A Terrible Editor

I’m horrible.

Really. I am one of the worst line editors a writer can be. I leave out a word here and there. I spell something wrong. I miss a comma. I add a comma where it’s not, needed. Then I draft and re-draft and fix and switch and move stuff around for content and meaning and all that good stuff—and I leave all the mistakes in. Not on purpose, of course. But they are there and I swear I’ve fixed them, checked them, read it out loud, and still there are mistakes. Sometimes really dumb ones.

I’ve had 75,000 word manuscripts that I have combed relentlessly and when I hand it to an editor, he/she finds 100 mistakes. 100!

Here’s what I’ve learned from this:


I am not an English teacher. I think I know the language pretty well, but I am not one of those great New Yorker editors who can find four mistakes in a five word sentence. I envy them. I really do. But I am not them. I am not an editor.

Now, that doesn’t mean I’m sloppy. (Although it may appear that way to some of my editors.) Really, honestly, I’m not. But I miss things. I just do. Many times it’s no big deal because these incredible editors who have caught it all. They are invaluable. Absolutely indispensable. But sometimes I loath my mistakes in those early drafts. So much so that when I’ve sent out early draft manuscripts for people read for blurbs or reviews or just feedback, there’s always a disclaimer: “Forgive any typos or grammatical mistakes you might find. This is only a draft.” I cringe.

Still, after years of this, I am finally beginning to say, “It’s okay. It’s oh-kay.”

Tell your story. Do your best. Check it twice, thrice, many times. Read it out loud. Then—let it go.

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