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Wednesday, April 27, 2016


Editor: Ally or Adversary

“After that experience, I’m never working with an editor again. It’s strictly self-publishing for me.”

While there are many reasons to choose self-publishing, not wanting to work with an editor isn’t one of them. The fact of the matter is that a top-notch editor is your greatest ally for a variety of reasons.

  • They give us that little push. Most writers I know reach a point with their manuscript where they are just done. They don’t want to see it again. They don’t want to think about it. They want to go on to something new. An editor can give you that push you need to take a good story and make it great. Nine times out of ten, when my editor asks me to make a change, it’s something that I suspected needed to be done but I just wasn’t sure. Or, perhaps more honestly, I just didn’t feel like doing.

  • They maintain a bit of distance. Part of the reason that it is so hard to make our writing great on our own is that we are just so close to it. It is too familiar which means that we don’t always see the story that we have written down. We’re still seeing that perfect creation we had in mind when we started writing. The editor is going to be better at spotting things that should have been cut, reslanted or polished to a high gloss. With their help, we can take the story we wrote and make it the story we meant to write.

  • They know the market. We may think that we know the market, but if you are like me you write for several different markets. That means you just aren’t going to know the market as well as your editor. The good news is that they can use this knowledge to shape your work. Yes, I’ve been asked to take out things that I thought were brilliant, but I’ve also been told to add things that I regretted leaving out. The good news? I didn’t have to leave them out. My editor, who knew the market, encouraged me to add something that I thought would be too dark and grim but it’s the gory, icky detail that young readers love.

I’m not going to say that the editor is always right. I worked once with an educational editor that didn’t know what leveled vocabulary was or that individual words had known reading levels. He ignored our contracts and heaped on as much work as we allowed. When I finished with that particular project, I told him that I had another contract with someone else and didn’t have time for a second assignment.

Not every editor is top-notch, but work with a great one and you’ll definitely see a difference in your writing even if you chose to self-publish.


Sue is the instructor for our course, Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults. The next session begins on June 6, 2016.

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Blogger Margo Dill said...

These are great points, Sue. I agree 100 percent.

11:57 AM  

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