If you want to write professionally, you need an editor. No matter how good you are, even if you are an editor yourself, when it comes to your work, you need another set of eyes to point out errors, give feedback, and brainstorm ways you can improve.
But if you have never worked with an editor before, you may not know exactly have to navigate this relationship. To help, here are my tips for working with an editor.
Clarify What You Are Looking For
What are you wanting the editor to help you with? As a writer, you should hopefully have a pretty good idea of what your weaknesses are. While you will likely want your editor to do a lot of general work, you should also ask for specific feedback. Things like pacing, quality of characterization, overuse of certain words or phrases, and use of passive voice are all specifics you might want feedback on.
Clean the File Up Before You Send It
Sending your editor a file that you have not gone over yourself is insulting. Even if you are a writer who churns out a manuscript every week for eBook publishing, read what you wrote before sending it off and run the spellcheck in the version of English it is meant to be published in.
This is perhaps my greatest frustration as an editor. I am constantly sent files where the language is set to other forms of English, so I must change it and run the spellcheck to change the spellings, punctuation, etc. Another common problem is being sent files that were written using voice-to-text software that are not cleaned up first; this usually results in hundreds of sentences that I cannot make sense out of because the software chose the wrong words, plus significant punctuation errors that take up far too much time to correct.
Show you respect your work and your editor and take the time to go over the file before you send it.
Do Not Get Offended When Mistakes Are Noted
Pointing out your errors and offering feedback on ways you can improve are all part of an editor's job. A job you are paying the editor to do. Still, it is easy to let your ego get in the way.
For example, I once worked with an author who could not keep verb tense straight. In one sentence, the narrator would be relating the events like they occurred in the past, then in the next, as if they were occurring right now. Throughout the entire manuscript, the verb tense switched on and off like this. When I sent it back to the author asking for the author to correct this to the desired tense since the error was too heavy for me to edit at the rate we had agreed to, the author wrote back to tell me that all of this was purposeful and then went on to state that I clearly did not know what I was talking about because I just used the terms past tense and present tense (in an effort to keep it simple), and verb tense is more complicated than that.
The author was wrong, and the author was aware of this, but having the errors pointed out upset this particular author, resulting in some very uncomfortable exchanges.
On the other hand, I recently worked with an author who made similar errors. This particular author was very open to learning how to spot this error and making the corrections. All went well, and the end result was a truly excellent book.
Follow Up with the Editor
Rather than just taking the corrected file and reading through the comments, follow up with the editor regarding any comments that you felt uncertain about or comments that you want to put to use in your work as the editor can provide you with tips for doing so. While you do not want to bother your editor or ask them to do work for free, a quick follow up is fine, and shows you are paying attention to their work.
Freelance writer and editor with an education background, working from home and living abroad.