Editing a Piece That Frustrates You

By Sarah Nachimson, Nayu Shimo, and Yong-Yu Huang

Grammarly would make my life so much easier. Maybe I should just plug this piece in for a quick edit.


This character has ‘Mary Sue’ written all over them. I wish they would have some more defining characteristics. Less Flat Stanley, please.


I’m too tired to read through all this right now—I’ll come back tomorrow.


Every reader has encountered a piece that evokes thoughts akin to these. A pool of anxiety in you rises as you take in the maelstrom of grammar mistakes and inconsistent thoughts on this page. You’ve finally sat down after a long day at school, opened up Submission Manager, and downloaded the piece, only to be met with this.


You fight the urge to plug the entire thing into an editing software or to simply tap out a half-hearted comment. But you mustn’t. So you take a breath and dive in head-first.


All of Polyphony’s readers have encountered submissions that frustrate them in one way or another. Whether it be writing style, subject content, grammar mistakes, readers often find themselves conflicted with no idea of what kind of commentary to give. Sometimes, they don’t even fully understand the piece itself.


But the way to go about submissions like these is to sit back and take a deep breath. And then read through the piece again. Look for the things that you like in the piece, no matter how small, and let them change your perspective a little. Perhaps there’s this one beautifully-written line or wonderful piece of imagery that gives you chills. Put on your tinted glasses so that you can look at the piece through kinder, ‘helpful-editor-mode’ eyes. Sometimes, you just have to let the piece simmer a while. Think of it as a slow-burn romance! Just give the piece a chance.


Worst case scenario, if you really can’t think of anything, ask billy for a deadline extension. Chances are that he’ll say yes or he’ll offer advice from some more experienced editors to help you out. Or check out the Polyphony GroupMe chat for some peer advice!


Don’t let your frustration or personal opinions blind you to the effort submitters put into their pieces. It might speak to someone else--just maybe not you at that moment. Frustration is part of the writing process, and it stands as part of the editing process too. It’s a hurdle we all face, and sometimes, the best thing to do is to pause at the starting line, eye the hurdle, and then, finally, leap by leap, charge towards it.


What are your thoughts? How do you overcome frustration while editing?

Sarah Nachimson is a Genre Editor at Polyphony Lit and a blogger at Voices.


Nayu Shimo is a First Reader at Polyphony Lit and a blogger at Voices.


Yong-Yu Huang is a First Reader at Polyphony Lit and a blogger at Voices.