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What do you want from an editor?

an editor with laptop

The Dreaded Editor

Here’s the scenario: My story has taken shape and I love it. I reread it more than once and, each time, my confidence grows. I hug my story up against me and carry it around with me, virtually reliving every scene.

Yet I know that, if I want the rest of the world to see it, I need to release it from my grip and get it out there. Before I do, it needs to be groomed and ready.

So, I need an editor. Yikes!

Woman getting editing advice

Who do you want?

I want someone who loves it as much as I do, right? Or do I? Will this help to polish the story or will it simply polish my ego?

I have one proofreader – let’s call her Sunny – who loves everything I write. Sunny’s praise warms me and I bask in it until I’m toasty brown. But sunning myself for too long gives me a sunburn. I suffer, along with my story.

What I want and what I need are two different things. I need an editor who’s objective, who has no personal connection to me, who will point out the problems in my story. In other words, someone who’s honest.

Now, Sunny may be honest too, but she’s not detached enough to see the flaws. So, time to send it to Picky.

Yes, Picky is…well, picky. But the comments are constructive not destructive. Picky catches all those shadowy issues that the glare from Sunny’s critique hides.

Woman soaking up the sun

What Type of Editing Do You Want?

There are different types of editors. Proofreading editors focus on spelling, grammar and sentence structure. All very necessary. Marketing editors focus on assuring that the manuscript appeals to a certain market. When I edit, I try to focus on grammar and structure but also on plotting and character development.

Credible and interesting plots and multi-layered characters will make a manuscript marketable. Writers not only need a query letter to be grammatically correct with no spelling errors, it also needs to immediately capture a publisher’s or an agent’s interest.

How do you do that? With strong characters and compelling themes.

Woman devouring a handful of chips

Constructive Feedback

We have all heard of editors who massacre a manuscript and leave the writer washed up on the beach, gasping for air. They exist. I have crawled from the sea myself, on more than one occasion.

A helpful editor, however, will point out the positive aspects of a story, while also finding the parts that don’t work. Nearly every story that I’ve critiqued had a few sparkly diamonds, even if they were well hidden and tough to excavate. An editor doesn’t help writers by destroying them.

Every writer needs a thorough critique and, while Picky is more critical than Sunny, Picky also lets in a few rays of sunlight. If she didn’t, I would be too discouraged to revise the story. Instead, I would file the critique, open up my pantry, and let food smother my pain.

And then…well, I might give the story to Sunny, just so she could repair some of the damage. Sometimes we need a Sunny in our lives, to cheer us on and keep us writing. A bit of sunbathing never hurt anyone, as long as we know when to step back into the shade.

So, sun or shade, sending your work to an editor if you hope to publish can only improve your writing.

How do you find an editor? Word of mouth is usually valuable. You might think about joining a critiquing group: it not only helps to have opinions from other writers, those writers can often recommend suitable editors.

Before I send out anything, I have three proofreaders who catch any problems. Then the novel goes to my editor who looks it over and usually finds more issues. Finally, it’s ready to make its debut.

While Sunny helps me to step into the light and soak it up, Picky hands me sunglasses, a hat and sunscreen.

Gabby sunning herself.