by Karin Beery
Your manuscript is your baby. When it’s time to hire an editor, you want to hire someone who’s going to take care of it. You wouldn’t trust your child with the lowest-bidding babysitter, and you shouldn’t treat your manuscript that way either. Find a good editor who will help you take care of your work.
So how do you know if someone’s a good editor? Here’s a look at the good, the bad, and the ugly of editing (in reverse order to save the best for last).
These editors understand the basics of writing but don’t actually know how to edit. This is my litmus test: someone who removes every to-be verb. There are times when a short, passive sentence works. Some editors, however, don’t look at context; they’re just searching for words that they believe are “bad.”
If you see that every instance of a certain word has been deleted or marked for change, get a second opinion. Rules need to be followed, but a good editor will know when they can be stretched or broken for the sake of the story.
“Wow—that’s great! I love your work. Can’t wait to read your next book.”
Compliments are important. A good editor will point out weaknesses, but she’ll also show you what you’re doing well. If, however, she finds nothing wrong with your manuscript, find a second set of eyes. There is no such thing as a perfect manuscript. Even if you’re an experienced writer, there will always be places that can use some tweaking. Your editor should be challenging you to improve.
Red means love. If you don’t see red on your paper, then your friends don’t love you.
I heard an eighth grade English teacher tell her students that when it was time to proofread each other’s papers, she wanted them to challenge and question each other, to make each other’s papers better.
You need to have that same expectation of your editor. You’re not looking for someone to pat you on the back or prove her knowledge of writing rules. You’re looking for someone who can walk through your manuscript and help you improve it. I’m known to tell my authors, “This is technically right, but it could be more power if…,” and if I see an area where they’re particularly weak, I’ll offer some help, like “You may consider buying this book to brush up on comma usage.” My goal isn’t to simply clean up one manuscript—it’s to help the author become a better writer.
When all else fails, get a recommendation. If you don’t know anyone who’s ever worked with a good editor, use a trusted resource (like the Christian Editor Connection) to help you find tested and approved editors. After all, your manuscript is your baby. Find someone who cares about it as much as you do.
Owner of Write Now Editing and Copywriting Services, Karin Beery specializes in fiction and professional business copy. She is an active member of American Christian Fiction Writers and the American Christian Writers Association. A Christian Proofreaders and Editors Network member, she is the Substantive Editing for Fiction instructor for the PEN Institute. Karin is represented by literary agent Steve Hutson at Word Wise Media. You can connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, or at her website, www.karinbeery.com.