Woman typing on laptop on a wooden desk, with a coffee.
Editing, Tips, Writer's cramp

Editors aren’t your friends. That’s a good thing.

What makes me laugh about the title of this article is that I am friends with many of my clients. However, when I’m editing their work, I put away my friendship hat and don my editor’s cap. Once my red computer glasses go on, I’m all about making things professional.

While it’s great to have buddies who will encourage your writing no matter what, if you’re an indie author who’s serious about publishing a polished product, you need an editor. I’m not saying this because I want more clients; I’m an author myself, and I cannot edit my own work like someone else can. The reality is that after a while, you don’t recognize your own manuscript’s flaws anymore. You’ll perceive what you’ve intended to write and not what you’ve actually written.

Editors who are worth paying for will be on board with you, so you have a shared vision of making your manuscript the best it can be. That might come with a sting at times. I’ve had to deliver news where I needed to request a resubmit, because there was too much to change. Sometimes there’s homework the author must do to get a manuscript editor-ready. (By the way, I wrote Seven Tips for Preparing a Happy, Shiny Manuscript to help authors with this!) Other times, I’m marking up my findings and adding comments in the margins when I need to question things, make suggestions, or explain my reasoning behind changes that I think should happen.

My job is to tell you what your friends might not want to say. You want that, trust me, because if I spot things, then most likely people who aren’t your friends will notice, too. The last thing an author wants is for someone to leave a bad review or put away your work altogether because it read poorly. Unedited pieces often become distracting to readers.

I do know that it’s expensive to hire just one editor, even one who has reduced rates. But these days indie authors are using crowdsourcing tools like Kickstarter to help raise funds to pay for their team (editors, proofreaders, interior layout designers, and cover designers). I’ve seen successful Kickstarters and think they’re an awesome idea. My client, Dianna Gunn, ran a great one for Moonshadow’s Guardian.

Writing takes a lot of time and effort. Your manuscript becomes your baby. Best not to do shortcuts but have it professionally edited. It’ll read so much better and hopefully will lead to shares and positive reviews!

So, if you have a friend who’s an editor, make sure they are committed to putting their professionalism above stroking your ego. Like I said, sometimes editorial comments can throw you off guard, but a good editor will deliver the news in a constructive and helpful manner.

Don’t be afraid to ask for references! You want to make sure other authors have been happy with the editor you’re considering. A serious candidate will be happy to supply you testimonials from their clients.

Even if they’re your friend.

Cait Gordon
Cait Gordon

Cait Gordon is Madam President of Dynamic Canvas Inc. She is the author of Life in the ’Cosm (Renaissance) and The Stealth Lovers (Renaissance 2019). When Cait’s not writing, she’s editing manuscripts and running The Spoonie Authors Network, a blog whose contributors manage disabilities and/or chronic conditions. Cait has also recently teamed up with co-editor Talia C. Johnson on the Nothing Without Us anthology (call for submissions are ongoing until Dec 31, 2018.)




Editing, Proofreading, Tips

Seven Tips for Preparing a Happy, Shiny Manuscript

My fellow authors, I love editing your manuscripts. I truly do. I can’t even believe it’s my job! I’d ask someone to pinch me, but I bruise easily.

As much as I enjoy being an editor, what slows down my process is a manuscript that has not been properly prepared as a submittable draft. It’s important to think of me the same way you’d think of a publisher—send me your absolutely best draft ever. Trust me, I’ve been in your shoes. I’m an author, too. Self-editing is hard, I know. But this post includes some things you can do to make your manuscript shine.

Remember! A draft that’s in poor shape could cost you more money, because the editor will most likely have to do several editing passes. If you’re on a tight schedule, this could also result in missed deadlines.

Manuscript health checklist

Here are the tasks I want authors to perform before sending me their work. You can also use these tips if you’re submitting to a publisher.

  1. Format the manuscript with a commonly-used template. I have noticed publishers often prefer the William Shunn style. (You can choose Times Roman 12pt or Courrier 12pt fonts when submitting to me, but please note any publisher’s specific guidelines.)
  2. If you download the Shunn template you should be fine, but if you’re creating a similar template, remember to set your paragraph styles with indents and not tabs. Do not add extra hard returns for paragraph spacing. Use the style formatting options to set the space between paragraphs. Also, set the line spacing to double. Scene changes are marked with a centre-aligned hashtag (#).
  3. Understand how to punctuate dialogue. Here’s a good post about it from The Editor’s Blog.
  4. Read your manuscript out loud, or have it read to you. You would be amazed how clunky dialogue can sound when it’s read aloud. Also, if you use apps that read your manuscript for you, and you visually follow the story while listening to it, you’ll find typos or awkwardly worded sentences that didn’t previously register. I normally convert my manuscripts to epub format and use the Read Aloud feature on Google PlayBooks, but you can also set voice features on Apple.
  5. Have other people review your manuscript. Beta readers are essential. Good ones will tell you what works and what doesn’t.
  6. Be honest with yourself and see if you have a repetitive habit, such as a phrase or sentence structure you write way too often, or what are known as “useless words.” This article from The Writer’s Circle discusses the most commonly overused and unnecessary words. (Confession: My manuscript was filled with “really” and “just.”)
  7. Spell check and grammar check. Seems silly to include these, but they’re a must.

I’m sure I could think of more things, but if these seven items were checked off the list, I’d be a happy editor. A manuscript in good tick helps me concentrate on the flow of the story and pinpoint things that have been missed. No one editor can do a perfect job, but the fewer the mistakes when I receive the manuscript, the better I am at capturing those remaining.

Just another quick note before I go. Don’t think that by doing these things you won’t need an editor. I followed these tips for my book, and the three editors I had with my publisher still spotted stuff that needed correcting. It’s always good to have a fresh and professional set of eyes. We editors want to have your back and we do care that your book turns out well. Your impression as an author reflects on our work, too. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship.

So, happy self-editing. I look forward to working with you!


(Image: Hand Typing Computer Keyboard Stock Photo)