Manuscript Editing

What Does a Manuscript Editor Do (And Not Do)?

Ever since my first novel, “Fast Track,” was published in 2005, I’ve come across people who are trying to write books. Often, they pay me to take a critical look at their manuscript.

Here are 5 things a professional manuscript editor does:

1. Treats Your Manuscript (and you) with Respect: Even if your manuscript is fiction, you’ve put a lot of yourself into it. A LOT. No doubt you’ve agonized over word choice and sentence structure – and perhaps even despaired at your overall ability as a writer. A good manuscript editor understands this and approaches your work with the realization that behind the words may lie a fragile psyche.

2. Gives You Feedback that is Honest: Yes, yes, we all want to be told that what we’ve written is Pulitzer-worthy, but a good editor will tell you the truth. However, giving honest feedback doesn’t mean being nasty or snarky. My approach is to react to your manuscript as a reader. Do I want to turn pages -- or turn off the light? You need to know.

3. Tells You What’s Working – and What Isn’t: Can I see in my mind’s eye the scene you’ve written? Are your characters real to me? Is the story believable? I’ll let you know.

4. Is Nitpicky: Spelling? Punctuation? Even the most conscientious writer misses the little things. It’s the editor’s job to catch them.

5. Asks Questions and Makes Suggestions: It’s almost – but not quite – a collaborative relationship between writer and editor. The people who have been most helpful to me are the ones who ask me probing questions about my manuscripts. Those questions spark my creativity and nudge me toward finding answers. Sometimes they suggest ideas I hadn’t considered. I’m under no obligation to implement them, but I find that thinking about them often leads me in a new and exciting direction – and makes the finished product better.

Do you have a manuscript that needs an objective pair of eyes? Let me know -- I’d love to be of service. E-mail: johede@aol.com

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