Mar 13

Working with an Editor, Part 1

The Backstory on Editing – Working with an Editor (first presented to the Romance Writers of Atlantic Canada by Nancy Cassidy, March 1, 2015), Part 1 

Today I am going to give a brief overview of editing as it is important to understand how the process works and how it will be applied to your work. I’ll also be discussing different formats commonly used in fiction editing, plus I will share with you some of the common peeves of editors, both freelance and traditional. Finally, I am including a list of websites that have valuable preparation/writing tools, and places to find an editor.

Whether you write with self publishing in mind or you plan to take your work to a traditional publisher, you will eventually need to spend time with an editor.

Why do I need to hire an editor? I’m going to self publish and all my friends have read my book and think it’s great! Even my cat loves it! Cartoon by Debbie Ridpath URL: inkygirl.com

I do recommend you hire an editor as an indie author – there is a reason most writers agree you cannot edit your own work. Authors tens to read what the meant to write versus what they actually wrote. Once you have gone over a project several times it is difficult to see your errors, although they can be obvious to someone with a fresh, trained eye. While you might think this is something everyone in the business understands, I think some authors feel reluctant to share their work with an editor because they fear the embarrassment that many associate with school and difficulty they have had with teachers at some time, and others are reluctant because they have a fear that sharing work may lead to it being stolen. Neither of these reasons is valid.

The sole purpose of an editor is to make your writing the best it can be.

Why do I need an editor? I am going the traditional route and there will be an editor with the publisher to make my book the best it can be.

No. The editor at the publishing house, especially for your first book with them, is to make sure your book fits with the publishing house’s style, the imprint’s trending qualities, and to lend their own personal preferences. Thousands of manuscripts are submitted regularly and editors are under a lot of pressure. They are no longer willing invest in projects that require heavy editing. It is your job in the current competitive market to ensure the work is polished before submission.

Personal note – I work with several authors who come to me before submitting proposals, or as they work on their agent’s suggestions or before they submit. In the last two months I have had two clients sell to Samhain and to Carina Press after their work was substantially revised and edited.

Since most people can’t see their errors after going through a book, why take the chance on handing something in that isn’t ready to go to press?

The Editorial Process

Fiction editing is divided into three areas. Editors often specialize in one particular area but can often offer advice in all three. You may choose to hire one editor for content, a second for copy and a third person for the final proofread.

Developmental or Structural Edits – sometimes called content edits, often include a critique of the book as a whole and will deal with things like plot, pacing, character growth, relationship growth, the author’s ‘voice’ and more. These are the big issues of the story. This may also include an annotated copy of the book as well as a report which may take several forms. When working with a series, especially a series that keeps that same main characters for each book, a story or series ‘bible’ may be shared between the author and the editor to keep facts straight.

At this point the book comes back to you, the author, to make revisions. There may be a time deadline for this if you are already working with a publisher or have set a deadline for yourself. This is the hardest stage of editing your book as experiencing a full critique can feel personal and painful. This is your baby that’s being analyzed and chopped up!

If that is how you feel your book has been handled you may be working with the wrong editor. But before you jump the gun and fire that person, take some time to think about what is being said. I always recommend my clients read the entire critique and the comments and then take a night to think about my suggestions.

One issue that comes up at this point and often in the next stage of edits, are disagreements with an editor over what the author perceives to be their voice. Having a voice does not mean allowing constant errors or, for instance, passive voice.

“If I’ve done my job correctly, my work is invisible — but it shows off the author’s work to its best advantage.” @USABookEditors

Please remember – in between each round of edits you have time to ask questions!

Copy or Line Edits – here the editor is looking at sentence structure, POV issues, common errors, passive voice, minor content errors (what color was her hair?), dialogue issues and more. It really is a line by line look at your book. Copy edits include stylistic edits, a process that encourages clarity at the paragraph level – word choices, transitions between sentences, changes to better convey meaning or to tighten pace.

At this point a style sheet may be provided. A style sheet can give an author a picture of ways they can work on their writing in preparation for editing – including providing a list of errors that the author tends to make or phrases they tend to repeat.

Proofreading – In today’s digital age this doesn’t usually include a review of the format of the book. That is left to the author or to the author’s formatter. Instead many editors now call this the final pass. Final spelling and grammar error checks, consistency in chapter heading and numbering, and a review of all last minute changes are included.