Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Ten Things You Should Know About Editors

I'm an editor first and a writer second. Having spent the better part of three years editing manuscripts has made me a better writer for my genre. Not because I'm smarter or better prepared word for word, but because I understand the role of the person on the other end of my manuscript. I know, without a doubt, that what I thought I wrote is probably not what I actually wrote. Therefore, if I'm going to argue with my editor, I'm going to be damn sure I'm right.

I thought authors and writers might benefit from knowing a bit about the red pen on the other end of the internet.

Ten Things You Should Know About Editors:

10) They get paid nothing. Seriously. A full-time editor for a smallish shop couldn't afford a Starbucks habit with what she makes per manuscript. They don't do this for the money. They do it for you. You're the one getting paid for your good work. They're trying to make you more money while getting very little themselves.

9) They read manuscripts as a reader. So when they ask a question, they're not asking for notation clarification for them because they're dumb. They want you to clarify your words within the manuscript.

8) CAPITAL LETTERS DO NOT INTIMIDATE THEM INTO SEEING THE GENIUS OF YOUR FIRST TURN OF PHRASE. Copy editors can read in both upper and lower case, and the words mean the same.

7) They appreciate a learning author. There is nothing more disheartening than turning one hundred thens into thans, and then having to go through the new changes, and fix all the new thens into thans. Or whatever your grammar malfuction may be.

6) They appreciate a read-through before you hand in your script. Authors who are used to being accepted into houses tend to give the yellow-lined draft of their book. That's fine, but editors network, just like writers do. When you're ready to expand, you want to be known as the author who turns in pretty clean copy. Not the author with the crappy attitude and second-grade level spelling.

5) Most editors are also writers / authors. They do know what it's like to be you.

4) The longer they take with a manuscript, the better a job they are doing for you. Hounding them every two hours for your work back might get it back more quickly. But it won't be read as well. And your work could possibly suffer because of it.

3) They don't care. If you seriously insist on making that mistake in continuity in the backstory because the editor is simply not seeing your genius, go for it. It's not their book.

2) They hate most of the rules as much as you do. If you have a problem with the house guidelines, you'll have to look further up the chain.

1) They are making suggestions. They are not ripping into your character. They don't hate you. They don't get off on making you work harder. They are on your side. Better books get made when both parties realize that.

Good luck, and remember, try to cut your editor a break. They're working really hard mostly for the love of the business.


  1. Regarding #6: I used to know a girl with atrocious... You know what? It was everything: grammar, spelling, punctuation. I still remember the look on another editor friend's face when I said, "...and when I gently suggested she proofread, she rolled her eyes and said, 'That is why editors exist.'"

  2. I loved this post . . . because it's so, so true. As both an editor and a writer, my worst experience was editing a manuscript so bad that every sentence had a grammatical mistake. Ugh. It took me months to get through. At least he was polite. I've had people who are definitely not.

  3. I'm an editor--a writer too, of course--and I can't argue with anything on this list!

  4. Great tips! I think you're right that this doesn't get addressed much but should. Thanx for posting! ;)