For Creative Writers Everywhere…

Cleaning Up


In the Positive Words ‘early days’, I received a short story submission from a lady which had some potential but was filled with terrible spelling errors, bad grammar etc. She included a phone number and lived in the next town so I rang and politely suggested that with a little editing her story would be suitable for publication. No way! she told me. She wasn’t going to waste time going over her story, that’s what editors were for! She went on to say that she would then submit it to a major women’s magazine if I wasn’t going to use it. When I told her that the magazine would also expect the story to be relatively free of spelling and gramatical errors she insisted again that that’s what editors were for. I never saw the story in the magazine or heard from her again – I wonder if she is still writing?

Editing, or cleaning up, can be boring but is very necessary 🙂


Comments on: "Cleaning Up" (10)

  1. I think it depends on how you look at it – I had a friend who used to love editing, it was like moulding her art into a more refined piece, she found coming up with new ideas hard, but fiddling with the expression of ones she’d already thought up was easy.
    I have to say I never used to be very good at editing, I would miss typos and generally read what I had intended to write, rather than what was on the page, but I am getting better with practise.
    I hope that woman is still writing, but I do hope she’s changed her views on editing!

    • Yes, her story idea was quite good. Much of her problem was laziness (and perhaps a little arrogance). The tattered manuscript looked like a first draft and she hadn’t even re-typed on clean paper etc. It was almost in note form.
      I’ve learned to love editing my own work and treat it as a challenge, especially when I have to get to a desired word count. I still miss some typos etc, like you, reading what I intended to write. I find the best way is to read out loud – and my dogs always wag their tails in appreciation! My cat brings me back down to earth with a look of utter disdain.
      I don’t like editing others’ work as I’m always afraid I’ll offend or discourage 😦

  2. I am amazed that the woman felt that way – truly amazing.

    • Yes, and I forgot to mention that she said she had a degree in creative writing. I’ve had the most wonderul support for the magazine since I started more than ten years ago but every now and then there is someone who causes me to raise my eyebrows a little 🙂

  3. I used to get some students like this – drove me crazy!

    • Perhaps in a former life they had servants and we mere editors, teachers and tutors are their modern day version 🙂
      It’s all in the attitude – I do get submissions from new, inexperienced writers that need a lot of work and most people are eager to learn. And, of course, I have had a couple of eccentrics . . . but they are another story 🙂

  4. Yes, it’s difficult at times to edit, but…it must be done. Writing a draft and editing can be likened to polishing the silver…when it’s ‘all cleaned up’, it’s spectacular…but until that happens, it’s very dull and boring.

    I do feel her problem was arrogance…a bit too egotistical…and very lazy! It is always my goal, in whatever I am doing, to fashion it the best I can, then look at it again…and even again…just to make certain it’s right!

  5. Wow … what an odd and disheartening exchange that must have been. I would be thrilled if someone told me something I wrote would be suitable for publication — no matter how much I needed to edit it! Hopefully, that lady is still writing. And I hope she grew a little more practical sense toward the whole process … which, naturally, includes editing.

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