Monday, November 29, 2010

Editorial Letter

This summer I got to meet author John Gilstrap of No Mercy, and Hostage Zero fame. He writes a blog over at The Kill Zone. This week's entry was quite interesting to me, because I've always been curious about the content of an editorial letter. John's description is quite interesting.

I like how he describes the letter as a balancing act. I can definitely see how that would be the case. I can't yet imagine how it must feel to have an editor say in basic terms, "well this part is OK, this part sucks, and this part needs lots of work". My poor ego would be shattered. The editor would have to walk a fine line, or I'd be tempted to crumple my manuscript into a ball and put it in the fireplace.

John's letter seems to focus on picking up the pace. My beta readers sometime criticize me for that, but most of the time I get hit for not explaining enough.

I thought it was funny that the editor thought that John's names were a little weird, given my post a couple of weeks ago, about names. I've read a couple of John's books, and I don't remember the names being that strange or different. Maybe the editor was having a bad day.

Like John, I try not to use adverbs either, but I'm sure if the editor made me pay a nickel for every one I used, she'd probably be able to pay for a nice steak dinner.

The editor also complained about language. Again, I don't remember John overusing any particular swear word, so I'm not sure where that came from. I also try to limit the use of swear words mainly because the overuse of them lessens the impact. I try to use them only where absolutely needed.

I like the fact that John says none of the changes will cause the manuscript to be rejected, but he will do them anyway. I would probably do the same. An editor reads way more books than I do, and knows what works and what doesn't. Especially as a first time author I'd probably do every one of them without question.

Thanks for the helpful insight John, and I look forward to your next post.


  1. It is interesting...and, I bet every editor is a bit different. I expected to be lambasted for adverbs and, though I used them sparingly, never was. I expected blood red ink but it was only regular pencil...not half as scary as I had worked up in my head.

  2. Like you suggest, striking a balance is important while accepting critique. Thanks for this insightful post. Liked the point about a steak dinner for every adverb used. :)

  3. I meant to comment on this earlier, but I think I feel asleep in my writing chair with the fireplace on.

    Damn that comfy chair.

    ANYWAY... I loved this post. I loved it a lot. It was very insightful. Thanks!


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