Five Things You Should Know About Engaging With an Editor

Linda Paul at Rangewriter is guest posting for me today. If you haven’t read her first piece about editors here you’ll want to after reading this insight.

picture courtesy of Pinterest
picture courtesy of Pinterest
THARP ¬– My personal rules of engagement

Renee asked me if there is any etiquette involved in working with an editor. I confess I’m so new to this field that if there is etiquette involved, I don’t know what it is. I do believe that my authors (I love calling them that, I hope they don’t mind!) deserve certain things from me. As an editor, these are the rules I’ve made for myself.

Tact: In a manner of speaking, authors come to me with their panties around their ankles. They have entrusted me with their innermost thoughts and feelings. Often the manuscript they hand me is the result of years’ of soul-searching, research, and agonizing over word choice and structure. They are at a most vulnerable stage of their craft. I owe it to them to be careful about how I offer suggestions.

Honesty: While being careful in how I frame suggestions, I must honestly assess the manuscript. I want my authors’ work to reach their readers, to resonate, to effectively communicate their message, and to leave their readers wanting more.

Accuracy: When I make punctuation, fact checking, or word choice suggestions, I double and triple check my initial response. The 15th Edition of the Chicago Manual of Style sits beside my computer, and I bless the World Wide Web for its goldmine of fact checking resources. If I suggest a change it must be for a reason, not simply because something doesn’t sound right.

Respect: This goes hand in hand with tact. When things get overwhelming, as they sometimes do, I remind myself of how hard it is to bare your soul—your writing—to a stranger. I also recognize that when an author chooses to disregard my advice, it is for a reason. This work is theirs, not mine. This work comes from their soul, not mine and its success is theirs, not mine.

Punctuality: I am careful about not overbooking my workload. I owe it to my clients to focus on their work and to provide routine feedback throughout the process. Because I am so new to this field, I am cautious about setting project deadlines, but I do line out goals; I have yet to miss any timeline.

I have found this second career of editing and formatting manuscripts for indie-publishing the most rewarding experience of my life. As I’ve said before, in the weeks and days before a client’s manuscript emerges as a full blown book—cover and all, I share their nerves, excitement, and misgivings. Birthing a book is a lengthy and sometimes painful process. And, like a doula, I feel wonder and awe at the courage it takes for an author to share so much with the world at large. It is during this final stage that I find myself comforting and hand-holding, social skills that I never knew I had.

Thank you so much for this insight, Linda.

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.   

Categories: Tags: , , ,


  1. Thanks Renee for sharing Linda’s thoughts and suggestions. I like the way Linda speaks so caring and respectful of her authors. She’s a breath of fresh air. I wish for her a successful and happy career. 🙂

  2. I especially appreciate your commitment to the authors work while fact checking and having a solid reason for every change you suggest. Additionally, for me personally, there’s nothing worse than wondering if a critique partner or someone else that has my material will get back to me in the time we’ve previously agreed upon. Thank you for a wonderful post.

    1. When the time frame gets stretched out, it makes you wonder if the ms isn’t as interesting as it should be or if lots of issues exist. Often it is neither of those things, but writers can be sensitive about their babies – and I do feel my novels are like children.

      1. Inevitably, life interrupts. But when it does, authors deserve an explanation…not an excuse, just an honest update on why things aren’t progressing. I worked with a woman who started out with the editor provided by her publisher. This editor did fine for about 3 chapters, then everything came to a screeching halt. The author had no clue what was going on. A month or two later, the editor emailed to say she’d be finishing up soon. “Sorry, I got distracted by my daughter’s wedding.” Well, that would have been nice information for the nail-biting author to have had early on.

        Then, when the manuscript came back, it seemed the entire middle section got skipped. The author didn’t know how to fix the many comments that said,”show don’t tell.” I sense that when an author has been telling way too much, they need some suggestions about how to show a scene. I wonder how other editors handle this.

  3. I believe, the job of an editor needs more concentration than the job of a writer. it’s by no means an easy task to pass on the message to readers the way a writer wants it; and the editor makes it sure that the job is done properly.
    I had no editor with me, when I published my book due to many reasons; and now when I look back I realize things would have been different if I had the support of some professional editor. Great post, Linda and thanks Renee for sharing this post with us. 🙂

    1. Thanks for sharing that comment Arindam. And I believe that every one of the principles Linda mentioned as an editor, applies to the writer as well. If we can share the philosophy of it being a joint venture, it will result in the best material.

  4. I am swept away over again at how wonderful a person you are, Linda! Spending all this time and effort helping others to become their best without claiming any fame for yourself, that is simply admirable. Just like the passion and professionalism with which you go about your task. If I ever feel I am ready to write a book I think I know who I would ask first to do me the honour of being my editor 🙂

  5. Linda, it’s no surprise to see such integrity in this post about your role as editor…it’s really built in to you! I admire your willingness to do this type of work.

    I was just talking to my walk buddy about you today. Remember our dialogue about what is considered good manners for eating styles? She’s of German descent and as we shared lunch, both of us were using both eating styles – European and N. American – as is completely acceptable in Canada. Were your ears ringing? 😀

  6. Thanks, Linda and Renee. These are great tips and presented in a thoughtful, easy to understand way. Maybe someday I’ll be able to afford an editor. In the meantime, thanks for these nuggets!

    1. Sometimes your publisher furnishes the editor. I think in those cases the editor is more attuned to what the publishing house likes and less to the integrity of your particular ms. Just my opinion there.

  7. This is a great read – something I value. I would never have thought there were 5 guidelines!! As for the respect – absolutely, understood.

    The punctuality though, must say I had not considered!

    Wonderful post, reblog Renee 🙂

  8. **In a manner of speaking, authors come to me with their panties around their ankles**

    O, My, this is truer than true. And what a superb way to describe the author!

    I loved this post. Thank you so much for these wonderful guidelines.

    PS. RESPECT–What a great thing for an editor to embody.

  9. Thanks for sharing Linda’s thought on the editing process. It was very interesting to read about how one editing think about her work. Her own guidelines could be use equally by writers as well as other professionals. High ethic standard. Very nice.

  10. I would suppose THARP- your personal rules of engagement not only very relevant to your calling but to any other activity requiring human interactions. THARP clearly honours the other person, builds trust and holds the potential to add significant synergy to collaborative working. That is a lovely take-away for me so I would like to acknowledge you for that.


  11. Linda and Renee, thank you for providing us with insight on this subject. I like the no frills, easy to digest format! hee hee! I think writers can never know enought about the editing world. Linda, I would love to work with you! 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.