Alexandra S.: Editors & Beta Readers Beware, Difficult Writer Red Flags, Dealing With Harassment

By: Alexandra S.

I started editing resumes and essays when I was in undergrad, which then gradually transitioned into beta reading and editing creative fiction. I’m not sure if Desiree sent me her work-in-progress novel first, or I sent her one of my fics, but I know we’ve been working together since 2015! I joined a Star Wars fan fiction anthology via an open call for moderator applications on Tumblr in 2016, and my involvement in beta reading, editing and writing fan fiction really took off from there as a favorite stress-relieving pastime.

Thankfully, we haven’t had to deal with many difficult writers, but unfortunately enough to know some of the red flags. For us, it’s usually those who are obnoxious in our group chat that turn out to be the problem writers and drama queens. What a person says and how they behave online speaks volumes. Avoid working with writers who are:

  • Arrogant
  • Self-centered
  • Negative
  • Argumentative
  • Dismissive
  • Have a “My way or the highway” attitude
  • Have not a care in the world for other people’s feelings

They are generally not very gracious, generous, or accepting of anyone or anything when engaging with others on social media, and will make your life hell. You don’t need that kind of toxicity, trust me.

Other frustrating traits are people who don’t read instructions or emails, and who are not receptive to constructive criticism. It’s harder to tell whether these things are going to be an issue until you are actually working with the writer, but one thing you can watch for on social media: do they respond maturely or poorly when someone disagrees with them? 

If you’re already working with a difficult writer and are trying to figure out how to part ways with them, I would recommend having a private conversation with them that is open and direct about what’s not working and why. Maybe it can be fixed. Maybe it can’t. But sometimes, you really shouldn’t even try. It’s not worth dragging out the grief.

It’s thankfully only happened to me once, but sometimes writers react very badly when you end a working relationship with them. Thankfully, this particular writer didn’t have a big following, so her complaints didn’t gain a lot of traction.

But here’s what you should do if a writer begins trolling and harassing you:

Publicly ignore it. A.K.A. don’t feed the troll!

Unless you think they might respond well to an open and direct conversation, it’s not worth your time or energy to engage someone whose mind can’t be changed.


PoliticalMamaduck/Mod Alexandra

(On AO3, Tumblr, Dreamwidth and 8tracks as politicalmamaduck; Twitter: @mamaducktweets)

I am an attorney in Washington, DC. I write Star Wars and A Song of Ice and Fire fanfiction and love to read in general. My editing style is heavily influenced by my professional background. I will generally focus on concision and clarity, and often recommend word choices/changes based on setting; for example, I always recommend using Star Wars canon words like “kriff” and “transparisteel.” I will also generally remove italics, ellipses, and prepositional phrases to further the concision and clarity goals.  It’s little details and moments that add so much to a fic, in my opinion, and I want to help make everyone’s writing shine its brightest.

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