Editors – Three Important Reasons Writers Need Them!

Editors!  Writers sometimes fear them.  We often have a belief – mistaken though it may be – that they are out to change our manuscripts or make our voices homogeneous.

Today’s post will explain why we need editors and it is written by our very own friend and fellow blogger Linda Paul.   You are likely familiar with her as she has a wonderful blog – Rangewriter.

Many thanks to Linda for agreeing to guest post today and for taking the time to explain from the point of view of an editor.

Who needs an editor, anyway?

Most people who are confident enough to call themselves writers know they need an editor. This seems counter intuitive to less experienced writers. After all, a good writer knows how to organize, punctuate, and document. And spellcheckers are a writer’s best friend, right?

Yes, writers do know how to organize, punctuate, and document their work. However, an editor comes to a piece of writing with a fresh set of eyes and a blank expectation of what those eyes will see. Writers transfer the ideas in their heads to the words on the page. The problem is that as writers we are so intimately involved with what is inside our heads that we tend to miss the details of what lands on the printed page. We see what we are thinking. Human brains are wired to fill in the blanks, to make assumptions that allow us to connect the dots. This inside-out knowledge works against us in our writing.

  • We miss crucial transitions; much like the engineer forgets to tell us that we need to hit the silver button in order to move to the next step.
  • We miss incorrect, duplicated, or missing words, for example; the for then, to for too, such for much. Our brains correct these errors before our eyes can register them. Spellcheckers are helpful, but they are robots, devoid of the nuance and judgment of an editor.
  • We miss redundancies in our own words: if they slip into the finished pages, repeated phrases, repeated sentence structures, even repeated ideas will bore our readers to tears.

A competent editor finds these elusive gaps and goofs.  The editor does not rewrite an author’s work, does not interfere with an author’s unique voice or style. The editor is simply another tool in the writer’s quiver; a tool that helps the author move information seamlessly from inside the brain to the page.

There is good reason for the praise that great authors shower on their editors in their acknowledgement section.

Who needs an editor?

We all need an editor.

Thanks again Linda!  I think you have summed this issue up really well. 

Have you realized you should have gotten an editor before moving ahead with a project, or experienced a situation in which you didn’t know how something sounded to a reader until it was pointed out? 

**Renee Johnson is the author of Acquisition, and The Haunting of William Gray.  She is currently working on a Young Adult novel, while editing a suspense novel which has international flair–an homage to her love of travel and foreign food.  She lives on a farm in North Carolina with her husband, Tony Johnson, and one very spoiled German shepherd named Gretel. **

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  1. It frustrates the heck out of me when I read an unedited book. It’s not just the sloppy copy editing mistakes. It’s the developmental and line editing that I miss in these unedited books. I don’t usually make it past page 20 or so when I try to read them. As an Indie writer, I budget about $2,000 per book for editing. It’s the one part of my budget I won’t scrimp on.

      1. congrats on your new baby, 11/Nov’15…
        I apologize but have a new Microsoft vs my traditional Apple laptop, and I may have already “replied” to you, it disappeared off the screen I know that for sure. If so, keep the congrats 🙂 and delete this.

        i c that the last detail blocks below already have my required information, so i will assume my request and comment DID post… if not, jus indicate thus and I’ll resend.
        Styrling Au.Doin

  2. Truth clearly stated. Writers’ brains are so eager to make us happy, brains “paint” written content to please us and sweep flaws under the punctuation rugs. (and then maybe silly human body will go out and play?)
    Fresh eyes are the only hope. NIcely said

    1. We know what we mean but may fail to get the point across. And as Linda says, spell checkers may not catch misused words or spelling errors if they are words themselves.

  3. This is so true and it is just as true when blogging. But bloggers don’t have the luxury of editors, we rely solely on our own judgment. I just read a post by another blogger and found at least three typos, but it’s not the easiest thing to tell someone they need to make a correction after they’ve posted. It’s a bit of a conundrum, if you ask me.

    1. And sometimes I wonder if they really meant to say what I think they’re saying or if I am misunderstanding. I appreciate a gentle nudge if I post something with a typo. I try to check my links and read over the content, but even then, things can go awry.

  4. I agree with Phil above. This post should be repeated frequently — because as a writer it is easy to forget.

    I work both sides of the coin and know how important a good editor is. As a blogger, I don’t have an editor — until I go back and re-read and cringe — seeing the repetition, the steps left out, the slightly off words. An editor would have caught them.

    A few months ago, I read a book that told a compelling story. But it so badly needed cutting that I was frustrated reading it. That said, it made me realize that whenever I finally finish that book that’s in my head, it will be edited by someone who can maintain their independence and fix what’s broke.

    Thanks, Renee for having Linda post this useful piece.

    1. I think we have all heard a horror story about a bad relationship between a writer and an editor. But I think of editors as friends and Linda has cleared up a few misconceptions here. Thanks for your input.

      1. I also cringe upon rereading my posts. I try to delay hitting the publish button so that I can come back a few days later with slightly fresher eyes. But the instant gratification usually wins out and later I regret my haste. Even in the piece above, I see the flaws I wish I’d caught.

        1. I have been known to reply to my own reply in order to correct a comment. It’s usually followed by a ‘geez’ or ‘yikes’. But blogs are more instantaneous and slightly more forgiving. You are being too hard on yourself.

    2. As Steven King so strongly recommends and I couldn’t agree with you more; which is why I’m contacting you.I first heard Renee Johnson’s praises from one Helen Bryan’s ‘AKNOWLEDGEMENT’ section at the close of WAR BRIDES {recent very good Kindle read}.
      I have two completed novels {each re-written/revised minimum of seven times} now at the point of needing a copy editor {I have several other works in the wings, but need editing for the “completed” novels}. Can you help, yourself if not booked, or a recommendation.
      thank you
      Styrling M. Au.Doin

      1. Styrling, there are great editors to be had in every genre. Can you give me an idea about what you are writing about? Thanks. I can give you a more knowledgeable answer then.

  5. I have experienced some flaws in my writings while going through those after a while. It is said that, doesn’t matter who reads your writing — either your junior, senior, a friend or somebody else — if we need our writing to be perfect and flawless, it has to be edited and reedited before we go for final publishing. And, blog is not an exception. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Renee – I totally agree with you. However, great editors do more than just editing; they can transform literary career of authors. What Perkins did for the writing of Fitzgerald and Hemingway and Wolfe was the stuff of legend. Nick

  7. I established the habit of having someone read and edit my writing at a very young age. It made me a better writer. I am very fortunate to have access to an excellent editor and every post gets a good once or twice over before I hit the button. It is not the editor I fear so much as the “red” pen.

    1. Oh, the ‘red’! But if it makes our stories better, or the communicating of them better, we’re fortunate. How lucky for you that you had someone to ‘break you in’ to the world of writing and editing.

  8. Your article is spot-on the need for an editor and the reasons why. This is a helpful and informative article. 🙂
    I can honestly say that if I could, I’d have an editor on hand to check everything I write even to my comments. I think an editor would be a blessing and a good motivator.

  9. –Who needs an editor?–

    Me! I do. I DO!

    I am editing my book somewhat…and then sending it out to a “REAL” editor!

    Cuz I aint NO editor, baby.

    Great post. X

  10. This is such a great reminder. Because our brains do will in those blanks when we write and we stop seeing our own obvious mistakes and redundancies. Even with my 700 word blog posts, I have to put it down a few times and then go back to it in order to do my most effective editing. Fantastic information.

  11. This is excellent. I do see the value in an editor, though there is that fear, yes, they will dumb down all your intention – dumb down meaning they will be grammatically perfect and leave no room for creative wording, perhaps not strictly ‘correct’. But I agree how you can miss seeing something or a duplicated word etc, and when you’re reading a book that can be SO unprofessional – an error: terribly unprofessional. So a fresh set of eyes is essential.

    1. And punctuation is critical as well as using words with more than one meaning. We need the editors and a good one should share your vision and not change your manuscript as much as enhance it.

  12. Great points about editors. To me, the greatest lesson learned when working with them is that I need one. However, they (like people) are all over the map …. and I can’t really say I enjoyed working with all my editors.

    1. Oh no Frank, what happened? Care to share the opposite point of view? I have heard a few horror stories, but my experience so far has been mostly positive. Even when getting a lot of red comments, I could tell it was for the betterment of the story. I’d love to hear what happened that left such an unpleasant impression on you.

      1. I don’t mind because I (like you) find my constructive comments in the sea of red ink. Three negatives.

        1) I work hard at being a “that/which” minimalist … but I had one editor going overboard inserting for too many of them. I just shook my head and didn’t fight it.

        2) My worst experience was with two editors who felt there were running the project (thus undercutting the project manager), … and the worst part was that they didn’t understand the document’s user! (That on still is a bug in my butt)

        3) It seldom does any good to challenge.

  13. Oh editors. I have to love them, even when they point out I’m an idiot. I learn so much from them and sometimes they give me a compliment. Not often 🙂

    1. I know. It can be discouraging at times. But I look at it as a learning experience and try not to take the corrections as being negative. I’ve even been able to laugh at myself when I read a few of the comments in the margin. And it is up to the writer to accept the changes or not. In the most recent manuscript I’ve had edited, there was only one change I truly questioned. And I’m thinking of writing a post on it because the person who edited it was from the West Coast and I used a word that is common on the East Coast in conversation. I think it is a cultural thing. But, I also know that if my work gets published, it will likely be sold to people who don’t just live on the East Coast. So that change may be necessary for the integrity of the manuscript. Oh well…

  14. I wouldn’t dream of publishing anything without the input of a professional editor except for posts on my own blogs. And even then, friends who are editors are kind enough to point out errors they spot so I can quickly fix them.

    1. You have friends who are editors? Lucky lady!! Do you guys talk shop and are you always picking their brains for the most common mistakes and pet peeves? I bet you absorb a lot of tips and pointers just from being around them. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

  15. If I would ever be so fortunate to get to the stage of being offered an editor, I would embrace it warmly. It is very helpful to have someone with fresh eyes view your work – and not just any old person but someone with the skill and the knowledge to help you see the things you can’t see, for being too close xx

  16. Editors seem to have vanished, much the way salespeople have disappeared from retail stores. I see spelling and grammatical errors everywhere now — in newspapers, books, and magazines. I wish every writer could read this post. Thank you, Linda and Renee.

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