Editors–Don’t Skip This Step!

No matter how good of a writer you are, you need an editor (or editors!). Don’t fool yourself.

There are multiple options to search for an editor. The internet is full of advertisements. Don’t jump at the first one you see. If you have writer friends, ask them for recommendations—learn from their mistakes. If you belong to a writers’ organization (like Sisters in Crime, Chesapeake Bay Writers, etc), tap into their vast contact base. We’ll talk more about writers’ organizations later in this blog series.

Don’t think you’re getting a deal by going with the lowest quote. You really do get what you pay for sometimes. The editors with the most experience tend to charge a lot more because they can. They have an established list of clientele who value their work and can afford their prices. If you are just starting out, you may not be ready for them, unless money is no object.

You want to ensure the terms of your agreement up front. Is the price you’re paying for one read-through? Or are you going to exchange emails until it’s done? Or somewhere in between. It is important to have something in writing so there is no confusion later that may cause hard feelings. Email is fine, although some prefer to have a contract in place. I recommend that the editor use “track changes” so you know exactly what he is changing and you can accept or reject the suggestion.
Once you turn your precious work of art over to an editor, be patient and give him time to do a good job. That means you need to work the editing piece into your timeline. You will feel rushed because, now that you’re done, you want to see your writing in print. Good editing takes time. You’ve done your job. Allow your editor a solid 30 days (depending on the complexity and length of your manuscript) to do his.

When the edits come back, grab your favorite beverage, find a quiet place to read, and take a few deep breaths. Now, absorb what has been given to you. Although painful at the time, I have learned a lot from my editors and am more mindful not to make the same mistakes twice. That means the more I write, the less edits are needed. That’s a really good feeling.

If the edits are simple grammar and commas, you may be able to accept track changes and be on to your next stage. If they are more substantial comments, you may need to set them aside, let the ideas seep into your subconscious before you attack the re-write a few days later. If you have questions about the inputs your editor has given you, go back for clarification.

While your editor is working, you can be working on your query letters. We’ll discuss that next.