Hidden Editor

This is my first official recommendation. I doubt I’d make them lightly. James Roberts of Zen Xen ( is an editor and writer. He doesn’t advertise these skills and experience on his blog, but he does mention them.

I’m not sure of what his current work load is, but he needs to advertise these services. He doesn’t know I’m writing this and there is a chance he may not appreciate it. If so I’ll be rushing back here to delete this post.

I was lucky enough to get him to read the first few pages of the absolute worst writing I have in my collection. It’s a very hectic story written for a November Nanowrimo and it has never seen the first round of edits. This draft was spit out in a cocktail of a hyper-caffeinated, bourbon saturated, sleep deprived state that is Nanowrimo. At the end of November, the file was saved and never touched again until a few days ago. This work is horrific. Reading it makes my eyes spontaneously bleed. It’s that bad.

Don’t believe me? This lovely dribble of space opera would be romance (but it misses the mark) contains amorous alpha cyborgs, a brothel, pirates, smugglers, and a space chicken named Elvis. I didn’t send him the space chicken section, but that should give you an idea of the quality of work this poor man was subjected to for this review. What’s Nano with out ninjas or space chickens? I doubt it exists.

I requested that he not pay attention to line edits, sentence structure, or grammar since it was the truest form of rough draft imaginable. I left the rest open for him to comment as he saw appropriate.

Within minutes of reading the project, I got feedback on my work. This tells me the man’s brain is wired for editing. It comes natural.

As writers, at first we’re trying to get the story on the page. We miss elements of plot, hooks, and everything that compels a reader to turn the page and want more. As I had a better chance to review his notes on my project, I found he noticed everything.

Writers often get too close to the words. We don’t notice items that require a small fix but have huge impact on the flow of the prose. Having a second set of eyes is an immense benefit. Having those eyes belong to someone experienced in editing is priceless. He found elements I probably would have missed.

Interacting with James, I have found him to be professional and concise. He is effortlessly genuine which is a rare trait mixed with kindness and bluntness. For me this has meant even his criticism of my project was a pleasant experience.

A review that should have come back with something akin to “Give up now, all hope is lost,” instead returned with an encouraging summary. He pointed out what editors look for in projects, how my work missed the mark and where it hit the expectations. Suggestions on re-writing the work was given.

Every paragraph and several individual lines had specific feedback.

I’ve also noticed that he tends to be meticulous and thorough. Despite me requesting that the more detailed critique be skipped, I can see him going back to fix my horrendous sentences and punctuation. He lends himself to provide more than what is expected.

Regardless of genre, writing level, published or un-published, I feel he’d be a good match for almost any author. You’ll get honest and somehow gentle feedback on your work, so even the most sensitive writer won’t crawl away in tears. He passed the test on that.

It’s a pleasure to work with him, to read his work, and I certainly look forward to future interactions.

If you’re stuck, need some help writing, want to get feedback from an editor then drop him a note to see what he can do for you.

I’ve already put him through a gauntlet to test him for you. He survived and I survived. I have absolutely no doubt that if I make the suggested changes that my project will be improved ten times over. Maybe then it will cease to make eyes bleed when read.

I wished I could say more, because as usual, my first round of words fail to do my thoughts justice. Just take my word for it, he’s good. You want to hire him to check out your work.

Unless of course he isn’t available for this type of work. In that case…this post will be removed and the writing world will have to find him some other way.

Personally, after I have saved enough to fund my writing retreat I’ll be returning to the downtown fountain to begin filling my James for Editor fund. Do me a favor and go to his blog to leave a note that you heard he was awesome. Maybe I can talk him into a referral discount 😉