Edit Your Work! – Advice from an Editor

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Edit Your Work!

So, you finished writing something. Congratulations! Firstly, you have done something that many writers fail at. Writers tend to be master procrastinators and that makes us our own worst enemies when it comes to our talents.

The next step for you is to find an editor. Whenever I hear about someone who isn’t willing to get an editor, I cringe. And then I cringe again for good measure. Let me be perfectly clear: we all need editors. I’m an editor and I need an editor. The last thing you want to do is to create this baby, nurture it, and then fail to potty train it and wonder what that smell is (hint: it’s failure).

When it comes to finding an editor, you have to think about what you want. Clearly, it would be cheaper to use the first person to offer to edit your whole 100k monstrosity for pennies on the dollar. Here’s where the adage comes into play, ‘You get what you pay for.’ Now, not every reasonably priced editor is crap and not every high-dollar one is good.

When I first began editing, I did a few pro bono projects to build up a client base. One horrible experience had a 160,000 word document that the writer wanted edited via Google Docs. Not that there’s anything necessarily wrong with Google Docs, except anything over 10,000 words froze up and it was not as fluid as other programs (read: Microsoft Word).

So I’m editing this thing, I’m fighting it tooth and nail, and it’s got a lot of problems. It was like the author going to the bar, getting completely wasted, and then penning a novel without looking it over during moments of sobriety. All writers spend a moment thinking they have a masterpiece – and they should, but only for that moment. And then they need to take another look and realize that they are human, and that an editor is there to improve the overall manuscript.

Needless to say, the writer chose not to take any of the edits into consideration. He wasted his time, my time, and then decided to publish it. When the negative reviews began to pour in, he blamed the editor. If you’re not going to listen to the editor, you can’t blame the editor for your negligence. The end result was that he pulled the book after I asked him to remove all credits to me.

So, before you go putting your word vomit all over Amazon, take a step back and think how you can improve this manuscript. Word of mouth is always a great way to find an editor or doing a Google search will bring up loads. Do your research on them and what they have edited. When you find a good one, be prepared for a wait of a couple of months or so. Editing takes time and any good editor will give you a timeline for expectation.

So, you found someone you really want to use. Now what? Request a sample edit. You are hiring this person, so think of this as an interview. I repeat: You are hiring them. It’s not the other way around. If you get back the sample edit (3-5k words is a good test), and they totally misinterpreted everything you wrote, they are probably not a good fit for you.

However, you should also keep an open mind. Editors are readers first. You already know exactly what is happening with your work. If someone lists reasons why something won’t work, pay attention to why. If that still doesn’t match the voice you are using, don’t feel bad about walking away. The editor doesn’t want to edit something if you don’t want it edited.

I found my editor because she worked on a mutual project with a group and I have never regretted it. She and I have an excellent working relationship and she gave fantastic pointers. The biggest thing you want is to find someone who works well with you, who you can communicate with easily, and who is open to explain if you have questions or concerns with an edit. They will give you a time frame for completion and check in as they go. They will leave constructive criticism void of snarky comments and vague mentions that won’t assist you in making your work better.

You should never be left wondering what is going on with your manuscript. It really is like your baby, and you shouldn’t leave it in the hands of a nanny you haven’t done your research on. And if you think you don’t need an editor, or you will edit it by yourself, please reconsider. You do yourself an injustice by not hiring another set of eyes to make your work sparkle. In this industry, negative attention is attention you don’t want, and your career could sink before it begins.


1797569_10203336224752594_1743873213_nKim Fry is an editor and writer in her down time from raising a family and working another full time job. She currently resides in Casper, Wyoming with her husband, children, cats and the most stubborn beagle ever. She has a dark sense of humor and an enormous obsession with Edgar Allan Poe. She writes many genres, including fantasy, horror, thriller and paranormal. You can find information about her and her works at http://www.authorkimfry.com

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19 thoughts on “Edit Your Work! – Advice from an Editor

  1. Hi! Great article and good advice. Writing a first draft is nice, but editing is where it really comes alive, where you stand back, watch it for a bit, see if it’ll get up and fly or if it still needs some work.

    I did notice an error you might want to correct, though (since this is, after all, a post about the importance of editing). In the 5th paragraph, the line, ” It was like the author to the bar, getting completely wasted, and then penning a novel without looking it over during moments of sobriety.” makes no sense. I think you may have left out a word or two. Perhaps, “It was like the author going to the bar….” was your intention?

    Still, great advice!

    Liked by 2 people

      1. You’re welcome! No worries – I’m still finding errors in things that I published online months ago — which only goes to reinforce your point regarding the importance of competent editing!

        Liked by 2 people

  2. I am fortunate enough to have a number of wonderful friends with rather professional backgrounds who (I wouldn’t say delight) are more than willing to look through whatever drafts I send them.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Most certainly! Our friendship may get a little strained after asking them every week, “What page are you at?” but I take him out for a drink when it is all done with!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Great advice, indeed. Having just finished my first first draft (yay!), I’m at the stage where I’m going to have to do a fair bit of editing of my own before I can ask anyone else to beta-read/edit/critique. Being physically unable to read past most errors myself, and thinking my work needed very little if any editing, it took asking a pro editor to take a look at my first chapter to realise how valuable a process it can be to have another pair of eyes edit your precious work. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Congratulations on your finished draft! When I had three other sets of eyes on my first manuscript I was floored with the amount of silly mistakes I made. I’m waiting on the editor to send me the last line edit. It will be interesting to see how much 4 sets of eyes missed.

      Liked by 2 people

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