The Hardest Part of Being an Editor

After Five Years of Editing, One Thing Still Sucks.

Holly Lyn Walrath
Write Weird
Published in
7 min readFeb 10, 2020


Image Courtesy emre keshavarz

I’ve been a freelance editor now for five years. It’s a big milestone. I’ve probably read hundreds, if not thousands of manuscripts at this point. My focus as an editor is science fiction and fantasy, young adult, and poetry, but I also often work with nonfiction clients.

As an editor, my job is to try and serve the manuscript and give the best advice I can, for that writer. I very much take into consideration what the writer wants to achieve with a book and why.

I’ve worked with small presses, indie authors, new writers, and experienced writers. Despite how different we all are as writers, we usually all have an inability to look objectively at our work. That’s why editors can be so valuable.

And there’s one thing that never gets easier to tell a writer.

Your writing just isn’t working.

This can happen for several reasons. What’s strange is that it’s often the most simple of things that are going wrong in a manuscript. But we writers (and I’m one too) are often unable to see that one thing that honestly isn’t working. That one thing can vary from author to author.

Here are some of the ways I’ve seen writers fail and fail big:

Your manuscript is too long, or too short.

One of the hardest edits to deliver seems straightforward. But it’s very often that a writer has gone way too far, or way too short.

I say all the time, “there are exceptions to every rule.” I’m not going to say that there isn’t a small chance you’ll find someone to publish a book that’s too long or too short. But the truth is that if your goal is to get an agent or publish your book, you need to be aware of genre guidelines and you have to find a way to make your book fit them.

You’re not following basic genre rules.

Look, I love genre-bending. But it takes a talented writer to pull it off. And sometimes, the crossgenre element, whatever it may be, just isn’t working.



Holly Lyn Walrath
Write Weird

I'm a writer, editor, publisher, and poet. I write about writing. Find me online at or on Twitter @HollyLynWalrath!