When Is The Best Time To Get An Editor?


I've been working with writers in a professional capacity for several years now and I've realized that writers might need some guidance when it comes to understanding the various types of editing and how an editor can help them. I took to twitter to invite writers to 'ask an editor'.

Here is Katherine's tweet to me. She asks two great questions: When is the best time to get an editor and how does one go about finding a reputable one?

For this blog I'm going to be addressing the first question and I will be answering the second one in a part two.

This is absolutely not a dumb question. It’s a legit concern authors who haven’t worked with editors have. Whether you decide to go the traditional or indie publishing route you can always benefit from working with an editor.

When is the best time to get an editor?

This depends on what your editing needs are. Here are some ideas to consider when you want to work with an editor:

  • After the first draft is finished.

  • After you’ve edited it.

  • After you’ve had beta readers look at it.

  • Before you’ve had beta readers read it.

  • When you’ve finished the story completely and want it copyedited.

  • When you’ve had it copyedited and want a final proofreading.

It can be confusing because there are various types of editing and knowing what kind of editing you want to use an editor for will inform your decision of WHEN to reach out to an editor.

Ways in which you can utilize a professional editor:

  • Feedback for the first five pages--on the hook, the flow, if it captures the reader, line editing, proofreading. This is good for people who decide to go the traditional publishing route and want to make sure the first five pages are stellar (but don’t neglect the rest of the book. If an agent requests a full manuscript you want it shiny). This is also good if you’d like to test how you’d work with an editor. Don’t be afraid to request a sample edit. Some editors do it for free others charge a small fee.

  • Feedback on the first seventy-five pages. This isn’t much different than the first five pages other than that it’s more pages. Whether or not you’ve finished the manuscript you can get something like this done. The feedback will help you decide in which direction you want to take the story.

  • Manuscript assessment. This is like a beta read on steroids. A professional editor will provide a full report on their analysis of your manuscript. This is great when you’ve done all you can on your own and want professional input.

  • Structural editing is similar to manuscript assessment but it’ll get into the grittier details. Both provide feedback in what works, what doesn’t, and in what ways you might consider editing it yourself. However, structural editing is more intensive and delves into the minutiae of specifics.

  • Designing your outline. Working with an editor to plan the beats of your story and the whole of the plot can help you focus your writing. I’ve helped clients with their outlines and they rarely stick strictly to them. (I don’t know of anybody who ever has!) The advantage of this is having someone who’s seen many outlines and their drafts, and their edits, and so on and so forth.

  • Help writing your synopsis. Again, this is more for the traditional publication route. Synopses can be incredibly tough for authors to do. There's the short synopsis and the long synopsis. Sometimes agents request one or the other.

  • Editing, proofreading, or copyediting your synopsis. If you’ve already written it and just want to make sure it looks as clean as possible, a professional editor will be able to help here.

  • Editing your blurb or description on the back of the book cover or on the website. Content editing to help entice readers and proofreading to ensure readers aren’t put off by typos and the like.

  • Line-editing. The story is done and you don’t want to fiddle with the character arc or plot but want to make sure the story reads smoothly and comes across clearly.

This list is, by no means, all encompassing but I hope it gives you an idea that there isn’t a standard way to work with an editor. Your needs, preferences, and budget will vary. You can do all the research in the world but nothing replaces the experience of working with an editor.

Most editors are happy to talk to people with questions. Although, it’s not easy when you don’t even know what questions to ask and you might feel pressure to book a service when you’re not ready.

So, back to the question, “When is the best time get an editor?”, well, that depends on you and the kind of editing you want. I hope I’ve offered some assistance if not concrete answers. Because ultimately, each book has its own unique path to publication, even if some parts look similar.

Next post I'm going to talk about how you can go about finding a reputable editor.

Have a question you want to ask me about editing? Email me here Jeannette@PolarBearEditing.com

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