No matter how many times you self-edit, there will always be things that slip past you, so having another set of eyes review your manuscript is important. That’s why you need to hire an editor. Working with an editor, however, isn’t a natural or easy thing to do. Why?
When you hire an editor, you’re essentially paying someone to tell you everything that you’ve done wrong.
Yes, a good editor will encourage you and point out the strengths in your writing but knowing your strengths won’t help you improve your manuscript – you need to know your weaknesses (and how to fix them). That’s why you need to hire an editor.
Once you know what kind of edit you need and you’ve found a good editor, it’s time to get to work. That doesn’t mean an editor rewrites your story or that you have to make every suggested change, though. The best way to improve your book is to work with your editor. Here’s what I mean:
- Understand your limitations. Unless your name is Stephen King or J.K. Rowling, you can’t do what they do and get away with it. The hard truth is this: the rules are different for new, unknown authors, and editors understand that. Just because a New York Times best-selling author can write a certain way does not mean you can! Good editors aren’t going to help you write like a NYT best-selling author; they’re going to help you write your best story.
- Work with the editor, not against him. Contrary to popular belief, editors aren’t trying to make authors feel bad; they’re trying to help authors get published. Editors don’t make suggestions or leave comments to prove how much they know. They’re trying to help you improve your manuscript. Instead of fighting against everything they suggest, work with them. Take advantage of their knowledge and expertise and apply it to your writing.
- Ask questions. Listen to the answers. If you don’t understand why your editor suggested something, ask him. If he says, “I didn’t like it,” then you have a good reason to consider whether or not that change needs to be made. If, however, he says, “This type of scene is too graphic for a middle grade novel,” keep reading and consider #4.
- Trust the editor. If you’ve done your research and found someone who understands publishing and your editing needs, then it’s time to trust the editor. Good editors aren’t trying to turn your book into something they’d like to read, they’re trying to help you craft your book into something that will attract publishers and readers – they want to help you sell your book! If your editor says your opening is too wordy for a young adult novel, trust him.
- Don’t take it personally. I’ve already mentioned this, but it’s worth repeating – an editor’s job is to help you get published! Marking up your manuscript and offering pages of suggestions and comments isn’t a personal attack against you, your story, or your values. All it means is that your manuscripts needs some work in order to turn it into a novel that will attract publishers and readers. Period.
Will your editor’s comments hurt your feelings? Probably. Does that mean he’s wrong? No. Do you have to take all of his suggestions? Not at all. But remember, a good editor knows what he’s doing. Sure, there will be some suggestions that don’t need to be followed, but you hired an editor for a reason. Work with him, not against him, and you can turn your good manuscript into a great novel.
Mark your calendar! My debut novel – Summer Plans and Other Disasters – releases September 15! Sign up for my monthly newsletter and you’ll receive the unpublished prologue: find out what inspired Calista Stephens to make those summer plans. Follow me on Facebook and Twitter for more updates about my debut release!