What is the difference between a great idea and a great book? Editing.
Editing is one of the last stages in the writing process, and it refines and polishes a manuscript into a publishable work. It is not, and never will be, a negative reflection on you as an author. Editing is a valuable asset that smoothes over your manuscript’s grammar for the benefit of your readers. But as the author, it is your job to focus on the creation of characters and plot lines, not the analysis and correction of English mechanics and technicalities. This is where an editor steps in. Even editors who are writers invariably have someone else edit their works.
If you are a writer who feels apprehensive about turning your work over to an editor, you are not alone. Editors have a reputation, after all, for being merciless, nit-picky analyzers on the prowl for transgressions of all kinds. For the author, anxiousness sets in when one anticipates the thundering flood of negative judgments: “Awkward!” “Unclear!” “Wordy!” “Not fit for publication!”… The publishing industry is already infamous for intimidating writers to the point of writer’s block. You’d think editors would at least try to help those brave enough to submit themselves to such trials-wouldn’t you?
Rest assured: the best ones do. Good editors are advocates, not adversaries.
Advocates on whose behalf? Yours. And your readers. As arbiters of clear communication, editors intercept the blips that will irritate or confound readers and disengage them from your work. No matter how compelling your message is, one or two blips are all it takes to disrupt your credibility. Readers expect professionalism and easy reading out of a published work. So, rather than face the potential onslaught of criticism, enlist an editor. This editor will function as a sympathetic but firm “test audience” who is on your side. Help your editor help you.
Here’s some quick tips to make your editing process run smoothly and without apprehension:
- The editor works for you, and you are in control. He or she can make recommendations, but you choose whether or not to accept them.
- The editor works with your reader’s best interest in mind: don’t regard his or her suggestions or comments as “personal” attacks. They aren’t!
- Choose a style guide, and use it. You don’t have to follow a style manual, but you should. The Chicago Manual of Style is the standard for most publishers.
- Minimize your typos. “Decluttering” your manuscript of its obvious errors as best you can helps your editor get straight to the meat of your message, freeing him or her to concentrate on strengthening your logic and clarity.
- Verify your accuracy. Nothing makes a book or story more infuriating to your readers than to have obvious mistakes in the factual content.
- Don’t feel defensive: our editors will never attack you or the validity of your work. You do, however, want them to analyze and correct your grammar, spelling, and other technical details. Although you may be wedded to every word, luckily for you, our editor isn’t.
Remember - it’s all about getting your message across to your potential readers and keeping them hooked from the first page to the last.