You’ve completed the first draft of your manuscript and laboriously worked your way through the text, page by page, word by word, cleaning it up as best you can. Maybe you’ve even sent the text out to beta readers and made the necessary plot and character edits. But you’re not done and the manuscript isn’t ready.
Unfortunately, the truth is, you can’t edit your own manuscript. Even if you’re a fantastic writer and editor yourself, you’re often blind to your own mistakes. Overuse of a word or phrase, confusing wording, leaving out vital information that’s in your head but the reader doesn’t know, wrong word substitution–you won’t spot the errors.
Especially if your aspirations are to query an agent or self-publish, there’s one more vital step. Find a good editor.
Finding an editor in today’s digital world is easy, but how to find the right one, for you?
Understand the different types of editing. There are varying degrees of editing from “read and respond” which gives top-level feedback on the manuscript, to line edits and even full developmental critique. Have an idea what you want, but be open-minded to what your editor suggests.
Find out what types of texts the editor usually works on and ask to see a sample of their writing, if they are an author. This is not to judge their ability to write, as editors do not need to be writers, but it could help you see if their style is a match to yours. Editing scientific periodicals is a far cry from working with an author to perfect a crime fiction manuscript. While genre and style do not need to match, seeing eye to eye could make the process easier and more efficient.
Ask for references. Chat with other authors who have worked with the editor on various projects.
Send test pages. An editor should ask for a few sample pages, but if they don’t you should suggest this approach. This allows the editor to evaluate your writing and ensure the are the right person for the job. The next step is to ask them to provide feedback on your text so you can decide if you like their tone and technique.
Be clear about your expectations in terms of depth of editing and turnaround time. Editors usually take on multiple projects, so the time they need to edit your manuscript may vary.
Agree on a price and stick to a payment schedule. A test sample will help the editor determine how much work will be involved in your manuscript so they can set a fair price up front. Whatever payment schedule you agree on, make sure it is clear and you both honor it down the line.
Be openminded. It’s hard to receive criticism on your work, even when you’ve asked for it. Be open-minded and absorb all you can. It’s not just about cleaning up a specific manuscript, but about you learning to become a better writer.
Writing is a solitary effort, for the most part, but finding the right editor gives you a support network, a friend and professional to bounce ideas around with and most importantly, the feeling that you are not alone.