Express Yourself

How to Be Edited Without Losing Your Mind

You may disagree with your editor, but they’re (probably) right

Eileen Pollack
Human Parts
Published in
9 min readMay 27, 2020

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Photo illustration; Image sources: Liliboas/CSA Images/Getty Images

Welcome to The Draft, an advice column about writing and life from Eileen Pollack, former director of the University of Michigan MFA Program. We’re here to answer your questions about storycraft, writing, and telling the truth.

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Dear Draft,

I’m using the lockdown to finish and send out a bunch of essays, but all I’m getting are rejections. You’d think with all these submissions, the editors would at least send a personal note. Can I write back to ask why they’re not taking my work?

Signed,
Rejected and Dejected

Dear Draft,

I know I’m lucky to be getting published, but dealing with my editors is driving me even crazier than usual. Why do they accept my essays if they’re going to demand so many changes? They tell me what I’m saying isn’t clear when it’s right there on the page! Or they rewrite an entire paragraph in a voice that doesn’t sound like mine. Worse, they “suggest” revisions that go against my instincts. I don’t know how to stand up for myself without alienating the people I depend on to get published.

Signed,
Not Rejected But Dejected Anyway

Dear Dejected x 2,

As a writer who has spent many years editing other people’s work, I can feel not only your frustration but your editors’. You can’t imagine how furiously most editors struggle to keep up with all the emails, manuscripts, and phone calls coming at them every minute of every day. Not only are they reading and responding to a staggering number of pitches and submissions, they are negotiating rates and contracts, editing the work they’ve accepted for publication, arranging for artwork to accompany each piece, sending essays and articles to fact checkers and copyeditors, and attending meetings with colleagues in other departments, all while sweating to meet their deadlines. Many editors are writers themselves and would rather be working on their own stuff than editing yours. And now, with most of them editing from their kitchen table while their children are bickering in the…

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Eileen Pollack
Human Parts

Eileen is the author, most recently, of Maybe It's Me: On Being the Wrong Kind of Woman