How to Make the Most of Working with a Professional Editor

You’ve finally decided that it’s time to work with a professional editor, but you have no clue what to expect. Is your manuscript ready for a professional edit? Is it even worth it to hire an editor?

As a writer, you realize there will inevitably be somebody with a “red pen” who comes along to tidy your writing. Nothing is written perfectly the first time. Here are some suggestions for creating a good working relationship with your editor and accepting that no writer is an island.

What does an editor do?

Let’s start by understanding who the editor is and how he or she helps you with your manuscript. When you work with a professional editor, you’re paying for a reader. An editor is a professional reader, with an emphasis on the word professional. You may even be an editor yourself, but you cannot be your own professional editor.

While you can and should self-edit, it’s impossible for you to thoroughly edit your own work. You’re too close to your material. You already know your characters. You already know where your story is headed. You’re not able to see your composition with fresh eyes. You’re unable to be unaware. And because you cannot see your own writing objectively, you’ll need someone else to do that for you. That’s why you should hire a professional editor. A professional editor understands the writing and publishing process from rough draft to salable story.

Have your manuscript ready for editing

Don't submit your manuscript until you’ve edited at least a little bit. The edit you do on your own will be different from the edit of a professional. Because you know what story you want to tell, you’re tasked with making sure that story is on paper. So, be sure to read over your manuscript and that you’ve told that story prior to providing it to an editor.

Once you feel confident that your manuscript is ready to be reviewed by a professional, then you can submit your work.

Understand the type of edit you need

There’s more than one type of edit. Let’s focus on two main types you’re likely to need: manuscript critique and comprehensive edit.

 In a manuscript critique (also known as a developmental edit), the editor looks at the big picture. The editor reviews the manuscript on a range of issues, including any or all of the following: pacing, flow of narrative, transitions, voice, plot, structure, dialogue, character development, audience, and potential market.

The manuscript critique is an entry-level edit. It should be done before you tackle typos and grammatical errors, because you and your editor may decide to cut entire chapters out of your book. The notes from the editor can bring much-needed clarity and help you understand how others will experience your story.

 In a comprehensive edit (also known as a paragraph level edit), the editor looks at your manuscript line by line, and deals with the language of your story, including rhythm, transition, and wordiness. The editor will begin with line editing, which is an extremely detailed edit and includes rewriting sentences and improving word choice, organization, plotting, and pacing. The purpose is to improve the readability and flow of your manuscript. The editor may draw your attention to:

* dialogue or paragraph that can be tightened
* scenes where meaning is unclear or could be misunderstood
* redundancies from repeating information in different ways
* misuse or overuse of adjectives and adverbs
* passages that are weighed down by bland languags
* possible changes to improve pacing
* tonal shifts and unnatural phrasing

Communicate with the editor

The editing process is a partnership between you and the editor. Tell your editor what you’re hoping to learn from the editing process. If you have any questions about the editing process, ask away.

After you receive feedback from the editor, make sure that you review it and follow up promptly. Be aware that the editor also works with other authors, so it’s important that you respect the editor’s time. Ask him or her for advice on how you can make specific improvements while your manuscript is still fresh in your mind.

Trust the editor’s process

One of the best things about working with a professional editor is this: you can rely on his or her experience. Your editor has worked through countless manuscripts with other authors. If you trust the process and listen to your editor, he or she can help you improve your manuscript. That’s not to say that you shouldn't have any questions for your editor. On the contrary, feel free to ask for clarification, or even disagree, but keep in mind that the editor is only here to help you create a salable story.


Want to connect with one of our editors? We have writing coaches and editors available to connect with you to get started on your manuscript. Send us an email to “Get Started Today!”

Casey Cease

Casey Cease

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