8 Tips for Tackling Notes from Your Editor

Getting edits on your book, especially if it’s your first time, can be a shock. Why are there so many red marks? Did she not like my book? Should I bother finishing this at all?

Take a deep breath. Editing is a step that often comes with a lot of stress for most writers.  It requires a lot of back and forth, and the process can take awhile, especially if you’re committed to doing it well. But every author has to deal with edits, so you can too! Here are 8 tips for keeping your stress in check while you edit and tackle your editor’s notes like the professional you are.

1. Prepare yourself ahead of time

Many first-time writers don’t do this and are surprised when they see the red marks for the first time. It’s easy to let these emotions keep you from wanting to finish your book altogether. If you can, try to mentally prepare yourself for your editor’s notes before you actually receive them. Small spelling and grammar errors are easier to digest, but content edits affecting big parts of your book may trigger a stronger reaction.

Take a step back and remember you and your editor have the same goal: To have a great book at the end of this process. Getting an objective opinion on your book is one of the reasons you hired an editor, right? So try to remember not to take the edits personally. And remember: the sting won’t last forever, but the quicker you can move on and get back to work, the quicker your book will be done!

2. Do a quick scan to get organized

As you go through your editor’s notes for the first time, find changes you can quickly accept without much thought. Maybe you used “their” instead of “they’re” or misplaced a comma. Get those out of the way so you can focus on big picture things. Then make note of the things you’re not sure you want to change or need to think about further. Maybe categorize them, if you can. Once you get organized, the process will feel less overwhelming and much easier to tackle.

3. Take it step-by-step

Organizing the edits and having a plan of action will make it much easier to get through the changes efficiently. It’s easy to look at all the red marks and comments and become overwhelmed, then start putting off editing altogether. Whether you’ve categorized your edits or decided to go chapter by chapter, try to start with the big changes and move down from there. That way, you won’t waste time with changes that you just end up getting rid of later.

4. Try things out before you deny them

If you find yourself rejecting a lot of your editor’s notes, take a minute and ask yourself if you really think the changes won’t work or if you’re just attached to your own writing. A good exercise is to take one or a few of your editor’s suggestions that you’re unsure about and give them a shot anyway. You may find the ideas actually work once you give them the chance. That being said, YOU are the expert. There’s a good chance your editor may not be as well-versed in some of the factual elements of your book, and it’s ultimately up to you to figure out what is correct and what’s not.

5. Don’t be afraid to ask questions

If you’re unsure about an edit, can’t figure out what your editor means, or attempted to research the question and came up short, don’t hesitate to reach out to your editor. That’s what they’re here for! They can’t do the writing for you, but they can help you figure out the best way to move forward.

If there’s something they said that doesn’t make sense, it’s much better to ask them than to assume incorrectly. If you’ve tried to research a problem and can’t seem to figure out the right way to do it, it’s possible your editor made a mistake. It happens! But it’s best to ask and make sure. They are the professional, after all.

6. Save multiple copies of your work just in case

As you go through the edits, make sure you’re saving old copies of your documents instead of just updating one file. This is important to remember just in case you make an edit that you later decide you don’t like, you still have an older version to refer back to. Not every change you make is going to be a great one, so it’s important to keep a record of everything you’ve written just in case. If nothing else, you’ll be able to see the progress you’ve made on your book over time!

7. Hire different editors for different things, if necessary

You may have tried to hire one editor to do all the editing for your book, and that’s fine! But there are different types of editors for a reason. Some are better at looking at the big picture, while others have a fine attention to small details. If you’ve hired an editor that is skilled in one thing but you feel may be lacking in another, feel free to hire another editor to take a second look. Just make sure to hire one for the specific thing you need this time.

8. Send your edits back—and say thanks!

If your editor makes your book much stronger than it was before, make sure to let them know! Fostering a strong relationship with your editor is important to an overall better book. The editing process can be a long and tedious one, and it will only be more difficult if you and your editor have a tense relationship. If they do a great job, consider recommending them to a friend, including them in your book’s ‘Acknowledgements’ section, or continuing to work with them on your future projects!

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