Lisa Lenard-Cook

The Lonely Writer’s Companion — “What Do Manuscript Editors Do?”

September 1, 2013
Written by
Lisa Lenard-Cook

The Lonely Writer's Companion

“What Do Manuscript Editors Do?”

Welcome to the new improved Lonely Writer’s Companion! The format’s simple: You send in your questions, and each month I’ll select one to answer. Email your questions to me c/o dbooth@authorlink.com. (Be sure to put “Question for The Lonely Writer’s Companion” in the subject line.)

"The best writers revise and rewrite their work many, many times over. "
—Lenard-Cook

Question: I finished my novel, and sent it out to a bunch of agents and editors, but nobody replied. Recently I met another writer at a party who said I should hire an editor. I thought that editors worked for publishers. I’m really confused! Can you help? What do editors do?

The Lonely Writer responds:You were lucky to run into that writer. She was referring to an manuscript editor, and from the sound of your query, I’d say she might be right.

Back in the so-called Golden Age of Publishing, publishing house editors did indeed do a lot of the nipping and tucking a manuscript required. Those days are long over. In-house editors are overworked and underpaid, with no time (or proviso) to wave their magic wands over not-quite-there-yet manuscripts. That’s where manuscript editors come in. Each of us (yes, I do this, too) has a different specialty, and if, after reading a few pages of your work we determine that what we’re best at isn’t what you need, we all have networks of others we know will be.

I noted you said you “finished” your novel, which makes me think you’ve written only a first draft. The best writers revise and rewrite their work many, many times over. We also have trusted colleagues who read our work and offer editorial advice. So my first bit of advice here is to join a critique group to get feedback on your work.

If you have done your work on revision and rewriting and still aren’t getting any responses, ask those who’ve read your work what kind of editing they think you need.

  • Do you have a way with shaping scene but can’t spell your way out of a magician’s hat? If so, you’ll need a copy editor.
  • Does your manuscript need a bump-up to the next level? Consider a line editor.
  • Does your book begin and end at the right moments? Are there scenes in your book that don’t need to be there but you love too much to take out? Or scenes that do need to be there but for one reason or another you can’t write? A story editor like me might be what you need.
". . . don’t you want what you publish to reflect your original intention for it? "
—Lenard-Cook

If you got that writer’s business card, drop her an email and ask her for recommendations. Nose around a site like Authorlink and contact the editors you find there. Or you can Google “editor + your hometown” to find someone nearby. While it’s always possible to simply independently publish a less-than-polished book, don’t you want what you publish to reflect your original intention for it? To do that, yes, you do need an editor. Good luck!

 

Got a question for The Lonely Writer’s Companion? Email it to me c/o dbooth@authorlink.com. (Be sure to put “Question for The Lonely Writer’s Companion” in the subject line.) Your question could appear in a future column.

 

Find Your Story Writer Your Memoir
Find Your Story,
Write Your Memoir

by Lisa Lenard-Cook
and Lynn C. Miller
Buy This Book via Amazon.com

PEN-short-listed author Lisa Lenard-Cook’s most recent book is Find Your Story, Write Your Memoir (University of Wisconsin Press), which she co-authored with Lynn C. Miller, with whom she co-founded of ABQ Writers Co-op (abqwriterscoop.com), creating community in New Mexico for writers everywhere. She's an editor of the literary magazine bosque, on the faculty of the Santa Barbara Writer’s Conference, and the Board of Narrative Arts Center in Santa Fe. Website: lisalenardcook.com

Categorised in:

This post was written by Editorial Staff