As writers, our brains can be our best friends and worst enemies. Our perfectly formed words so often appear mangled only a moment after we hit the submit button. Science assures us this isn’t our fault: our intellects are on autopilot, intercepting our errors before we see them. While this unconscious autocorrect function can be overridden with tricks such as reading aloud, reading backwards, reading in different fonts and formats, even reading in new places (your neighborhood bar or favorite coffee shop), it is almost always easier for other readers to catch your typos.
The same thing is true with worldbuilding and plot. In the same way your copyeditor identifies your finger-flying “teh”s and unintentional homophones, your developmental editor finds the spots where the fully realized world in your mind doesn’t quite make it on to the page. Readers desperately want to be taken somewhere – even if the tale is set just down their own street, but it’s easy to lose pieces of the puzzle as we’re building it. We know our characters intimately, but sometimes we keep too much from the reader and other times we give too much. These problems, again, are a product of our oh-so-helpful brains.
This is why fresh eyes are such an important asset. Every writer needs an editorial collaborator, someone to help us locate the missing puzzle pieces, fill in the holes, and polish our manuscripts to a high shine.– all without losing sight of our original vision.
But how do you find the editor who is right for you?
Writers need different types of editing at different stages. At some point in their drafting process, a writer will most likely benefit from the objective perspective of a content or developmental editor – someone who can analyze your story conceptually and structurally. Later, when the story itself is fully evolved and the manuscript complete, a copy or line editor is needed to comb through the draft to catch any last mistakes.
No matter which type of editor you’re looking for, it is essential that any professional you work with is not only qualified, but also has your best interests in mind. A heart to heart conversation about your work, your expectations, and your goals is a good place to start when looking for an editor. It’s also a good idea to ask for references and a sample chapter edit.
For some additional guidelines, check out these articles: