Before I began writing for a living, I worked as an editor for a children’s book publisher. I sat on the other side of the desk reviewing and changing authors’ words and learning that an editor’s job is always hard and often thankless.
Authors, especially those publishing for the first time, shudder thinking that an editor will change what they’ve written. But, change is good! A professional editor is like a trusted friend. She or he acts as a first reader with the bigger picture in mind, understanding not only what readers want, but also how the publishing industry works. An editor’s goal is to make an author’s writing even better.
So, what exactly does an editor do?
An editor reviews the manuscript you’ve sent for publication. You might think of it as your final draft, but surprise—your editor sees it as your first draft. He or she will:
- make sure that the plot ties together and that all events in the story make sense.
- suggest revisions to your writing style, use of back story, character development, and word choice.
This initial editing stage is called content editing. Some of the changes your editor asks for will be minor and others could involve lengthy rewriting.
After you make the changes (and have breathed a sigh of relief), your editor will review the manuscript again, this time looking at:
- sentence style
- flow of ideas
- accuracy of facts
- grammar, punctuation, and spelling.
This is called copyediting, or mechanical or stylistic editing. Some publishing companies involve the author in this stage and others do not.
When the copyediting is complete, your book will be formatted for publication. Then an editor and often you, the author, will read it again making absolutely sure that everything is perfect. This editing stage is called proofreading. It ensures that all the changes have been made and that no errors have slipped through.
Do editors make extra work for authors? Yes, they do. But through the editing process open-minded authors learn to accept constructive criticism and be aware of their writing strengths and weaknesses—and that makes them better writers.
What have you learned from the editors you’ve worked with?
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