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Editors Are On Your Side

July 31, 2010 by Fiction Editor Beth Hill
last modified January 21, 2011

I was recently approached by someone close to me about her work in progress. Great, I can’t wait to see what you’ve been working on and where you are with it.

She admitted it was a big step, asking me to look at her work. To critique her work. To point out the problem areas.

Her words got me thinking. Was it really that hard to submit a manuscript to an editor? I know I’m not an ogre. I’m guessing most other editors aren’t either.

So what I want to stress here is that editors are on your side. Just as you do, they want your work to be the best possible. When a manuscript leaves the editor’s hands, he expects to have done his best to make it worthy of a read by an agent or publishing house.

He wants to please his client and polish the manuscript, difficult tasks to accomplish at the same time when most of what the editor points out are areas needing improvement. With the wrong approach, corrections and suggestions could come across to the writer as the editor believing there’s nothing good in the story.

Yet that shouldn’t be the effect or result of edits.

Instead, edits should strengthen the work and definitely not cause the writer to second-guess his career.

I see editing as a highly encouraging endeavor. You’ve done this here, see how it sings? Why not do something similar in tone with this section or scene? Keep those threads tied tightly throughout the story—keep it cohesive.


Look again at your main character’s word choices. What words or patterns of speech reveal him? What words can be changed to reveal character or motivation, rather than using word choices that would fit any story about any character in any setting?

An editor doesn’t have the same investment in a work as the writer does, of course, but he does have an investment. His goal is to offer suggestions that will strengthen the narrative, that will deepen character, that will improve pacing. His purpose isn’t to make the writer feel bad but to feel encouraged about what he’s created.

Here’s a manuscript, a story, worthy to be worked on. Here’s a project worth a second and a third glance. Here’s a story with promise.

Can I put you at ease about submitting to a freelance editor? He or she is on your side. She wants to serve the project to the best of her skills.

Find an editor you can work with, someone who’ll challenge you. Someone who’ll offer suggestions that work with your vision and your goals. But don’t settle for an editor who agrees with you on every point. There’s no reason to engage an editor only to have him remain silent when he should speak out.

Listen to your editor’s suggestions. Give those suggestions a chance. And then follow them, adjust them, or pass on them. Stand your ground on an issue when you need to. But take advice when that advice will serve the story.

Take a chance every once in a while and try something your editor suggests, even when it seems odd. You never know when one small suggestion may lead to a story breakthrough.

Know your vision; but know also that vision can be expanded.

Find an editor you can trust. Then trust that he’ll offer good advice.

Your editor wants you to succeed. He wants your story to be successful. He is on your side.



Tags: ,     Posted in: A Writer's Life, Recommendations

2 Responses to “Editors Are On Your Side”

  1. Ken Coffman says:

    Passing your work to an editor is like submitting your balance sheet to an auditor…out comes the magnifying glass and we have to face our limitations and dig into the work it takes to convert a first draft into the final book. That’s scary stuff!
    But, want to improve your writing skill and create a book that is as good as it can be? This is the way it’s done.

  2. Beth says:

    I never thought of an auditor doing the same kind of thing, but I guess you’re right, Ken. And that second set of eyes is so important. In many different endeavors.