How to Think Like an Editor: Part One

How to Think Like an Editor_ Part One

This blog post first appeared on Almost an Author, July 22, 2018.

Writing is a funny art, isn’t it? Agents and editors (freelance and publishing house) tell us to write, write, write . . . and also make sure that our manuscript is edited well. “Edited well?” But what if we don’t like the word editing because it’s too daunting? What if our minds turn to jelly or we seize up when an agent or mentor tells us to edit our manuscript?

Well. Editing may seem daunting and scary and intimidating, but it’s really just one piece of the writing process. Editing doesn’t have to be so intimidating. Every writer should have an editor, but before sending a manuscript to a personal freelance editor or mentor (or even critique group), we need to make sure that the manuscript is fluid. Simply put, editing is just going through a more detailed process to make sure our manuscript is ready for the public eye. So . . . how do we think like an editor when we aren’t one? I’ll give you some quick tips for thinking like an editor. Ready?

Three Rules for Thinking Like an Editor

1. Am I a one-book author?

Now this is a scary question because agents especially want to ensure that the author seeking representation has more than one story or book idea. If you only have one story idea now and you are finding it hard to come up with another one, please don’t panic.

That’s what your critique group or mentor or friend(s) is for. That’s why you see questions on social media, “Would you read a book about flying saucers in the Carribean?” The author is trying to get feedback on their idea. If you aren’t an idea person (but rather someone who runs with an idea after it’s been fleshed out), you may want to sign up for coaching sessions or find a friend who will listen to your idea strain and then ask you questions about it to get you thinking.

If you have a handful of exceptional one-sentence hooks, that’s a good indication to an editor that you’re not a one-book author.

2. Will my book sell?

Another big question, but an important one. As the author, you will have done your research on other books in the market in the past year that are similar to yours in subject, theme, timeline, and content. If you find many like yours, that’s good. It only means that your idea is being published. Now the trick is to make sure that your hook is ear-grabbing enough to catch an agent’s or editor’s attention. Hooks like “A woman struggles to sell her house but can’t because there’s a hippie living in her basement who refuses to move out” might work. Doesn’t that raise all kinds of questions?

On the other hand, if you can’t find a book like yours out on the market, that’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it may mean that your book isn’t ready for publication quite yet, or that your genre or subject is too narrow. That said, consider broadening your subject focus or story question. And keep writing!

3. Will I work with an agent or editor to meet deadlines, manuscript edits, and other details?

While the other two questions were super important, this one probably outranks them. Why? Because agents and editors crave for authors who are easy to work with and who aren’t afraid to make necessary changes for the book’s best interest for the needs of the readers. I am not saying you should make every single change that an agent or editor want you to make, for you know where your book stands as far as its core message, and there will be things you will not want to change. However, you can graciously explain why a change cannot be made but keep an open mind in case the suggested change is a good change. A good change will enrich your story, grow you as a writer, and really wow your readers.

If an author can meet deadlines, make clear edits, work with the publisher’s marketing team, and do their part in getting the book into readers’ hands, then that’s the author an agent or editor wants to work with. That’s exactly what thinking like an editor is all about, and chances are, you’ll never be without a writing project or a published book available on your favorite bookstore shelf.

Next month, I’ll share some more tips on how to think like an editor.

But for now, please join in the discussion! I’d love to hear from you!

Take a few minutes and ruminate. What are some other ways you can think like an editor? Drop a line in the comments!

Winner of last week’s giveaway for The Southern Belle Brides Collection:

Jennifer L. Congratulations, Jennifer! You have been contacted.

Thanks to everyone who participated in this month’s giveaway!

Check back next month for another author interview and giveaway that has something to do with Jane Austen!

2 thoughts on “How to Think Like an Editor: Part One

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