Do You Need an Editor?

By Rachelle Ramirez

The short answer is, “Yes.”

  • If you want to meet the professional standards now expected by agents, publishing houses, and audiences.

  • If you want to make your story the best it can be.

  • If you’re going the self-publishing route where there is no possibility of a gatekeeper catching a problem with your manuscript.

Why?

Publishing companies no longer rely on in-house editors for improving acquired works. Manuscripts are now expected to be professionally edited before they are sent to agents and publishing houses for review.

The agents and acquiring editors I’ve spoken to expect to work with professional writers. And professional writers are those who know a manuscript isn’t written alone. Professional writers know when it’s time to ask for help from another professional. They know a finished manuscript is a well edited manuscript and that they can not possibly find all the challenges of their story alone. Even professional editors hire editors for their work.

Over the years, writer friends of mine have learned the hard way. Your story only gets one shot per acquiring editor or agent. No one wants to read a story that doesn’t impress and no agent or publisher will accept a work of fiction unfinished. Send a manuscript back to an agent after they’ve rejected it and no matter how much you’ve improved it, they won’t read it again.

Now, maybe you’re resistant to the idea. I know I was. Years ago, I was certain I could workshop my manuscript scene by scene with my critique group and get the manuscript in top shape. But it didn’t work. My critique partners were well meaning amateurs, just like I was. We simply didn’t know what it took to bring a manuscript to a professional level and we relied on statements like, “This section didn’t work for me,” and “Something isn’t right here.” We didn’t know how to break a scene, sequence, or act down and analyze it for the basic components of story. And we certainly couldn’t provide one another with specific and actionable next steps solutions. So, I spent years training to be an editor in order to solve this problem.

I went pro. You can too. And you won’t even have to put in the years I did to get there because you can hire the help.

An Editor Saves You Time and Frustration

Unlike a critique group, a really good editor knows story structure and will evaluate your story at the global (overall story arc) and micro (scene) level. A well trained editor knows which scenes need removing because they repeat the complications from a previous scene or go nowhere (the scene doesn’t turn). They suggest adding scenes to complete your story arc and they’ll know if your story can be improved by rearranging scenes. I know I spent years trying to do this with my own manuscript and then I worked with an editor and we found the solutions to the problems in a matter of months.

An Editor Provides Actionable Next Steps Recommendations and a Short Feedback Loop

A developmental or structural editor will help you prioritize tasks and break larger problems into realistic and actionable next steps. You can send scenes to an editor each week for review and discussion so you don’t have to wait to ship the whole draft for analysis or rejection by an agent.

An Editor Holds You Accountable to Your Writing Goals

If you want to write a book but you’re not making yourself do it, external motivation may your key to success. An editor can help you set writing goals and expect you to meet them. Each week, you’ll turn in a new scene or two and you’ll plan for the following week. This works for me every time. I wouldn’t get any writing done, including this blog post, if I wasn’t accountable to someone.

An Editor Helps You Master Scenes

There are fundamental building blocks of working scenes. Leave out one of the basics and you’ll have a scene that doesn’t work. The scene is the most important part of story building. Master the scenes, learn how to string them together with the same building block components, and you’ll have a story that works.

An Editor Helps You Solve Global Story Challenges

An editor helps you get to the heart of your story and and evaluate it for the obligatory scenes and conventions of your chosen genre. An editor helps you analyze your scenes for the value shifts and turns best suited to your genre.

An Editor Helps You Create Realistic Expectations

By providing clear deadlines with a pre-set pricing structure, an editor sets reasonable expectations for your investment of time and money. You’ll know what to expect and what it will take to get your manuscript to the next level.

You Don’t Have to Do It Alone

The solutions might not always be easy but you no longer have to tackle them alone.

You don’t have to spin your wheels, turning a bad book into a beautifully written bad book. Story structure matters and as you lock in story structure from the large issues to the moderate issues to the smaller issues, you’ll create a good story. This is what a professionally trained editor helps you do; create what agents, publishers, and audiences want.

If every story needs an editor, how do you know when you’re ready for an editor?

You need an editor when you’ve gone as far with your manuscript as you can on your own. At this point, you might think the story is finished. It’s a good time to get a second set of eyes on the work. After working with a story for so long, we writers just don’t know what’s on the page and what isn’t anymore. We don’t know what we’ve repeated and what we’ve over explained. Have we trusted the reader’s knowledge of the subject matter too much or not enough?

You need an editor when you’re stuck in your writing and don’t know what to do next. Maybe you have a story idea you need help fleshing out. Maybe you have a manuscript draft (or most of one) and want help evaluating that story for whether it works or not. An editor gets you unstuck by assisting you in determining your genre, your story’s core, and the arcs of your characters.

Interested in Discussing Your Story with a Pages & Platforms Editor?

Schedule a free half-hour consultation with a Certified Story Grid Editor, Anne Hawley or Rachelle Ramirez. We’ve trained with the best, Shawn Coyne of Story Grid, and we have years of experience finding fresh solutions to story challenges.

Rachelle Ramirez