Writing is a Team Sport

Authors work tirelessly for weeks or even months to complete their manuscript. They are right to be proud of their creation; it is their ‘baby’ and they don’t want anybody to do any harm to it. An editor is often the first person, other than the author, to see the newly written work. The editor wants to do only one thing - make changes! As an author, understand that the editor is on your side. You need a qualified editor, or you may need more than one depending on the content and complexity of your book.

Regardless of your proficiency with the English language, you are not likely to produce a perfect six-hundred-page manuscript free of any errors. That is where the value of a second pair of practiced eyes comes in, to help you find things you don’t see. You have stared at that text for so long that your eyes skip over many small details that a third party will catch. Editing it yourself is an important first step, but you should look forward to turning it over to the objective second pair of eyes.

Sometimes the editor is the first objective third party to read your work. The editor can perform the vital task of assessing whether the book makes sense as written, whether there are gaps or missing links, validate assertions or references to real-world places, people and events, and provide important feedback about storyline and character development.

You may believe that the friends, family or co-workers who volunteered to edit your work have done a fine job. Sometimes those editors are simply not qualified, and sometimes they are afraid to hurt the feelings of their friend, you the author, by pointing out the extent of change needed to improve the work. Most often, work received by authors claiming to have hired their own author still requires improvement.

You may resist the very idea of someone changing your language; after all, it is your style. Of course, it is, and the editor is working to deliver your story in your style, with the best possible quality. Remember the publisher’s name will be on the book alongside yours. The publisher wants to make sure any such work represents their business and that of their authors, in the best possible way. Don’t let your ego get in the way of producing the best result.

After receiving the edited document, you rewrote two or three chapters; rewrites that include previously edited bad habits. That’s a sure way to make an editor growl. After extensive editing, you decided to rewrite the work, and ignore all of the highlighted changes. Now the editor has to go over the rewrite and make the same kind of changes. Rewriting after the edit is time-consuming and costly. As you see and accept style and grammar changes, learn to adjust your style and improve your writing accordingly. The next book will be better, and you’ll get it done faster, with higher quality.

Even the best computer programmers have their code inspected, and sometimes changed, by other programmers with the goal of producing the best possible product. Music to an editor’s ears is this compliment uttered by an author, “Wow, you caught things that I, as an English Professor, should not have missed. Glad you could help to make it better!” Writing is a team sport, and it gets better when the whole team is engaged to make the work better.