Advice for Writers: How To Be Edited

There comes a time, in every piece of work’s life when it needs to leave the hands of its writer and get acquainted with its new, temporary guardian: the editor. This transition is undoubtedly one of the hardest parts of writing life. Actively offering up the product of your hard work, hours of time, and occasional tears to someone who’s going to highlight every flaw is, to put it lightly, soul crushing.

However there is a reaction to the sight of a red pen other than cowering in fear. Being edited is an art, one perfected by practice and a little bit of wisdom from those who have gone before you. So, we’d like to offer you our tips on how to survive a round of edits and find that your work and, most importantly, you are better off in the end.

1. Shut up and listen

My first reaction to anyone’s suggestions on something I’ve written is always, ‘yeah, but…’ I can think of any excuse for why my way is the right way. That em dash? It’s essential to the reader’s experience. The way one of the characters phrased something? Changing a single world would shatter their character development. But if you’re just going to argue every edit, you’re doing your work a major disservice.

Try to get through the first read of an editor’s suggestions without making a single objection. Fully absorb what they’re trying to do with your writing before you go back to them with any qualms.

2. That being said… know how to defend your choices

Yes, the editor has fresh eyes, but you have the history with your story. Something that may be crystal clear to you may have been overlooked by someone else. If you feel strongly about a particular edit not being made, don’t be afraid to voice your concerns. Communication is key between editor and writer, and the editing process should be more of a conversation than a dictation, anyway.

3. Don’t take anything personally

Repeat after me: an editor’s marks are not a personal attack on my existence. I am still a talented human despite my occasional typos.

Working with an editor can often feel like being told repetitively that you’ve done something wrong. But every mark made is just an effort to get your work in tip-top shape and shouldn’t be interpreted in any other way. The more edits on your page, the closer you are to having something publishable — which, don’t forget, is the end goal with this laborious process.

4. Ask questions

After an editor spends so much time in your head via your writing, it’s only fair for you to get into his or hers a little. Knowing your editor’s reasoning for something will make accepting the changes so much easier. Ask why, ask how, and don’t be afraid to collaborate on anything that’s giving you trouble. Once they’ve given you their thoughts, they’ll be just as invested in your story as you, you’re in this together.

5. Make! The! Edits!

One of the most frustrating things for editors is receiving a second draft of something that completely ignores their hard work on the first. Editors aren’t going to waste your time, so why waste theirs?

After you’ve seen the suggestions, asked some questions, and potentially fought some battles, you should be able to happily and easily polish off a new draft (or finished product!) that keeps both writer and editor satisfied.

After this, if you want some advice from the writers’ perspective, check out our author Marianne Holmes’ take on the editing process from her experience publishing her first book.

As always, thank you for reading, and be sure to tweet us @AgoraBooksLDN with your tips for editing or being edited!