We writers can edit and revise until we think our story is the best it can possibly be. But no matter how great we are at self-editing, every piece of work can benefit from another set of eyes, and every writer can benefit from working with an editor. Another person’s red pen has the potential to not only improve your story, but significantly improve your writing skills, enhance your writing process and widen your network.
This past year, I hired an editor for the first time. I had been working on a few short stories and wanted to submit them for publication. Before hiring an editor, my only feedback and suggestions came from a critque group. I wanted to find someone who had never read my work and had never met me, an editor who I hoped would be straightforward and ruthless with her feedback.
My editor’s questions, comments and suggestions helped me learn more about my strengths and weaknesses in my writing, but my relationship with her has also helped my writing career in several other ways. Here are five ways working with an editor is beneficial to writers:
1) You build your community
Working with an editor adds to this significant component of the DIY MFA philosophy. As writers, we know that it can be difficult to find and connect with other like-minded people and professionals in the business. Establishing a relationship with an editor adds to the team of people who are in your corner cheering you on to writing success.The right editor can potentially be with you for a significant amount of time in your career. You have the chance to develop a strong relationship and possibly open doors to more connections. Editors have their own network of writers, publishers and agents – you never know what other doors you may open up.
2) You take your work seriously
When you invest in editing services, you re-inforce the commitment you have made to your writing. You take your writing up a level in professionalism, and you approach your work with more determination to follow through and improve. Hiring an editor takes the activity of writing from a practice or a hobby to a profession, a skill to be mastered. Showing professionalism in this way is sure to carry through to more of your writing habits.
3) They kill your darlings for you
Every writer has their “darlings” that they feel are impossible to delete. The content we have trouble parting with may actually keep our stories from reaching their potential.Editors see what is essential and what is not. They have no problem cutting the fluff. Since they are not as closely tied to the words as we are, editors can easily slice and dice our story to delete those extra pieces and help us get to a desirable word count. A good editor can trim up a passage in a way that delivers the same punch without extra verbiage. Often times, you’ll see how much better the message works without the content you couldn’t part with.
4) You improve yourself
After you deal with the shock of a completely marked-up manuscript, take time to go through the organization and line edits. Seeing the editor’s process can help you in editing your own work during the next pass or when starting a new project. My editor showed me the highlighting system that she used when editing my story, which helped me revise my organization, one of my biggest writing weaknesses.
5) You get a better idea of where to submit your work
Like I said in the first tip, editors have their own network and community as well as their own experience in the publishing world. Bounce ideas off your editor as to where they might think your piece will fit or if they have any agent recommendations for your type of book. They may know of contests coming up or perhaps they have a work history with a magazine or publishing company. Editors can open doors to new possibilities; it never hurts to ask for recommendations.
Getting your work in front of an editor puts you one step closer to putting your work in front of publishers, and, finally, readers! This one inevitable step is healthy for your writing process and career. When you find the right editor for you, you’ll see just how valuable this step of the publishing process is.
Michelle Chalkey is a Des Moines-based freelance writer and content strategist. When she is not blogging for businesses, she is dreaming up her next young women’s issue to explore in a short story. Tweet her at @michellechalkey, visit her Facebook page, or check out her thoughts, ideas and advice on the writing process on her blog, michellechalkey.com/blog