen's work as well. He can be equaled, but never bettered!