What an Editor Does

So you’ve concluded that you need an editor. We all do, but it’s an admission that’s hard for a writer to make. Perhaps you’ve even decided that you want to make your editor happy. But what is this handsome, sophisticated, and deeply wise person going to do? (Did I mention that I’m an editor?)

1. Read


The first step is to read what you submit. You can help this process along by providing a synopsis, if your submission is a full novel. Remember that as fascinating and well-written as your work is, you’re in a queue with many other writers. If you send me a short story or an essay, I’ll read the whole thing, but for a whole book, I’m going to read parts of it to get a feeling of your writing style and strengths and weaknesses.


That’s just how the business works. The synopsis will help me fit what I’m reading into the total plot or argument.

2. Plan


The next step is for me to come up with a plan for the work that needs doing. The journey from a starting manuscript to a finished work ready to go live uses three vehicles:

A. Line editing, in which I check your grammar, spelling, and diction
B. Copy editing, in which I verify your facts, whip your characters into consistency, and tell you if something makes sense here or elsewhere
C. Developmental editing, in which I help you create and give life to your story

Depending on what you’ve come up with, we’ll need some combination of those three. How much of each is determined by where you are in the writing process at the moment.

3. Work


Now the hardest part begins. This is where I follow the plan, carving out commas, undermining adverbs, weeding and pruning purple prose, and generally working the way through to the goal of a polished piece of writing. Once that’s done, we go to the last part.

4. Review


In software development, this is called beta testing. I give the manuscript back to you to check, and I read through the whole thing again to find what got missed on the first trip.

This sounds like a lot of doing, and that’s because it’s exactly that. But you want your work to be something that stands out in a field of millions. To get there, keep reading, keep writing, and keep submitting.

7 thoughts on “What an Editor Does

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