5 Ways to Show Your Editor Some Love

When members of writers’ groups become friends, a wide variety of unintended consequences can arise. Catching up on life can overtake story-reading, and critique can become diluted. In fact, the line between encouragement and useful feedback can disappear completely. It’s easy to sit around laughing and say, “kill your darlings….” Easy, that is, until the executioner editor comes along and kills them for you.

If you’ve never experienced a good, hard edit, it can be a jolting experience.  It can leave even the most competent of writers with a lump in the throat and feeling a tad bit sick to the stomach.

Well-meaning family members can also contribute to your big letdown. They tend to offer the sought-after but completely useless phrases “I like it” or “It’s good.”

What the Writer Writes vs. What Gets Read

There’s often a large gulf between what the writer writes and what others read. The developmental editor is tasked, in part, with bridging that gap. Not only is she your first line of defense against total embarrassment, but she is also tasked with reading your submission in multiple ways. First and foremost, she will read it as a prospective reader. She'll look for gaps; are there things that stayed in the writer’s head and never made it to the page? The brain’s tendency to self-correct won’t allow you to see those for yourself.

She will make a pass-through for redundancy and obvious factual errors. She will determine whether or not the order is correct. And she will likely save you from embarrassing beginner mistakes such as the heading on your “forward,” or unnecessary prologues and epilogues.  (Be bold: just start — or end — the damned story already. )

Fun fact: once upon a time, “foreword” was the most frequently misspelled word in finished volumes. (It’s not ‘forward’ as in ‘forward movement’ but ‘foreword’ as in ‘the word that comes before.’)

A Different Set of Questions

Some editors also employ proofreading software and beta-readers at this stage. These are not tools to be used in place of their judgment but simply to offer some backup and perhaps raise a different set of questions.

Different editors work in different ways. Some will redline the heck out of something you think is perfect and bounce it back to you. However, if you’re working on a tight deadline or there are many authors involved, the editor may take on a role resembling that of a ghostwriter. In this capacity, she will try to capture your voice and intent… to make sure the page reflects what you meant to say.

Having worked both ways, I can assure you that neither one feels good. But when I’m open to the process, both teach me a lot about becoming a better writer.

Some Do's and Don'ts

Here are some things to keep in mind when working with an editor:

Remember, nobody wants to hurt your feelings — and somebody needs to kill your darlings. If you don’t, your editor will. Print lasts a long time.


Got some praise for an editor? Please share it in the comments. We'd love to read all about it!