Real editing isn’t automatic (Track Changes is evil)

As a reporter, I had the privilege of working with some of the finest editors in the country. I also worked with some real assholes. But I knew who was working on which night and planned my schedule accordingly. Some editors want to help polish stuff and some want to cut up your work to leave their own mark.

My other gun is a red pen.

You figure out fast who you can trust with your words and who has an agenda of his own – especially with deadline work. Stress brings out a person’s true nature. (There’s a reason that’s a cliché.)

The point? I knew what kind of editor I wanted, trusted and enjoyed working with. This made it très easy to establish what kind of editor I wanted to be.

The amazing people who had my back were easy to approach and talk to about problems with a story. They weren’t rushed or hurrying me, even though they had hours upon hours of editing to do that night for the next day’s paper. They always caught my gaffes, saving me from embarrassing myself in front of tens of thousands of people. They knew what made a good story, how hard it was to get it, how best to go after it, and had ideas about different ways to approach it. Because they were once reporters too.

They had “yes you can” attitudes and believed in me, even when I didn’t. They didn’t coddle and definitely didn’t put up with whining. They ALWAYS gave it to me straight. So whether they shredded my words or praised me, I knew I could trust them. They always told me the truth.

They saved my ass. Fixed my mistakes. Had my best interests in mind. And cared about my words. They were personally invested in a professional job.

I strive to be like those people. Those of you who have worked with me are likely nodding your heads right now. And if not, you better kick my ass.

A good editor wants to help you. Because your success is her success. Every time you get a 5-star review, she does too. Every time someone bitches about the misuse of to, too and two in your manuscript, a little part of her dies.

Sooooo, dragging you down and shaming you are not productive. Waggling a finger or thumbing my nose because you made a mistake is stupid. It’s the editor’s job to fix the fucking thing, not judge.

The best editors lift you up and make your shit shine, furthering your positive self-image. Because that’s what fuels more fine-as-fuck words.

“But Becky, why don’t you use Track Changes when you edit? I mean, it’s, like, the industry standard.”

Not acquainted? Below is an image edited with Microsoft Word’s Track Changes function.

I despise it.

Why do I have an unfettered dislike for what appears to be a benign computer function? I’ll tell you.

Because it makes me feel like a teacher, and you a student. And we’re not. We’re two professionals coming together to make one awesome book. And studies show the whole red pen routine sucks the life out of writers.

Because it’s far too easy to click “Accept” or “Reject” using said computer function. You don’t have to think about why I made a particular suggestion. And I don’t have to think about why you’re opposed. In a nanosecond, we can click and make hours of painstaking professional conversation disappear.

Because writing is a thinking man’s work. If you can’t slow down long enough to give YOUR manuscript 100 percent of your attention – if you don’t want to get elbow-deep in the muck and mire of writing the best book you can – then I don’t want to work with you.

So how do I edit?

With highlighting, bold and strike-through. For a few reasons.

The first and most notable is I was trained using something similar. Those awesome editors I spoke of earlier? THIS.


Whatever it’s called, when we hit a particular Ctrl function, it automatically inserted a light blue font in brackets. If, for some reason, we left blue notes in the document and it went to print, the blue never printed. It was invisible. Nifty, eh?

But more importantly, when I opened a story with those blue marks side-by-side with my own words, I felt as though my editors were talking TO me. They were in the trenches beside me, making me slow down and take a long, hard look at what they did and why.

And the why matters most when editing. (Click to tweet.)

Writers need to know what you’re doing to make them better. They want to learn. They want to trust you. Give them reasons.

Anyway, since that software exists in the newspaper world and not on any home computer, I’ve adapted my style. The pages I edit end up looking something like this.


Is it perfect? No.

Is it bold? Yes. (So am I.)

Am I jotting notes in red pen in the margin like some third-grade teacher? Leaving tiny comments in boxes off to the side? No. And fuck no.

It is, however, the closest approximation to the kind of editing experience I was lucky enough to have early in my career. It also takes more time to edit than with Track Changes.

The sacrifices we make for our art. (Or in this case, YOUR art.)

Every day, I sit at my computer poring over hundreds of thousands of other people’s words. I tell myself the same thing repeatedly: You know what kind of editor you want to be.

So here’s my question for you: What kind of editor do you want?

* celebrates one year in biz on December 2nd. We’re partying Becky-style that day (and night). I’ve got a special something-something for folks on Twitter and Facebook, and something FUCK-YEAH exclusive for my subscribers. Get on the list, dahhhhlings. Subscribe and get awesome using the box on the upper right.

The Quick + Dirty Surprise (edited, never censored)

On December 2, we’re celebrating the first anniversary of this fancy fuckingtabulous place with all kinds of awesome. And free shit. For everyone.

Number One: Free edits and personality amp-ups on social media outlets.

Número Dos: Free edits of the first 100 words of your work in progress AND a quick and dirty plot + structure evaluation.

Nombre Trois: How about money?

It’s our way of saying thanks for an unbelievably kickass first year.

But wait. How do you get all of this awesome? See below…

Anyone – everyone – on Twitter and Facebook

On December 2, You have three ways to reach us to get FREE shit.

1) Tag yourself in our anniversary celebration post on our Facebook page. (It will be at the top on December 2nd).

2) Post on your own Facebook page with the hashtag #editmeBecky

3) Tweet @rebeccatdickson with hashtag #editmeBecky

I will edit (make sizzle) your Twitter bio or your Facebook “about” section.

promo_1122+25For our subscribers

You will automatically receive an email from us TODAY, November 22. That super secret message shall contain two separate and equally super secret email addresses, which will only be valid December 2, 2013.

Use one email address to send us the first 100 words of your work in progress – the most important part – and we’ll edit it for free. NOTE the 100 word limit, bitches.


Use the second secret email address to send a synopsis of your WIP and Ranee Dillon (resident writing coach extraordinaire) will send back some notes on whatever needs attention, along with our jet-fuel infused plot and structure handout.

Not on our subscriber list? Get there by using the box in the upper right corner labeled “Subscribe.” (You can’t miss it. Follow the legs in black seamed stockings.)

Again, these two options are only available to subscribers – and only on December 2, 2013. So get on the list.

For our clients

For all of December 2013 and January 2014, every writer you recommend to us who signs up for editing or coaching gets YOU a $100 credit toward your own editing (with Becky) or $50 toward private writer coaching (with Ranee). Your choice.

It’s called rewarding loyalty. ‘Cause our clients are the fucking bomb. If you’ve worked with us over the last year, tell whomever you refer to mention YOU. Simple.

Granted, we don’t work with everyone. But since we have worked with you, we’re guessing you know more writers like you. The ones who want real feedback they can dig into, and do it with energy. Who hold themselves accountable. The ones who don’t procrastinate and are optimistic. Who want to put out the best book they possibly can – and believe in their ability to write it.

So, if you send someone and he or she signs a contract with us, you receive a credit toward coaching or editing for yourself. For the next two months.

Not a client? You’ve got time. Work with us before December 1, 2013, and you’re eligible for the same $100 editing credit or $50 coaching credit for the next two months. BAM. More awesome.

We thank you profusely, wholeheartedly, and from the gutter – whence we came. Kidding. (Sort of.)

Here’s to the fuck-yeah highs and the oh-shit lows of writing. They both mean you’re doing it.