So you have written your content, and now you need an editor.
Before seeking an editor, you will want to know the purpose of one so you go in with the right expectations and have a good collaborative experience.
Purpose of an editor: To work with you to make the content the best it can be in the time available.
Let’s break each part down, starting from the end:
In the time available
One could always find a word to change, a sentence to tweak, a transition to add etc. Years later you could look back on essays, blogs, or books you wrote and find something to change. When you look at something with fresh eyes, you tend to notice things you didn’t before.
Your editor won’t have the luxury of editing the piece and then looking at it with fresh eyes a year later nor the time to complete more than the agreed amount of editorial rounds (this is different for each editor and for each project).
Writing can always be improved—always. If perfection is what you seek, then it will never be done.
But if you have a good editor, they will make your text the best it can be in the time available.
Make the content the best it can be
If the best your text can be is error free, then you aren’t aiming very high.
Content can be 100% error free and not be well written. Content can also be well written and still have a pesky error.
For any nonfiction content, you should aim for text that flows well; speaks to your readers; has clear, strong, well-supported ideas; isn’t redundant; and is well written.
For fiction, you should aim for a well-developed plot with strong characters; a balance in dialogue, setting, and action; and an entertaining, well-written story.
That’s a lot to focus on all at once. You made your first draft the best it could be in the time you had available with the knowledge you possess. That is no small feat. So good job!
Now it’s time for the editor to take that draft and make it the best it can be in the time available with the knowledge they have.
While your editor should maintain your voice and recognize it is not their content, the editor will make suggested changes to the text. This could mean your editor deletes an entire paragraph, rewrites an awkward sentence, points out problems with the plot, fixes a line of dialogue to maintain the character’s voice, etc.
Remember, a good editor is making the content the best it can be, not destroying your work.
To work with you
Your editor should collaborate and work with you.
In this collaboration, the editor makes changes to your draft, but does so in a way that gives you control.
The suggestions an editor makes are just that—suggestions. After all, you do get the final say. But rather than immediately dismissing a comment or suggestion, think about why the editor suggested it.
Often when the editor makes a substantial change to your manuscript (e.g., adding in a transition, rewriting an entire sentence, deleting an entire paragraph), they will add a query, explaining their reasoning. This helps you make an informed decision.
If they didn’t leave a query, ask why they made the suggestion before choosing to reject it.
Just with all things in life, these suggestions can seem like harsh criticism, and your first reaction may be to go on a rejection rampage or to cry and give up. It can certainly be overwhelming to see tracked changes all over the place.
Breathe and remember the editor is working with you, not against you. (I will post an article on the best practices for going through a heavily edited document. It will help you feel less overwhelmed; this is just out of the scope of this particular blog.)
As you go through the changes, think carefully about the suggested change before rejecting it. But don’t feel pressured to make a change you don’t agree with. Use that reject button where appropriate.
Feel free to discuss any concerns, points of confusion, and questions as you work together to make your content the best it can be in the time available.
Now that you understand the importance of an editor, you will want to make sure that you enter the editor–author relationship with realistic expectations. So check out my blog on 10 Realistic Expectations for Working with an Editor.
Katie Chambers, owner of Beacon Point, is a nonfiction and fiction substantive (developmental) editor and copy editor for independent authors, content writer and editor for business professionals, online teacher, and tutor.
As an editor, she acts as a beacon by building partnerships with authors and encouraging them.
She loves books and believes they have the power to transform lives. And as such, she wants to ensure that nothing stands in the way of an author’s message or story by reducing errors and strengthening their writing and plot and character development.
Visit her business website, follow or chat with her on Twitter, or connect with her on Facebook and LinkedIn.
If you’re an author, take a look at her writing resources page to access free resources for you.