Bonus Tip: Editors Have a Lot of Projects
At any given time, an editor is probably working on 10-30 different projects. (Sometimes even more!) They aren’t all in the same stage of the publishing process at the same time, but that’s still a huge workload when you think about the time that goes into reading, editing, rereading, and re-editing full-length books. So while an editor will certainly be passionate about your manuscript, they can’t give you 100 percent of their attention 100 percent of the time. It’s not personal!
A great solution to feeling like you’re on the back burner is to get involved with a critique partner or writing group. You may even meet some of them through your editor or publisher! Being part of an active writing community will allow you to get great feedback and connect with other people who are in the midst of the publishing cycle. There’s nothing better than learning the ropes from other authors!
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Seven Things Editors Wish Writers Knew
When you are turning your manuscript over to an editor—whether that’s an editor at a publishing house or a freelance editor you’ve hired—you want your work to be as polished as possible. You also want to have a basic understanding of the editing process so you know what to expect and when to expect it. Below, we’ve complied seven tips to put you ahead of the curve when working with an editor.
1. Editing Isn’t Just Proofreading
It’s a rectangle/square situation: all proofreading is editing, but not all editing is proofreading. In fact, proofreading is the very last step in the editorial process. First comes a developmental or macro edit, which tackles big-picture issues like pacing, plot, and characterization. Next comes the copyedit, which focuses on paragraph- and sentence-level changes. Last is the proofread, which deals with any remaining sentence-level issues, like commas or misspellings.
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2. Formatting Matters
Even with find and replace, precious editing minutes are lost fixing some of these simple formatting issues.
· Set up your word document with 1” margins
· Only have one space between sentences
· Double space your manuscript (without an extra line break between them)
· Use a classic font like Times New Roman
· Make sure you are using em dashes, en dashes, and hyphens appropriately
· Indents, not tabs!
· Use “smart” quotes (when the quotation mark or apostrophe curls) instead of “straight” or “stupid” quotes (when the quotation mark or apostrophe is straight up and down)
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3. Typos Look Bad
If you have a 50,000-word manuscript, odds are there are a few errors along the way. That’s to be expected. But in this day and age, there’s no reason a manuscript should be riddled with typos and red underlines (unless of course you’re writing a fantasy novel and many of your names and places are made up). Not only should you do a spell check before handing over your manuscript to an editor, you should read through the entire document to fix as many mistakes as you can.
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4. Style Sheets Are Amazing
A style sheet contains a list of characters, unfamiliar/made-up words, and pertinent details for a manuscript. Many times, editors make these themselves while they are working on a project. But if you can turn one in alongside your manuscript, you’ll save your editor a ton of time. Not only that, but you’ll show you have done your due diligence with the manuscript by making sure a character’s name is consistent throughout the story and their eye color doesn’t change from blue to brown to green between chapter 1 and chapter 31.
How to Create a Style Sheet for Your Manuscript
5. Using Track Changes Is Critical
Almost every editor and publisher uses Microsoft Word’s Track Changes feature to apply edits. The handy-dandy tool allows editors to show where changes have been made so a writer can review and accept those changes.
If you are unfamiliar with Track Changes, start with this tutorial. Make sure you also brush up on your knowledge when you get an updated MS Word.
6. Editors Aren’t the Only Ones Doing the Heavy Lifting
If your sentence structure gets repetitive, an editor won’t fix every single instance. Instead, they’ll adjust one or two and then point out other places where you could use compound sentences or more descriptive language to vary the structure of your paragraphs. Similarly, if a character is falling flat, your editor will offer suggestions on how to give them more life, but they won’t go through and rewrite the character for you. Be prepared to do editing of your own when working with an editor.
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7. Changes Are Made for a Reason
First, let me say that you don’t need to blindly accept every single change your editor suggests. The book is yours, and you need to be happy with the end product. However, editors will only suggest changes they think will make your book stronger—it’s not to torture you with endless tweaks! Think of your editor as you would any other professional, like an accountant giving you tax advice or a contractor letting you know where you could use some home improvements. Of course, if you disagree with a change, you should discuss it with your editor and see if you two can find a compromise.
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Illustration credit: Vecteezy
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Jillian Bergsma Manning is a contributing editor for Independent Publisher. She loves reading and writing but not arithmetic. Follow her on Twitter at @LillianJaine or on her blog at www.editorsays.com.