So, you’re ready for an editor?
Secondly: remember that choosing an editor is not as simple as simply picking a name from a list. For the betterment of your work, you may find that you need to choose an editor that best suits your story’s interests (often above your own).
While experience is very much appreciated when looking for an editor, what kind of experience you are looking for is paramount. For example, experience in editing in the thriller genre is not going to be what you’re looking for if you write horror novels. I mean, they have a bit of crossover in the likes of tension, but, if the thriller editor has ten years of experience but a horror editor has five, the horror editor clearly wins, right?
My best advice in this area would be to research your potential editor. Read the books they have edited to see whether you would be an agreeable match. Editing or writing in your genre (some editors are writers too!) is a must, of course, but also, have they edited books that you genuinely like and enjoy reading? This says a lot in regard to their taste and whether they will suit your work and what you hope an editor will assist you with.
This is key: what they can do for you.
Do not be afraid to tell an editor what it is you are looking for regarding your work. Editors do not have to work with you and will prefer to work with an author that is open to dialogue and building a professional relationship. For example, I’ve seen people talk about hiding spelling errors in a few pages to check whether an editor is up to task, and this can backfire for a multitude of reasons:
• By the time your work reaches an editor’s desk, they are expecting it to be proofread and for as many errors to be removed as possible. Too many errors to them will suggest to them that you have not drafted or proofread your own work and are thus less inclined to work with you.
• Editors are best utilised in other ways, such as finding plot holes and presentation issues, grammar and syntax, as well as strengthening voice. While they can easily be proof-readers, it wastes everyone’s time putting them through a benign spelling test.
• You don’t have to be underhanded in order to try this. Editors can say ‘no’, of course, but the ones that do may decide to test their mettle and could work better for building the professional relationship I mentioned earlier.
When writing a novel, sometimes we often go on instinct and build up from there, snowballing into the stories that we hold dear. We live in the box and sometimes that means we aren’t aware of when our stories are pulled too thin, or when something doesn’t have the effect we want, or maybe we’re contradicting ourselves.
You see, novels often have themes. These are usually dissected after publishing by readers, critics and school children. The best novels are clear on what these themes are and how characters link into it. An editor, a good editor, can tell when these themes are dropped, contradicted or become convoluted or messy to the detriment of the novel.
A good editor can say “you start off with X as the main character, but they get sidelined after the second act for Y.” This may be intention because it was actually Y’s story all along, and a good editor can help you work out how to make this less jarring for a reader. It could also not be intentional, but you ended up finding out you preferred Y as a character more and thus more drawn to writing them than X.
In this situation, I’d want an editor to discuss the reasons this may have happened and what could remedy the situation.
For a lot of writers, particularly new writers, surrendering the work you’ve made to someone else for scrutiny can be an intimidating feeling. It is a vulnerable experience where you are open wide to rejection at a crucial step in your career in writing, or you could potentially meet your next fan.
The defensiveness of protecting one’s work can lead to resilience to genuine help and critique. Sometimes you may find a bad apple; however, most editors usually have your interests at heart, as this aligns with their own: getting the work published. That said, you are well within your rights to decline their suggestions. If you feel that the integrity of your story is undermined with any suggested changes, remember you are allowed to explain why, and this allows an opportunity to further discuss your novel and its future.
In short: when looking for an editor, communication is key. Express your wants and needs as an author and for your work, do not be afraid of rejection or critique, and do not fear bending or standing your ground when you need to.
Most of all: Good luck!
© 2020 Lannah Marshall
Available under the Thanet Writers Education Policy
Sometimes she writes. Sometimes she doesn’t. Either way, she’s not doing what she’s supposed to be doing.