Monday 18 July 2016

On Being Edited by Maureen Lynas

I’m currently experiencing my first experience of being edited by an experienced editor (Agent Amber) and it has been an extremely interesting experience.

Note: Being edited is nothing like being critiqued.
Being edited has made my story

One big plus is that I now have insider knowledge on how publishers view school based stories. So I shall share one insight that had me hitting the research button.

Are they allowed to be the bad guys?
How bad?
I have three main teacher characters in Witch School Sucks.
Ms Toadspit - the ghostly headmistress
Ms Sage - the deputy headmistress
Ms Thorn - senior mistress

Their roles weren’t entirely clear in early drafts. It was as if I had all of the necessary elements of teacher behaviour assigned to all three and had not clarified which individual played which role.

Someone had to keep the school in the past.
Someone had to bring the school into the future.
Someone had to be the teacher who is obsessed with conformity and standardisation.
Someone had to control the children physically.
Someone had to control the children emotionally and mentally.
Someone had to be the teacher who keeps the rules.
Someone had to be kind to the children.

I needed a bad guy who would put Daisy/Ophelia/Twinkle (one character) in physical danger. But which one?

Editing hiccup - publishers are really wary of teachers putting children in danger. School should (usually) be portrayed as a safe place. Teachers should (usually) be portrayed as safe adults.


Harry Potter had bad teachers so how come JK Rowling got away with that?

She had the following bad guys:

Quirinus Quirrell
In cahoots with Voldemort
Gideroy Lockhart
Out for himself
Barty Crouch Junior (Mad-Eye_Moody)
In cahoots with Voldemort and a teensy weensy bit bonkers.
Delores Clayborne
In cahoots with Voldemort, and a power grabber
Horace Slughorn (turned out good)
Out for himself.

They were all either new to the school or temporary teachers on short term contracts.
None of the permanent staff were bad guys. Not even Snape.


The permanent staff could be annoying in the way that teachers can typically be annoying in a real school. They gave detentions for the normal stuff like being out of bed, disobeying a school rule etc
They could be bullies e.g. Snape. But if they were bullies the other teachers were there to reign them in and mitigate the punishments.

Filtch also comes into this category until Dolores Umbridge appears. But he isn’t a teacher so can be a little more chaotic.

So, back to my teachers. 
Who is who and who is allowed to do what?
Ms Toadspit - The Ghostly Headmistress
Is now the mad ghostly headmistress who lurks the corridors and ensures the rules are kept. Because she’s dead she isn’t really a teacher so she can take on the role of temporary teacher and her actions can drive Daisy/Ophelia/Twinkle towards the climax of the story in which (spoiler) there will be DANGER!

Ms Sage - The Deputy Headmistress
Is now the kindly teacher who is looking to the future and the good of the school. She attempts to control the children through her smiley smile of certainty and emphasis on sensible behaviour. I think she’s been reading a book on Neural Linguistic Programing. Or she's been watching Derren Brown but she isn't as good as he is.

Ms Thorn - Senior Mistress
Is now the stern teacher who would like standardisation and conformity in all things.



Maureen Lynas is represented by Amber Caraveo of the Skylark Agency

She posts funny poems on the funeverse and is the author of the Action Words Reading Scheme


  1. I love your logic! I've been going through a similar process of working out how to up the stakes in my current novel ... how can my hero drive the action towards the end of the story instead of just reacting to external forces? I'm listing all sorts of possibilities! Good luck on the edit!

    1. Thank you! It never occurred to me there were teacher rules. It's nearly done. Should be ready to send on Friday. Woo hoo! Maybe it will be ready to submit!

  2. Maureen this is so how great to be working with Amber. Thanks for sharing all this!

    1. Hi Sheila, it's been so interesting to see things from a different perspective. Makes you think that bit harder.

  3. As a trainee editor, and writer, I found this both interesting and instructive . Thanks!

  4. Dear Maureen so interesting to read about the teacher rules focschool stories- i never knew! and i wish you so much good luck for this MS x


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