The Writer-Editor Relationship

The writer-editor relationship is very special. This is why you want to find someone with whom you can work closely. It should not be confrontational or tense. The editor should have the writer’s best interests at heart. After all, there would be no manuscript or article without the writer!

It is the editor’s job to make the most of the writer’s work. The editor should do everything possible to keep the writer’s voice in the piece. If there are questions in the editor’s mind about something, they should send a query to the writer asking about the issue. They should be polite at all times. They may need to concede at times over certain things.

The writer needs to realize that the editor is looking out for them, not being critical. The writer needs to let go of their ego long enough to look at issues the editor brings up objectively before rejecting a correction. The goal of both writer and editor is to make the writing the best it can possibly be.

If you’ve chosen a good match, writers and editors can go on to work together for years on various projects. They become good friends and colleagues who complement each other well. The writer ends up with better written material that is clear and concise and the editor has the satisfaction of helping another writer to publication or creating a professional image on a website.

Disagreements do happen; both parties need to understand that the whole point is to improve the writing. While it is true that a finished project, especially if it is as large as a manuscript, can feel like the writer’s child, the editor is not trying to take the child away. S/He is only trying to clean it up and make it more presentable.

This is why it is so important to find an editor with whom you feel comfortable. Don’t be afraid to ask for a sample of their editing or to spend time just talking with them and getting to know them. Even busy editors should realize the importance of being able to work easily together.

Copyediting

Copyediting consists of more than proofreading. An experienced copyeditor can usually get through 5 to 10 pages per hour doing basic editing. If more substantial copyediting is needed, they may only get through 2 to 5 pages per hour. This is how much attention each page, each paragraph and each sentence gets.

A copyeditor will usually read the manuscript or article first. This gives them a good idea of the writer’s voice and where the text is going. Then they will go through more slowly correcting consistency, flow, redundancy and word usage. They may have a lot of questions for you about various aspects of your text. These are not attempts to criticize you or make you feel like you don’t know how to write; the editor wants to help you make your writing all it can be. It is their job to make you shine. When the editing is done, your writing should be clear, concise and your story should flow nicely. They will help you clarify anything that came across as confusing and help you liven up anything that could lose the reader’s interest.

Depending on the type of material being edited, the copyeditor may also double check facts for accuracy so your material is up to date and correct in its information.

If you want your book or article published, it is in your best interest to budget in an editor who can really polish it up for you.

With the current state of the publishing industry, it is a good thing to get the editing done before you submit your manuscript. Many agents don’t have time to edit because they don’t get paid unless they sell the book. In turn, many publishers don’t want to waste time and money on editing when they could be printing and selling. Getting your material edited before you submit it is the best way to get your writing past the slush pile on their desks.

Luckily, there are many freelance editors out there willing to look over your manuscript. Fees will vary, so pick one you can afford and that you feel you can work with. The relationship between an editor and a writer should not be full of tension. It is important to find someone you can get along with.

Proofreading

Most amateur writers (and I was one once, too!) think that a quick proofreading is all they need for their work. Not true. Read some of the articles that have really stuck with you in your favorite magazines or reread one of your favorite books. Each word was honed to perfection. Words that were unnecessary were purged from the manuscript. Each piece went through a thorough editing.

Proofreading is very important. It corrects typos, misspellings and punctuation problems. But really, that is all it does unless it is proofing that final galley before publication. Then they’ll also be checking to see if the manuscript reflects the changes that earlier editing indicated.

Ideally, a manuscript should be proofread several times before publication. First, by you, the author. Then by an editor. Then by the acquisitions editor wherever you have submitted your work. Then by an inhouse editor who will further check for problems after it has been edited for length, content, or other criteria the publisher has set in place. It will get another proofing after being laid out for printing.

During this process, your writing is seen by many different sets of critical eyes. Proofreading is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to editing your work. The more eyes that check it, the better it will be, especially if those eyes know what to look for.

I’ve edited and proofed for people who had their friend, the English teacher down the road, proof their writing. While they may catch a misspelling or two, most English majors don’t spend a lot of time in school learning how to edit. They study literature. They study composition… editing? Not so much. While it is good to get their feedback, it is worth the time and money to hire an editor to go over your work. Proofreading will always be the cheapest route to go. While it will make your writing nicer and easier to read because the spelling and punctuation will be corrected, it doesn’t correct other issues like awkward phrases, inconsistent facts or story points, and other problems connected with most writing.

If all you can afford is proofreading, then by all means get it done. It is still a big improvement. This is critical on websites, too. How can you expect anyone to take you seriously if you have spelling errors or incorrect punctuation?

Sure, you do have a spell checker. Use it. But you also have to understand that it won’t correct words that are incorrectly used while spelled correctly. For example, suppose you use the word “there” when you should have used “their.” Your spell checker may not flag it as a grammatical error. Alternatively, your spell checker could be incorrect. Mine is frequently wrong about words like I used in the example. It often tells me I need to switch “their” to “they’re” or the other way around, when I know which one I need to use. Do you?