Writing is a process. At best, it’s done in stages, such as pre-writing, writing, and rewriting. The last phase for me (and for most) is the editing phase. This is when I comb through my prose, looking for grammatical errors, words that aren’t as scintillating as they could be, mistakes in syntax, such as parallelism errors and choppy sentences, etc. Not only do I pour over my work, I enlist an editorial “group” that helps me perfect my prose.
In short, editors are so important that I use three. Noah, a lifelong friend and fellow writer, keeps me from looking like a fool. My mom, who wrote a book awhile back, as well as dozens of children’s plays, corrects my grammar mistakes. And, my nephew, Aaron, a writer with a degree in journalism, helps me with headlines, along with verbiage that just isn’t making sense. This editorial triad is invaluable in assisting me with writing my best prose.
“How,” you might be asking, “can I find an editor?”
First and foremost, if you already know people who would make good editors (usually these people are writers themselves), by all means, use them. But, you might be the only writer in your family, or in your circle of friends.
Take heart. There is a great way to find a fellow writer with whom you see eye to eye and who is competent enough to edit your work.
A second way to find an editor is to take a writing course, and find him or her among your writing peers. This class could be live or online.
We’re living in an age of writing education. Writing classes are everywhere. Gotham Writers offers terrific classes in writing. WOW, Women on Writing, is a good bet, and Writer’s Digest University also offers classes. And, that is just scratching the surface.
I can guarantee that, during the duration of your class, a student will stand out from the pack, and will seem like the perfect person to edit your documents.
Note: when signing up for a class, be sure to enroll in one where you can read the other students’ work. Some of the less expensive classes don’t allow you to read and critique your peers’ writing, but simply allow you to work one-on-one with an instructor.
What to look for in an editor: honesty, a good general knowledge base, grammar prowess, impeccable writing ability, sense of humor (we’re living in a dark age, and humor is definitely needed), and the time and willingness to become your editor. In short, you want to find someone in your class whose writing you like and are drawn to, and who impresses you all the way around.
What can you offer an editor in return for their edits on your work?
You could barter, and offer to edit or critique their work. This is probably the easiest and cheapest way to go. With this arrangement, the situation becomes mutual. You simply become writing partners.
But, there are other ways to “pay” editors.
I initially wanted to pay Noah cash but he wouldn’t take my money, So, I send him (via snail mail) clothes and household goods. Since I live in Ohio and he lives in New York City, I can save him a great deal of money on his basic essentials.
For my mother, I like to take her out to lunch. She’s 88 and she enjoys going to restaurants. For Aaron, I send him occasional gift cards, and edit his blog posts for his website, “Know Personal Finance.”
A third way to find an editor is to look for a professional in a place such as Poets & Writers Magazine’s “Classified” section. Go to pw.org. In the classified section, under “services,” you will find about two dozen editors-for-hire. These editors are pricey but you just might be willing to employ one if you are at an advanced stage in your writing career.
WritersWeekly also has a list of editors who are happy to provide free quotes.
In conclusion, having someone edit your work will make it much better. You’ll be able to sell more pieces and you will, ultimately, feel better about what you create.
For consistent and marketable writing, enlist an editor or two. Or three.
Laura Yeager began her writing career as a fiction writer, publishing at journals such as The Paris Review, The Missouri Review and The North American Review. Currently, she writes for curetoday.com, a cancer website, and psychcentral.com, a mental health website. Laura teaches writing at Gotham Writers’ Workshop and at Kent State University. She is looking for an agent for her book The Prodigal Daughter, a collection of short fiction and nonfiction about bipolar illness.
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