The Dreaded Red Pen!

I’ve gotten 5 chapters back from my dad and it was covered in red! For those who don’t know, he is an author/editor by trade and he has graciously taken the time to do for me what he has done for many famous authors. For FREE!!!!

You will laugh when I tell you that when he sent the first chapter back, he had more notes than I had pages! Sigh…such is the life of a first time writer. The second and third chapters did not have as many edits and notes, but then came chapter 4 and 5.


There were major issues. It seems I have some major character development problems. I have an unlikeable heroine and, as you know, that is not a good thing! lol I tried to create tension between the hero and heroine and have them bicker and tease each other, but evidently I’ve overdone it and my heroine is coming off whiny.

That is just one thing among many problems. The good news is, so far my plot is good! So as long as the story is there, everything else is fixable. (Of course, it is only chapter 5 and there are 28 more chapters to go…so I am keeping my fingers crossed regarding the plot!)

I will say that I gave my book to my dad too early. Most writers pen their book, join a critique group, get feedback on their writing, and rewrite several times. Nope, not me. My dad wanted to read my book. He said I might as well let him be the critiquer and save myself a step. 🙂 While definitely true, it puts him in the hard position of 1) having more work for him to do, and 2) having to tell his daughter all her problems in writing! Poor Dad!

While it is a bit discouraging to see all that red on my pages, I am so incredibly grateful I am getting a teacher and mentor, to help me really learn how to write better. I am going to learn so much from his notes and advice. He is a gentle teacher and can couch the criticism in an encouraging way. I know, I know, you all want to borrow my dad!

Now I only wish I had time to start working on my book!!!! I’ve worked 59 hours in the last 7 days, which is typical of August. After August, I will have more time, but for now, it will be good for me to take the time, step back from the book, and come back at it with fresh eyes.
Just thought I would share a little more of my journey, such as it is.
Have any of you writers out there gotten a professional editor or a thorough critique partner to look at your book? If so, how do they do it? Do they just add comments or do they actually rework your sentences? I’m just curious as to what is typical.

26 responses to “The Dreaded Red Pen!”

  1. Hey, girl. Don't sweat it. You are sooooo lucky to have someone close to you to trust with your work. You know we're all envious.

    My critique group is fantastic. They go over everything. “This sentence doesn't work for me.” “This bumped me out of the story.” “This isn't very hero-like.” “That doesn't work for me, but what about this?”

    Sometimes, it's grammar, but not often. That's one of my strengths. I guess they just read the story, line-by-line, and whatever doesn't work, for whatever reason, they point out to me. After that, it's up to me to decide what works for my story and what doesn't. For the most part, I agree with them and make the changes, but not always.

    Although your dad is a wonderful tool for you, I think you should still join a critique group. I've learned just as much from critiquing other people's work as I have with them going over my stuff. It's a great way to practice your editing skills and eventually, you'll be able to spot the same errors in your own stories.

    It's 5 AM, can you believe I'm going on and on like this? LOL

    Have a great day!

    Lynnette Labelle


  2. I know everybody else is going to say this, Sherrinda – but I. Am. So. Jealous. (in a completely Christian way, right?) Your dad sounds amazing. To get that type of service for free…. I know those red marks are uber hard to look at, but just think how AWESOME this will be for your writing. Writing is hard. There's no getting around it. Growing as a writer is even harder. People have said it before – if writing/revising as easy, everybody would do it. When I work my way through the hard parts, I always come out as a stronger writer. I bet the same will happen for you!

    I hope you share the goods! Great fodder for posts!! Have a good Monday. 🙂


  3. Oh Sherrinda, I'm so happy for you to get some professional feedback. And that your dad isn't mincing andy words, but is telling you like it is. All of the feedback will help you grow and that's really the point, isn't it?

    And I agree, the month away from your book will help you approach it again with fresh eyes and determination! You are indeed blessed to have your dad do what I've had to pay someone to do!

    You're in my thoughts and prayers!


  4. Well, first congrats on being so brave!!!
    Your dad sounds wonderful and don't let all that red ink distract you. The plot thing is wonderful. Everyone has to tweak characterization sometimes.
    Also, (sorry dad) but reading is subjective. I know he's a pro but just bear in mind that what one person finds unlikable another person loves. 🙂 As you go through his edits, make sure they correspond with what you feel is right for the story.
    As for editing styles, as far as I know they vary. I got a critique from Harlequin and they did a four page overview rather than marking up the actual pages. They hit on my characterization too. LOL!
    I actually don't care for when critters reword my writing. I think it can interfere with voice big time. But if a sentence is awkward and that's pointed out, or passive, then that's different.

    Have fun wading through those red marks! Your dad is right, having that in-depth one first is better. 🙂


  5. Wow, Sherrinda, what a wonderful blessing to have a father with that expertise! My husband is my first editor. He has a background in journalism and writing and editing speeches for politicians, so he's great at finding poor word choices and awkward sentences. I make him use a green pen. It's his favorite color and it's not as discouraging when I see all that green instead of blood red. 🙂

    Lots of prayers to you Sherrinda! I think this is one of the hardest parts of the process, but it's gotta be done! Have a good week at work.


  6. Lynnette, thanks so much for your wonderful comments. I do think a critique group would benefit me. I've heard that critiquing others is a great way of learning, as well! (I must say, I'm impressed with you coherent comments so early in the morning! 🙂

    Katie, it's okay to be jealous. I totally understand that!!! I know how incredibly blessed I am. I'm not too discouraged about the red marks. I knew there would be alot…hey, it's my first attempt! lol I am looking forward to tackling the job being set before me!

    Jody, yES!!! I am thankful Dad is being totally honest with me. It really is going to help me and allow me to grow. I'm up for the challenge.

    Jessica, thanks girl, for your comment! I know reading is subjective and to give Dad credit, he asked me to send him a book of what I like to read in order to give him an idea of what I am aiming for. He does not read romance, so he wants to see if my book fits in with the genre I am trying to write. (He is a brillant man, a deep thinker. And I am NOT, so my writing is a bit fluffier than what he is used

    Heather, don't you feel blessed to have someone with some expertise looking at your book? You are indeed lucky! And what a great idea to use green!!! lol


  7. So where can I find your father?! Joking. 🙂 WOW though. I would love to have a dad that edits! I paid $$$ to have my first book edited and I am sure there will be more $$$ spent.
    I hate read pen though. Wouldn't it be great to just have everything wonderful the first time around? Wonderful, but boring…right?


  8. How great that your dad is able and willing to edit and critique for you. My dad has told me that he wants to read my book (when I ever finish) but it won't be quite the same 🙂

    As for critiques – I beta read with Word and use their track changes. I will directly change something like the tense. (Replace is with was if their using past tense). But other than that I just leave comments with thoughts and suggestions. I'll either just state that a sentence is awkward or make a suggestion on how it could be reworded or made stronger. And I always make sure to note that it's a suggestion.

    Good luck with the rewrites. Keep us updated on the process!


  9. What a blessing your dad is, Sherrinda!
    That is so wonderful you can learn from him.

    A critique group will do the same, but not everyone in a critique group looks for the same thing, so it can be good and bad. I belong to a group, but I think it's best to have one or two (maybe three) awesome people you trust to go over your work who know your writing.
    I'm picky so I don't like people rewording my sentences. Because then that person can change your voice. I love knowing if my characters are out of character, if there's plot holes, or whether my character's motivations make sense. I also have a great “grammar” partner who will just pick up grammar problems for me.

    Have fun editing! LOL!


  10. MY DAD DOES THE SAME THING! What's with Dad's and red pens, huh? I am buying him BLUE ones for Christmas 😉
    Keep pluggin! You'll get it! 🙂


  11. How wonderful you have your dad and a professional as your critique partner. It's amazing how much you learn and it truly does help you grow as a writer.

    My critique group is great. We work on-line so we have to e-mail each other chapters. We all help to rework sentences that don't work, point out places where the voice isn't right, ask questions about scenes or characters we're not sure about. We also support each other with out writing.


  12. Gotta love that red pen. It's so intimidating! I'm sure it will pay mounds of dividends in the end!


  13. wow…that's crazy! awesome to have your dad in such a professional role able to help you out. it probably was hard for him to write out what he thought, too, so kudos to him for being honest. just take it a page at a time, ketchup girl. page at a time. 🙂


  14. Wow, dad as a critter. thats rough on both sides. I've wanted to get a pro to look at my stuff, but it was just too darn expensive. I've gone the critiquing route and had some wonderful people tell me a few things to fix. Nothing replaces the expertise of a pro though. Good luck with the rest of your chapters.


  15. I too have had the unlikeable character problem. I once wrote a book about a city girl forced to be on a dude ranch for work and she was miserable. It was important she be miserable to make the conflict work but people found her misery made her come off as a snob. So I rewrote the book and took her misery out…which changed the conflict. (Sigh)


  16. Sherrinda, what a wonderful gift your dad is giving you. I know it may not feel like that now when you're receiving your first feedback and are fatigued. After you've had time to absorb his comments and get some rest, though, I feel certain you'll see things differently.

    I wrote five manuscripts before I knew another writer. And, boy, did I ever make mistakes. If I'd had someone willing to teach me craft, each story would have improved. Thanks to your dad's expertise and generosity, your process won't take as long.

    The downside is that your learning curve is steep. What has taken me years to learn, you're receiving in condensed form. What helps me when I receive feedback from my critique partner is remembering that she has my best interest at heart, believes in me and feels I'm worth the investment she's making. Obviously your dad thinks you've got talent and wants to help you shine like the bright star he knows you to be.

    My CP and I use the comments feature of Word. We mark everything we see from plot holes to missing periods. We do make suggestions regarding wording but are respective of the other's voice.

    I hope you're able to take some time for yourself during this busy month. Chocolate works for many. What's your comfort food? Or do you prefer activity as a way to recharge? For me, a walk can work wonders.


  17. That is great your dad is willing to do this and for FREE! Awesome!

    Don't worry, when you read over the gist of the red ink you may find some great changes to make your work even stronger. Plus he may harder on you cause he knows your potential–so make it shine!


  18. Congrats!! It's a big step having anyone read your work–I can't even imagine having a family member who's professional doing it!

    Shake off the jitters (here are mine “how could I have made that stupid mistake… Why didn't I see this one?… I'm horrible…”) and set the book aside this month. You're too busy to work on it and it's good to have a little time to process the comments.

    In September, you'll feel a thousand times better about the changes!


  19. Hi Sherrinda –

    My critique partner is a gem. We use Word Tracker (under the Tools menu). We also write comments and suggestions.

    I've had a professional editor go over six chapters. She's a friend, and did it gratis. It was like having a private tutor. She also used Word Tracker.

    You're blessed to have a built-in editor and mentor.

    Susan 🙂


  20. Sherrinda;
    What a blessing for you, and I think it's great you don't bruise easily.
    I hired a professional editor to do my first book, and I was shocked at the number of pages of suggestions she sent back, along with tracker comments— I am still plowing through them chapter by chapter, but I must say my writing is improving, and I'm even catching boo-boos she missed!

    When I called her after she sent me the comments, she said her first ms. came back with 24 pages of comments! YIKES!

    I have a crit partner too, and she has helped me tremendously. She gives me the exact advice and suggestions I need. She's a God send. And she's free! Yippee Dippee!


  21. Oh, my, I've had my mss bloodied up plenty of times through crits. Comments throughout, sometimes a suggested rewrite of an awkward sentence, lots of nice things said too.

    Your dad sounds like a great crit partner/editor, willing to tell you the truth, and loving you all the time. 🙂 Having a crit partner whose motives you trust all the time, that's priceless.


  22. Ohhh, yes, the red pen. It's hard, but kudos for you for putting it out there for him.

    I agree with what someone else said, a critigue group could still be helpful. Getting the differing opinions is important.

    I here you on the work schedule!! Hope it calms down for you soon!


  23. Woahhhhh! I worked 10 hours today and came back to all these wonderful comments! How sweet are yall?!

    Tabitha, I haven't even asked my dad how much he charges…I'm afraid to ask! 🙂 I'm sure your money was well spent!

    MeganRebekah, I'm sure your dad will be so encouraging! I also like the Word track changes and that is what Dad is using and it is so helpful! I'll keep you updated. 😉

    Jennifer, how wonderful you have a group who can give you feedback and people you trust! I wasn't sure I had the time to spend critiquing other's work and work on my own WiP, so I just let my dad have at it!

    Jaime, wow, so your dad edits your books too? Is that what he does for a living?

    Cindy, I hope to find a crit group at some point, but haven't felt like I had the time to spare. I definitely will one of these days!

    Marybeth,I know those red marks are going to pay off in the end. I am looking forward to getting to it in another month or so.

    Jeannie, YES! I cannot imagine having to be totally honest with my kid's work like that. I am so glad Dad feels like he can be totally honest. I told him that is what I wanted and I know I am going to learn so much! Signed…your ever lovin' ketchup girl. 🙂

    Quixotic, I have no idea what an real editor costs, but I imagine it is way beyond what I could ever pay! I'm glad you were able to find a group of crits to help you out!

    Stephanie, I am sad that my character isn't likeable. I had my sister=in=law read through my book and she loved it and hoped my dad didn't change a whole lot, so…I am not sure what to think about that! It would be hard to change, but I will if it is really needed.

    Keli, you are right when you say it is so much easier to take when you know your crit partner has your best interest at heart. I know my Dad loves me and wants me to be successful and he has such a way of putting things that motivate instead of tear down. (a gift, to be sure!) For me ,chocolate is a definite indulgence, but I keep growing in size and need to put a stop to all my eating! I just wish I liked to exercise and get release that way, but I just don't like to sweat. Period. lol

    Sara, ooooo, I didn't think about him being harder on me because he knows my potential. I rather like that thought! lol 🙂

    Jill, I laughed when I read your thought to yourself, because they are my thoughts too! I think you are right in that the month away from it will be good for me. I am too tired right now to be encouraging about anything! 🙂

    Susan, wow, you have a friend who did some of your chapters for free! That is awesome! I must say the Word tracker is awesome! I love it!!

    Jeanette, so you are still plowing through yours? I am thinking that may take awhile with mine! It was nice of your editor saying she got lots of pages of comments too! That makes me feel better! Good luck with your edits!

    Erica, the red ink is a good thing, right? It just makes our ms's all the better! So we should rejoice in the drenching of red!! lol


  24. Krista, I must have just missed you! I hear you on the crit partners. I can see how more than one set of eyes might see things differently. So are you having a stressful time at work?


  25. You're dad rocks! As a professional editor, I always highlight the things an author does well. Part of my job is to revise the piece: pointing out grammar problems, identifying style issues, reworking sentences. I strive to show the writer why I'm suggesting changes, so the writer can learn. (And I also make sure it's a genre I like. It helps for the editor to understand the writer's genre.)


  26. Lucky you! It may have it's awkward side, but it would seem to me easier to take than that professional stranger judging me! Guess I'd better toughen up before I get to that stage…

    BTW… You are not a writer wannabe. You ARE a writer! You wannabe published.


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