Good Editing Saves Lives (of characters we may want to kill)


In this week’s blog post for Creative Loafing, I lament that fact that without even reading a word of the manuscript, my editor blasted a hole in a fairly major turn of events in the sequel. And by “fairly major” I mean, very major. Rather than rehash it, go read about it HERE. Hear why I think hiring a good content editor can save you major embarrassment and why it’s sometimes the small stuff that makes a difference.

See, the editing of a book is where you make those changes that a change a manuscript into a novel. As writers we sometimes get caught up in telling the story, which might include which series of freeways you take to get from Laguna Beach to LAX. But unless those details matter, cut them. I was reading a book recently that mentioned the model of laptop the character was using. First, unless your goal is to immediately date your fiction, don’t go there. That fancy Blackberry Storm is a useless plastic brick in a couple of years. Those details only matter if they actually matter… like a villain who drives a car with an 8 Track Deck or  watches Disney movies on Betamax all day (look it up, kids, Betamax is the future.)


Photo Credit: Tom Simpson via Compfight cc

It would be nice if the editing of my manuscript only involved these minor details, but I have a feeling that my editor will be questioning the motivation and authenticity of the multiple villains in my next offering. In fact, I’m counting on her to do that. I don’t know any Asian, Russian, Cuban or French gangsters personally, so they’re going to get some color during the editing process.

As I write this, I’m beginning to understand why I can’t stand most movies. I tend to nitpick minor choices and wonder how films with hundreds of intelligent people involved can get produced with so many bad choices. For instance, there’s a pretty significant difference in the end of The Martian the novel, vs. The Martian the movie. They didn’t change the outcome, but they changed how it went down, and for a story that is supposed to HINGE on the use of science and technology, they threw physics out the door in favor of action at the most critical point in the movie. And don’t get me started on Robert DeNiro’s recent paycheck The Intern – you thought it was name for DeNiro’s character, but actually it was written and edited by an intern. This is why I can only watch romantic comedies. (Who am I kidding? I have two small kids. If it isn’t Pixar, I haven’t seen it.)

My editor would probably like to get her hands on this blog post and delete it. Tomorrow I meet with my most snarky, mean, evil, did I say mean? beta reader. I will report back after her no-holds-barred assessment. Until then, time to pick up The Grandfather Clock for 99 cents and read it before The Napoleon Bloom comes out this summer. You will enjoy The Grandfather Clock and I believe the sequel is better. Get on it!


By day Jonathan Kile is a peddler of petroleum products, navigating a Glengarry Glen Ross landscape of cutthroat sales. By night he assumes the identity of novelist and child-wrangler. Jonathan’s first published novel The Grandfather Clock is available on Amazon. He’s writing his second and third novels, blogging at Well-Oiled Writer and for Creative Loafing and cursing his editor. You can email him at










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