Writerly Wednesdays

Eight Ways to Make an Editor Do a Happy Dance

Writing intended for publication, whether it’s traditional, partner or self-publication, should be sifted through an editor filter. Why? Because we authors tend to read what’s in our heads, not what’s on the computer screen. We also have trouble pinpointing weaknesses in our own manuscripts.

Editors who have no emotional attachment to our work provide unbiased, professional feedback. Even editors need editors. My writing is always improved by an editor’s candid comments.

Here are a few key things to remember to create a smooth and productive writer/editor relationship:


As many great writers and publishers have said, “Good writers are first and foremost good readers.” Reading teaches us word usage, sentence construction, paragraph rhythm and flow, a feel for building tension, scene and sequel construction, character development, story arc, and so much more. Read everything, from newspapers to novels, blogs to biographies, cereal boxes to political soap boxes.


Study the craft of writing. In order to move your writing from good to best, take writing classes, attend workshops, seminars and conferences, listen to writer-focused podcasts and webinars, read how-to magazines, blogs, newsletters and books. Send me an email if you’d like recommendations. (beckylyles@beckylyles.com).


Learn correct grammar and punctuation. Few manuscripts arrive on an editor’s desk with perfect grammar and punctuation, which is expected; however, you’ll do yourself a favor if you learn how to properly use the English language, and your editor and readers will appreciate your effort. Instructional websites abound online that specialize in English usage.


Follow formatting rules. Your agent, editor or publisher will provide format guidelines. These vary slightly from person/publisher to person/publisher.

Strive to be clear and concise

Check for wordiness, search out repeated information, redundancies and overwriting.


Ask your well-read friends, colleagues and critique group to serve as beta readers. I suggest a minimum of three people other than family members (I enlist six to twelve beta readers). Ask them for honest feedback and accept it with gratitude, not defensiveness. You may not choose to use their input, but when they take the time to read your work and provide advice, thank them, include their name in your book’s acknowledgements, gift them with an autographed copy of your published book (or a trip to the Bahamas…your choice). My experience? Beta-reader and critique-group input is priceless.

Let It Rest

Make changes as you see fit and set the manuscript aside for a couple weeks. After you’ve had time away from your project, you’ll see it with fresh eyes. Again, edit as needed and then, ta-da…hit the send button to shoot your manuscript to your editor, which leads us to number eight…


As difficult as it can be to accept a critique with grace, appreciate your editor’s input as an opportunity to learn and grow. Accept his or her comments and suggestions without defensiveness. Feel free to disagree, to dialogue about issues and to ask questions, but do so as a student who’s anxious to become an even better writer.

Wishing you fabulous final weeks of summer filled with sunshine, good books and great writing!


  • Rebecca Carey Lyles

    Becky Lyles lives with her husband, Steve, in Boise, Idaho, where she serves as an editor and as a mentor for aspiring authors. In addition to writing nonfiction, she writes award-winning fiction and has two published series—The Kate Neilson Series and Prisoners of Hope Series—plus the first book in a new series titled Children of the Light. She also hosts a podcast with Steve called “Let Me Tell You a Story.” Learn about Becky, her books and the podcast at beckylyles.com. You can contact her at beckylyles@beckylyles.com.

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