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This blog was featured on 07/12/2019
What You Need To Know About Working With An Editor
Written by
Hollie Jones
July 2019
Written by
Hollie Jones
July 2019

For most writers, the creative process is highly solitary. Sure, you start with inspiration, and possibly even discuss ideas with friends — but from the moment you scrawl (or type) your first letter to the moment you complete your draft, you’re the only one involved. For most writers, this is a great thing: it allows you to truly get into the zone, free from any distractions.


But notice the significance of that word: draft. Even the most masterful writer wouldn’t wish to stick with the first version of anything they cared about. The first draft largely sets out the clay to be steadily shaped into something special, and that shaping process isn’t something to be done alone. You need an editor.


Some writers recoil from that revelation, while others attempt to embrace it, but it’s ultimately unavoidable if you want the best results. So if you’re a writer, but you haven’t worked with an editor before, what do you need to know about it? Let’s cover the basics:

It’s a collaborative process

As noted, the writing process (for most, at least — there are screenwriting teams) is a solo engagement, which means the writer is fully in charge. When things go well, it’s down to their ingenuity. When they get stuck, it’s their responsibility to find a way out of writer’s block. This teaches writers to be stubborn and persistent… but that comes back to bite them later.


This is because the editing process is necessarily collaborative. Even a spectacular editor can’t do your work justice with no input along the way. It’s your vision (however clear or murky it may be) that they’re trying to realize, and they can’t understand your vision if you don’t explain it.


This means you don’t get to simply hand your work over to an editor and wash your hands of it. You can relax somewhat with some of the weight off your shoulders, but you need to play a major part in seeing it through to the final version. If you don’t, then you won’t be justified in complaining should it not live up to your expectations.

You need the right kind of editor

Just like writers, editors aren’t one-size-fits-all. Every editor will have a unique set of experiences, preferences and skills that will make them far better suited to certain tasks than others. This is reflected how editing services approach assignments. For instance, Jericho Writers offers specific book editing services with different editors assigned to different types of text (e.g. manuscripts and picture books).


When searching for an editor for your work, then, you must be very discerning in how you select the candidates. If you’ve written a compilation of short stories featuring Lovecraftian horror, then don’t pass it to an editor with a track record of polishing young adult romance novels. Find someone who has the knowledge and passion to go with the grain of your work instead of trying to walk back your major decisions.


You should also confirm (to the best of your ability) that each prospective editor actually sees value in your work. It isn’t strictly necessary for someone to like the work they’re editing, but if they don’t think it’s promising, how are they going to accurately perceive its strengths? (It’s also quite unpleasant to work with an editor who hates your work.)

Patience is essential

The writing is done, and so too is the hard work, surely. The editing process might be slightly rocky, but it’ll be done within a few weeks, right? Well… not exactly. In some circumstances, the editing process can take longer than the writing process did. Perhaps your work is fairly polished and only needs minor adjustments, but you can’t know that until it’s been reviewed.


What’s more, the timeframe of the editing process can remain unpredictable right up until the work is done. You might think you’re almost there, only to have a significant disagreement with the editor and reach an impasse that takes quite some time to figure out.


Throughout everything, the most important thing you can do is keep your cool and remain patient. Even if the editing process could be rushed, it shouldn’t be. Relax — it’ll be done when it’s done, and no sooner.

You can’t take things personally

Handling criticism gets easier, but the sting of having your work reviewed never really goes away. If it did, it would only really suggest that you’d stopped caring so much about what you do. When you’ve recently finished a challenging draft, you want to feel victorious — you want to cherish the experience like a conquering hero, so you take some time to do just that.


And then your editor identifies twelve major issues in your first chapter, and you feel like your celebration has been cut short. It isn’t easy, but you mustn’t take the criticism personally. The editor isn’t saying you’re a bad writer, or even that you’ve done a poor job with your draft. It’s entirely normal for drafts to have odd pacing and continuity errors and pieces of strange dialogue, and you want those things pointed out so they can be corrected.


What will really help with this is forming a good rapport with your editor. Get to know them better as a person — their likes and dislikes, their passions, their goals — and you’ll have a much easier time taking their comments with poise and grace.

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