/Beth Wareham

I’m a writer but I make the lion share of my income editing and ghost writing. Writing is easy: Editing is not.

This is not something anyone says often, I know. Who wants to give credit to your tormentor, the editor, anyway? Because, if you have the right editor, the one who gets you and your story, you have a brain to push off of that is irreplaceable in your work. That second brain will, if it’s doing its job right, keep you from looking like a fool. He or she might also take your writing from good to great.

You want an experienced editor, of books, who understands tension, character, plot, arc, and resolution. You’ve wandered off of the blog path and this book writing road is full of lions, tigers and bears.

Here’s what I know about good editing. Perhaps the next time you interview or consider hiring one, think about the things I think about before I take on a job.

1.Great editors use the Socratic method. You want as many questions in your margins as those margins can hold.

2. Great editors understand denotation versus connotation in words. Word choice is key.

3. Grammar. If they don’t know it and don’t respect it, you have a reader and not an editor. Know the difference.

4. Great editors respect that the work is yours. I once knew an author with sticky notes all over her house that said “this book is mine, not Maria’s” because of the sheer egomaniacal nature of the editor. You hear too many ‘I I I’s” in the conversation, drop back and get more information on this person.

5. Don’t be fooled by great long lists of famous books an editor edited. Hell, I edited Gone with the Wind but all it really meant was I had to rejacket it. But technically, and I have the piece of paper, I was the “editor.” Now that’s just rubbish.

6. Hire freelance editors before submitting your work to agents or a larger publishing house because the sad facts are 1) they will not buy it if it isn’t perfect and ready to go and 2) referring back to #1, few publishing companies edit books anymore.

7. If you are submitting a perfect-ready-to-go manuscript in mid-season (try July, August, and September), publishing companies pay more for properties to fill out their annual list of books and hit their income projections. You get bigger advances later in the year. (That’s just a friendly editor tip, not a tip about an editor.)

8. Ask your editor what the most powerful tool they have in their editorial arsenal and if they don’t say “cutting,” think about choosing another editor. Editors are supposed to make your work read fast and tight. If they can’t do that, they can’t do much of anything.

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