Articles / On Editing

We often talk about what to expect from your editor during the editing process, but how many of us have thought about what the editor should be able to expect from the author at the same time?

Sure, I know what some of you may be thinking. Authors pay editors to do the work, so why should they have any expectations at all? The words “that’s what I’m paying you for” come to mind.

But the truth is, the better shape your manuscript is in when your editor gets it, the easier the edit will be—on both of you—and the faster things will go.

So here are a few things you should consider having ready when it’s time to edit your book:

  • A completed manuscript that has been read through at least twice and self-edited accordingly.

First drafts are not ready for editing. First drafts are called drafts for a valid reason. Most of us do not self-edit as we write. Therefore, all drafts should go through several revisions, and definitely some beta reading, before they’re ready for editing.

  • An open mind.

There are generally two kinds of editing, objective and subjective. Objective editing is the technical editing—the spelling, punctuation, and grammar that is, for the most part, rule driven. An editor says, “No, the closing quotation marks go there,” and you’re probably going to nod and smile and follow along.

However, there is a lot to editing that is subjective, or based on opinion. One man’s poetic narrative is another man’s wordy prose. All editors may agree on the stages each novel should have, but they may disagree as to when they must occur. As an editor—and reader—I happen to enjoy descriptive narrative. Other editors may see it as a waste of words or find it excessive.

All of these things are subjective based on the situation and the manuscript. No two editors edit exactly the same, even those who work closely together. So the open mind is necessary when disagreements happen. Keep in mind that your editor has only one goal. To make your book the best book it can be. There are no ulterior motives to her changes. When you come across a suggestion or a change you disagree with, step back and look at it from a different angle, trying to see where the editor is coming from. Talk to your editor about the change. Walk away and sleep on it. If you still disagree, reject it. You know your book best. But don’t simply reject changes you disagree with without giving them a chance.

  • An open line of communication.

During any edit, prepare to speak with your editor several times. Most editors will try to anticipate questions ahead of time, but no one can anticipate everything.

A lot of conversation happens after the edit is returned to the author and the author is going through the changes, additions, deletions, and suggestions. You may want additional clarification on a change your editor has asked you to make, or you may not understand the reasoning behind the change. By all means—contact your editor.  Absolutely.

I tell every author I work with to email me if they have any questions or concerns about anything to do with the edit. If they disagree with something and want to discuss it. If they don’t understand something and want clarification. If they see something I may have missed—nope, I’m not perfect. No editor is. But your editor is there for you.

  • Your work ethic.

Just because you’ve handed your manuscript off to your editor doesn’t mean your work is done. Sometimes it means the hardest part is about to begin.

Your editor will ask you to cut scenes—perhaps even some of your favorite words. She’ll expect you to rewrite dialogue when your character’s voice isn’t right, she’ll ask you to expand on scenes where there’s a lot of tell with not a lot of show, and she may even suggest you cut a beloved extra character.

Don’t be afraid to jump in and do the work. The more willing an author is to make changes, the smoother the edit will go. And your editor will appreciate it.

These are just a few things I’ve found in my years as an editor. What kinds of things have you noticed that made your edit go smoother or faster or just made the process easier? Let me know in the comments below.

Happy writing!

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