While different editors might wince over certain areas of
editing, I believe I can come up with a few items that make a less than
favorable impression upon the majority:
Targeting the wrong publisher: Yes, we can tell when an author hasn’t done his marketing
research before submitting a manuscript. How? Manuscripts are over the word
count. An imprint who publishes solely romance receives an action/thriller.
Better yet, the editor of a fiction publisher begins his review and discovers
the manuscript presented is a non-fiction book on why readers should never read
fiction.
Ungodly subject matter:
We’re specifically talking editors who edit for Christian houses. It’s safe to
assume that most editors in Christian houses are Christian. I shudder to think
they are not, but with some of the subjects published recently, one may never
know. However, as a Christian who happens to be an editor, I don’t want certain
words or situations to come before my eye to enter into my mind, and protecting
the reader is of utmost importance to me. Curse words and taking readers into
the bedroom for explicit scenes is something that the majority of Christian
publishers do not allow. Even Christian imprints held by secular houses
sometimes hold to a very strict code of conduct. When an author presents such
scenes and language, they often cite “reality.” The first question to ask in
that regard is whose reality. Yes, Christians face everyday situations, and
they don’t live in a bubble away from the world, but Christian authors ought
not bring the world to Christians or to non-Christians they are trying to
reach.
Racial slurs and prejudicial references: An author might feel that authenticity is raised when a
derogatory term is used to denote a race or nationality within a novel. Yes, a
story can be layered in such a way that when one character uses a derogatory
term, the reader understands the ugly nature of that character. However, that
sort of use should always be kept to a minimum and should be very necessary to
the story—with a lesson to be learned from it. A lack of regard for the
feelings of others (no matter the race or ethnicity) is a sure way to garner
the ire of an editor. As a funny example, I once used the term “Florida
cracker” is a novel to describe a much beloved character. The use highly
offended a critique partner who was not familiar with the term. Floridians and
Georgians are proud to be called “Crackers” as it simply states that we are
natives of our state. However, the term has been hijacked, and I was thankful
for the heart of the woman who took offense. If the term upset her, how many
others might it have upset in print? The moral of the story: always be careful
and sensitive in this regard.
Lack of Research: The
best example I have of this one is a review I did (not as an editor) of a
pre-Civil War historical in which the KKK was said to be causing
trouble in the area (the key here is pre-Civil War). Another
story was written about the history of a specific locale. The author
misspelled the locale throughout the entry. That’s basic research, but when
submitting a manuscript for review, especially a historical novel, it is best
to have your research well documented. You may not have to present it to an
editor, but there are instances when I have researched an event or timeline in
the story, and I’ve come up with different information. How refreshing it is
when the author writes back and cites the information for this non-expert on
the subject, and I learn something new, but how disappointing it is when I
learn the author did no research at all.
I’m sure my editor pals could add some more pet peeves to
the list, but I’ll leave it at this.
Happy editing.

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