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I was reading an article the other day on "best practices" for presenting my work to an editor. It was very informative. But the inquisitive side of me started wondering what it was that might make make an editor so terribly upset with me or my work that they would sooner publish witty quotes in bathroom stalls than work with me.

What should I do to make an editor hate me or my work? Or in other words, what are common mistakes novice writers fall into that shoot themselves in the foot with an editor?

  • Ask questions other you should know the answers to such as, 'What should I do to make an editor hate me or my work?' – S. Mitchell Oct 12 '15 at 20:20
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    Editors hate it that you exist. Each reminder that you exist annoys them more, progressively. You can make them hate you, by constantly reminding them that you exist. – user11233 Oct 13 '15 at 12:22
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"Hatred" probably isn't the right word. But you can annoy an editor so much that they treat you dismissively. And they don't forget.

Here three big ways to quickly get an editor to dismiss all your hard work out of hand and potentially lose the chance to publish a (possibly) amazing piece of writing:

  • Forget they are humans. I live on both sides of the fence. When I was only a writer, I thought of editors as being 1) unnecessary, 2) numbskull gatekeepers, and 3) failed writers. As an editor, I now realize that editors are 1) human beings, 2) human beings who like writing, and 3) human beings who respond the way all human beings do. On top of that, they work hard as professionals (often unpaid and with a baby crying in the other room) and can tell when you firmly believe unpleasant things about them (remember, their skill set involves unraveling subtleties).
  • Don't follow submission guidelines. If submission guidelines say "blind submissions only", they have a very good reason for that. If they ask for 12pt, Times New Roman, double-spaced, they have a good reason for that, too. If they ask for no special fonts, no crazy formatting, and only one submission at a time, they have very good reasons for those, too. Going against submission guidelines implies a) that you think you know better than they do and b) that you aren't professional. A and B may not be true, but gut reactions go a long way when publishing art.
  • Compare yourself to great writers. This happens more often than you think. Sure, I like to think of myself as a proto-Nabokov-Pynchon-Beckett-Sterne hybrid, but telling an editor this invites scorn and, yes, dismissiveness. Pitching your abilities as if they're a Hollywood logline disrespects what you do and removes an opportunity for others to make their own qualified assessments.

Obviously this list isn't comprehensive (a list of pet peeves could take weeks to write), but it should put you on the right track to achieving an editor's heart-felt disapprobation.*

* Bonus tip: Use big words when they don't need to be used.

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The top mistake a novice writer can make is, in my opinion, being completely resistant to criticism. Writers may feel like every story they create is their "baby", and each critique on the story reflects a criticism on their own character. Now, this is a totally natural impulse, but one that you need to curb.

So. Responding to every suggestion of improvement with some variation on "you just don't understand my genius!!" is a very quick way to make editors, critique partners and writing group members dislike you. Give in to impulse, scream out your first gut reaction, share your emotions with the universe without first analyzing whether the criticizer maybe has a point.

Treat your novel/short story/what have you as your "baby" and you will earn plenty of dislike.

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