Editing Your Manuscript

Remember those speakers at writers conferences who said you need to borrow or buy a professional editor to help you with your manuscript? Well, if you haven’t followed their advice, it’s not too late.

I’ll confess that I did not use a professional editor to prepare my manuscript for submissions in the 1990s. I did belong to a feedback group that provided a lot of advice and suggestions. Good, but not the same thing. Later, I was fortunate to have a professional editor look over my manuscript and begin editing before the “2016 publisher” went out of business.

My full-on experiences with an editor have come with my current publisher, first with Mistaken Identity, then with Connections. I’m not sure if there’s a “standard” for processing a manuscript for publication, but the process set up by my publisher seems logical and has worked well for me.

Initially, my editor marked up the submitted manuscript and returned the file to me via email. I read the marked up manuscript, making changes to a “clean copy” file of the manuscript. When I returned the new file, I noted in the email any variance from the editor’s changes and any significant changes I made. We then completed a second editor-author edit exchange for each book.  

Once the galley had been created from the second round clean copy, I had two opportunities to make any final changes, first by reviewing a PDF version and finally by reviewing a print version.

Here’s what I’ve learned from this experience:

  1. If you think that those “A’s” you scored in English/grammar classes prepared you for the challenge of being a professional editor, you are mistaken. As I was, you may be confident that your manuscript is in pretty good shape, but there is a lot more to the task.
  2. If an editor gives you a list of global style changes, take the time to make them. This person knows what is current and acceptable and can help you with consistency and word flow. This can be from an editor at a conference, an editor to whom you submitted your work, or the editor assigned by your publisher.
  3. If an editor asks you a question about a character, relationship, event, time reference, or anything else, don’t just answer the question in a note to the editor, answer the question in your book. I found that the answers can be provided in a sentence here or there. Even more importantly, the questions may point out an “oops” in your plot line or a character’s behavior.
  4. If an editor makes a word or format change, think about how it might be applied elsewhere as you read your manuscript again.
  5. Finally, don’t be too timid to challenge your editor’s changes. If it’s a technical edit that you aren’t sure of, look it up in your own source and send off an email to discuss it with the editor. If your editor challenges something in the story itself, think it through and then discuss it with the editor. Editors are good and necessary, but they do not claim to be perfect. Right or wrong, the discussion will help you to hone your writing skills.

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