As a writer, you do your best to create an error-free masterpiece. A work that lights up a reader’s imagination and paints a picture for them just as you saw it while you sat at the computer (or typewriter?)
The editing process
Whether you submit your writing to get published with The Bolo Tie Collective, a famous publishing house like Penguin Random House, or you decide to self-publish, you will have to get your manuscript edited. Long gone are the days of smashing out a rough draft and never looking back–that was for assignments in high school you never cared about. You’re a different person now. Now you’re a writer!
Your manuscript (because it isn’t a book just yet!) is your pride and joy. It’s your baby, and you will likely treat it as such. You’ll read through every page a million times and be sure you’ve added commas exactly where they should be, capitalized every proper noun, and corrected every spelling and grammatical error. Once you’re confident about your manuscript, you will hand it over to the editor.
The editor will not love your manuscript as if it was their newborn child. While this might sound horrifying, it’s important to remember that just because your editor isn’t attached to the manuscript the same way as you are (after all, they didn’t spend countless hours writing the perfect manuscript), that doesn’t mean they don’t care. Your editor will be objective and read your manuscript from your audience’s perspective.
What editors do
An editor is not out to get you. The editor’s objective is not to tear your manuscript apart or rewrite it in their own words. Every time an editor gets a manuscript, it’s like they are taking another (extremely long) grammar test.
The editor will carefully and deliberately read every line one at a time. They will consider if the comma you placed in the middle of your sentence belongs there or if it creates a comma splice. Every comma, ellipsis, hyphen, and dash will be scrutinized to make sure it belongs right where it is. Your editor will also consider if there are missing punctuation marks that need to be added in and suggest those.
While reading your manuscript, the editor will consider how your future readers will interpret the information. If there’s a vague phrase or statement, they may query you on it. As a writer, it may be obvious what that refers to in a sentence, but that may not be the case for the reader. Remember, you wrote the manuscript, so you know more than any reader ever could. You spent hours poring over word choice and imagery, not all of which made it to the manuscript. If your editor tells you that something is ambiguous or that there is an unclear antecedent, chances are your readers will think the same thing. And a book with too many ambiguous sentences is a book that doesn’t get finished.
As a new writer, you may get a lot of edits on your manuscripts. It makes sense that there will be a lot of suggested edits because you are still working on perfecting your craft. And that’s the thing about writing, no matter how long you write, you will never be perfect. Even J. K. Rowling, George R. R. Martin, and Stephen King get edits on their manuscripts.
The purpose of the editing process isn’t to give your editor a manuscript and have them give it back with only one note: “This is a perfect masterpiece, and nothing should be changed!” If an editor doesn’t suggest a single edit, that means they failed you as the writer. As the Grammarly website likes to remind us, “to err is human; to edit, divine.” In other words, you want the edits. Edits are a good thing, and they will help you improve as a writer.
A final note on edits. When you get your manuscript back, whether you have 50 edits or 5,000, know that your editor made all of the suggestions with good intentions. Notice that they are called suggestions, which means you can choose to accept or reject them. Some edits, like spelling errors, must be accepted; others can be rejected if you made an unusual stylistic choice you want to keep or you strongly feel that the suggestion wouldn’t improve the writing.
Now go forth and write!