Tag Archives: editing

Dos and Don’ts of Working with an Editor

Author, Joshua Simon


There are many things an indie writer needs to consider when looking for an editor. Is the editor capable of providing you with the service you need:  content, line, or copy editing? Does the editor have reputable references? Based on the sample, does the editor’s style suit your own? Can you afford the editor’s service?

I think every writer needs to carefully consider each of the above questions during the selection process.  Though this topic is crucial to every writer, it is one that has been beaten to death.  So, I thought I would discuss what I feel every writer needs to consider after the selection process is complete. Below are my top Dos and Don’ts when working with an editor.


  1. Do agree to terms ahead of time.

Be clear on expectations before work begins.

Do you want only that content edit or were you also expecting a copy edit as well?

Do you want the editor to provide a second round of edits in order to proof read your work after you’ve made the previous suggestions provided to you?

Do you need the editor to help you with writing the back cover, marketing materials, a press release, and text for your website?

Most editors probably won’t do all of the above but some might if you’ve discussed the scope of work ahead of time.  Don’t expect an editor to provide extra services (no matter how little) for free after the agreed upon work is completed. Their time is valuable and they have other clients besides you.

  1. Do meet your deadlines.

As I said, you are not your editor’s only client.  The time to schedule an editor is when your book is nearly complete, especially if you’re writing your first book.

Find out what your editor’s schedule is like and how long they think it will take to edit the book, and then plan accordingly. It is not unreasonable to wait weeks or months before an editor can start on your book. Expect the overall editing process to take several weeks or longer once the editor begins work. Variations will exist based on the length of the book, how good of a writer you are, and how many projects the editor works on at once.

As a side note, after you’ve had some experience in completing projects it will be easier to schedule an editor before actual completion.  Even then, I’d recommend giving yourself several weeks or even months of cushion.  It is much nicer knowing you’ve finished early and can get ahead on your next project rather than scrambling to complete something at the last minute and turning in shoddy work.

  1. Do ask for clarification.

Any editor worth their salt will clarify questions you might have on their suggestions. Otherwise, how can you determine if it is a valid change?  If an editor is unwilling to communicate with you in this way after giving you the manuscript back, I’d question using that person again.

  1. Do be prompt with payment.

But what happens if it costs more than I originally expected?  Too bad.

If you go to a car dealership and they give you an estimate for a brake job that later increases by several hundred dollars because things were worse than expected, can you get away with not paying them? Of course not. Can you imagine if your boss decided not to pay you promptly or not at all, and how that would affect your life?

For some editors, this might be their only source of income.  Therefore, don’t be late with their money.

If you decide their services were overpriced and not what you expected then the only thing you can do is not use them for future work.

  1. Do remember that a suggestion for change is not a demand for one.

As the writer, this is your story.  You need to be satisfied with it more than anyone else. Make changes only if you agree it improves the quality of the work. If you can’t make that decision on your own, bring in someone else to give you a second opinion.

I rarely disagree with my editor, but there have been a few times I decided against making his suggested changes.  This is partly because I had received differing opinions from my beta-readers and partly because the change would affect later parts of the story in works he had not yet edited.


  1. Don’t hand over a mess.

Your editor should not be the first person to read your manuscript besides yourself. Employ both alpha and beta-readers.  They will help you smooth out many problems long before your editor gets a hold of your story, especially in the way of content.  If nothing else, this step will help reduce the costs to you. The more time your editor spends cleaning up your mess, the more they will charge.

  1. Don’t expect your editor to do all the work.

Your editor shouldn’t have to re-write your book. They will rewrite sentences as needed, but they aren’t supposed to write chapters or sections for you (unless you’ve agreed they will act as a ghost writer).

  1. Don’t take it personally.

This is all a learning experience and a way to make you a better writer. I’ve improved significantly with each work I’ve turned into my editor, and a contributing factor to my improvement has been his feedback on each story.

Remember, an editor’s reputation will be held against the quality of your work as well. You don’t want an editor to blow smoke up your rear.  You want an editor to be honest about what is good and what isn’t so your story and characters can shine.

  1. Don’t be a jerk to your editor.

Like everything else in life, be professional. If I really have to explain what this means then you probably have bigger problems to worry about than everything I’ve mentioned above.

  1. Don’t lose sight of your ultimate goal.

You want a great book!

Joshua P. Simon is a Christian, husband, father, CPA, fantasy author, and heavy metal junkie. He currently resides in Atlanta, Georgia and hopes that one day he can leave the life of a CPA behind and devote that time to writing more of the ideas bouncing around his ADD-addled brain. You can find out more about him at www.joshuapsimon.blogspot.com.


Novel Rewriting Workshop and Other Dave Wolverton Semimars

Did you every have one of those stories that you know “missed it by that much”? I did. While there were some obvious fixes I knew I needed (like beefing up my descriptions), there was a fundamental flaw in the story that I couldn’t get my hands around. The story was sick and needed help. So, I took my baby to a professional.

Let me back up for a second, the story I’m talking about is my trunk novel. I’ve been picking at it for far too long. The first draft was well over 300,000 words. I know. I know. So, I broke it into three books. The problem was that the first book’s story arc was high on the Character quotient of Orson Scott Card’s MICE scale. For those who don’t know, I’m going to vastly oversimplify this. Card broke stories down to four archetypes – Milieu (setting), Issue, Character, and Event.  A character story is mostly concerned with the character’s internal journey. So, the book ended when my main character transitioned from spoiled, self-centered twit to taking responsibility for the greater community, and before the promisDavid Farlanded big battle.  A lot of the comments I received was that “nothing happened” in the story. So, books one and two became book 1. But I still had what I called a “pacing” problem. I didn’t know how to fix it. Hence, the trip to the book doctor.

The book doctor of choice and the stated course of therapy? David Farland’s Novel Rewriting Seminar. Dave is a New York Times Bestselling writer who has been translated into many languages and trained a number of #1 New York Times bestsellers, like Brandon Mull, Brandon Sanderson, and Stephenie Meyer.  His latest novel, NIGHTINGALE, has won eight awards. So, the ability to hear him speak, much less take a class from him, is an amazing opportunity.

This seminar focuses on editing. In order to attend, you have to submit a sample to Dave and be accepted. You’re committing to a lot of homework, both before and during the workshop. We had a reading list which ensured all participants were starting with the same base knowledge.

All participants send in the first 100 pages and a synopsis of their stories. Part of the pre-seminar homework is to read the first 20 pages and synopsis of the other workshop stories. Getting to read and critique other stories, when you do so honestly, is a learning experience. What do I mean by “critiquing honestly”? I mean not cutting down a story just to cut it down. Your plan should always be to help the writer improve the story. realizing that your comments are just your opinion and you’re not any smarter or better than any other writer. Use critiquing as a way to help someone, but also as a means of seeing what you are doing that might be hurting your own writing.

The work doesn’t end when you get to the workshop. This isn’t a seminar where you can sit back and zone out. Each day, we went over two or more of the workshop stories, discussed story structure and elements, and were given homework that applied the topics discussed. We each left with 10 other perspectives on our story. Another fabulous excercise we did was disecting the story-telling elements in The Hunger Games movie. Many of the workshop participants would go out to lunch or dinner together. We built a community there.

Each participant meets with Dave to go over his comments on the first 100 pages of your novel. I have to say the time spent with Dave was worth far more than the price of admission. Not only is he a genuinely wonderful person, but he has so much insight and experience over the entire entertainment industry. I could have spent hours talking to him about everything from game design to movie making to publishing, and barely dipped my toes in the well of information and experience that he has.  Dave pointed out some of the things I knew needed work – my descriptions of places and people were thin. But he also articulated the bigger problem I was having, and a way to address it.

What was the best thing about the workshop? That’s a hard question. The people I met there are wonderful. The knowledge I gained was invaluable. But, I have to say the best thing about the workshop was leaving knowing what I had to do, and that I could accomplish it.

Dave has a workshop for whereever you are in your writing career. He has a host of new writing classes scheduled for 2013 available at www.davidfarland.com/writing workshops.  These range from his new Short Fiction Master’s Class, to his Million-Dollar Outlines, Novel Revision class, and Fiction Mastery Class. While there is some overlap between the seminars, each focuses on a different aspect of the craft of writing. I can’t wait to attend some of the other ones.

As if the workshops weren’t  cool enough, if you go to to any of his workshops and mention that “I heard about it through the Fictorians,” Dave will buy you a free dinner with him (if time allows), or he’ll give you $20.

If you have the choice between dinner with Dave or $20, take the dinner. Every time.

So please check out his workshops here.

Joshua Essoe: Editing Saved My Life. And It Could Save Yours.

Writers frequently ask me if an editor is really necessary. The answer is no. An editor is not necessary, an editor is essential.

Many indie authors say, “But, I can’t afford it.” The truth is, if you can’t afford it, then don’t publish a book. Something I think many indie authors tend to miss is that you guys are running a small business. You’re the boss and the employee and everything in between, and should expect a certain amount of upfront cost. Releasing a book before it’s ready because you won’t hire an editor or cover designer does more harm than good. It is better to wait and make sure that your book is as strong as you can make it before you throw it to the wolves.

Especially your first book. There are thousands and thousands of self-published books out there and they’re all inexpensive and easy to get. If a reader gets hold of it, finds a few spelling errors, a missed word here or there, and an abundance of passive voice, they’ll put your book down (or remove it from their e-reader) and just move on to the next thing. They’ll never give your potentially wonderful story a chance to be potentially wonderful—and there goes your chance for future sales to that reader. Think what your reaction would be as a reader. First impressions mean everything. That goes for your first book in a new series, your first book ever, your first chapter, your first page, your first sentence.

The New York Times has editors, TV news stations have editors, Vogue and Maxim have editors, all the publishing houses have editors. Why would successful businesses like those all use editors? There must be a reason. . . . Ah, yes. It is because they’re essential to a finely tuned, professional product.

An indie editor is different from a trad editor. The only person who pays an independent or freelance editor is you. The only person that editor is beholden to is you. Their job is to strengthen your words and your voice to help make your story as good as it can be. The way you want it. A good one will be enthusiastically in your corner, working to help make you a success. And you want them in your corner. You wouldn’t think of going into an MMA match without having had a trainer. You’d get killed. Likewise, you shouldn’t throw your darlings to those wolves without some ninja skillz.

An editor’s job is not to rewrite you. Writing is your job. Their job is to help you make that writing shine as brilliantly as possible.

And another huge difference between indie and trad editors? Between hiring your own editor and having one imposed on you? If you hate what they do, you don’t have to use it—any of it.

So what can your friendly neighborhood editor do for you? There are several forms of editing; copy or line, content, substantive, proof reading. We’ll focus on line and content which will be the most applicable and reasonable for an indie author.

A copy or line edit, as the name suggests, is a meticulous edit of each line in the text looking for missing and misspelled words, superfluous language and redundant phrases, mixed tenses, and all technical inconsistencies. Line editing is editing for tone, style and flow—focusing on polishing the author’s words to improve the overall effect and increase the impact of the writer’s message. And to make sure that horrible passive voice is not yammering all over your story. You don’t want readers to admire your writing. You want them to be so engaged by the story that they don’t notice your words.

A content edit is more involved. It is checking the story for logic holes, inconsistencies of plot and character, patching any holes in the fourth wall, finding spots in the story that are weak or don’t make sense, then suggesting possible solutions.

An editor’s job is to help you get the movie you see running in your head playing the same way in the heads of your readers. What makes a story work is an emotional connection with your readership. If you get that, they’ll love your book and they’ll love you.

A good content editor is not easy to find; there aren’t many out there who can tell you what’s wrong and offer solutions on how to fix it. So be careful. Get references, talk to people you trust or people with experience.

When you contact an editor be professional. Be prepared to send a sample. Be prepared to give the editor a deposit for reserving time for you. Be prepared to meet your deadlines so that you have time to do a couple passes on your own before handing it off. Not only will those passes make your editor happy, but it will make your wallet happy. Make sure you know what format the editor needs. For example, I use industry standard—I know how long an MS formatted to those specifications will take me to edit based on a five page sample.

What will amaze and appall editors of all shapes and sizes is that a large percentage of manuscripts submitted for review have not even basic formatting set correctly. It immediately gives the impression of laziness, that the author didn’t care enough to do a little research.

If you are curious what the vaunted Industry Standard looks like, read Vonda McIntyre’s handout. This is a good starting point, but keep in mind that the industry is in flux and many online submissions will vary from this. If they do, they’ll certainly state it in their submission guidelines. If not, always go with the old standard.

A good content editor will also be able to help you sculpt your story to best appeal to the audience for which it is targeted. Do you want to enrapture teenage girls? Or do you want men in their thirties on the edges of their seats? Knowing who you are writing for and what appeals to them is as important as having a wonderful story. Because what might be an amazing story to that thirty-five year old guy is almost certainly not going to appeal all that much to a sixteen year old girl.

So, all you indie authors out there, go out and find an editor you love (and hate—if the editor is any good you’ll curse their name more than a few times). Get that editor working for you, and let them help you and your business produce the best product possible.


Joshua Essoe is a full-time, freelance editor. He’s done work for best-seller David Farland, including the multi-award winning novel, Nightingale, Dean Lorey, lead writer of Arrested Development, best-seller, James Artimus Owen, and numerous Writers of the Future authors and winners, as well as many top-notch independents. He is currently the finishing editor at Urban Fantasy Magazine.

Together with tie-in writer Jordan Ellinger, indie success-story, Michale J. Sullivan, and traditionally published author and NY Times best-seller, Debbie Viguie, he records the weekly writing podcast Hide and Create. You can find his interview episode here.

When not editing . . . ha ha, a joke. He was a 2014 finalist in the Writers of the Future contest, and lives with his wife, and three horrible cats near UCLA.