Finding an Editor (Pssst, it’s easier than finding Sasquatch)

[contact-form][contact-field label=’Name’ type=’name’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Email’ type=’email’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Website’ type=’url’/][contact-field label=’Comment’ type=’textarea’ required=’1’/][/contact-form] Finding a good editor is like finding a place to get your morning java. It’s gotta be convenient, comfortable, there when you need it, hot–uh, scratch that–and within your budget.

By now, you’re probably asking yourself how you find an editor. How the hell will I ever find an editor? See, you just did. After all, you’ve taken all this time to write a manuscript, novel, or some other meaningful piece of work, and you would like it to be professionally edited.

Five things to know after you’ve found, kidnapped, or hogtied an editor to read your written work:

1. How do I find an editor?
I asked an author friend – yeah, I have friends so back the hell off. You could go to a local writing group and ask there. I’ve found that most of the moderators of the groups are, or know of editors. If all else fails, go to your nearest hip coffee joint (no, not Starbucks – sorry Starbucks) and stand in the middle and say, “Excuse me, is there an editor in the house?” Yes, of course it shows you’re kinda creepy, but it shows you have balls no matter your gender. It shows you have moxie too. What editor wouldn’t want to jump right up to greet you? After all, you now have those balls I mentioned and the moxie to use ’em. OR, there’s this new, magical thing called, wait for it…wait…the Internet. I know. I know. I thought it too, but it definitely looks like it’s around to stay. I lost five bucks in that bet. Damn Internet! Somewhere, Al Gore is smiling.

You can always ask for references too. A good editor will willingly offer these up without you needing to ask. There is that occasion, however, when you may select a first-time editor. She may be an editor prodigy stepping into the game for the first and ready to take on the challenge. That’s where numbers 3 and 4 will come in. Hold on, I’m getting to those. Damn, you’re so impatient.

2. What does an editor do?
A better question might be: what does an editor NOT do? Not sure why I didn’t ask that in the first place, but hell, I’m not an editor so…

I’m going to go beyond the obvious of finding missspelled words or the under-use or mis-use of hyphens. (Like how I did that? Look, I tend to crack myself up!) Don’t look for her to give you ideas. That’s not what an editor does. You’re the writer. You have the ideas. You create. The editor tells you if it makes sense; if the sequence flows; if the structure is sound; if that word you made up works — WAIT, we can make shit up? Why wasn’t I told? — if your work needs more help than she can give you; if your use of the word ‘fuck’ is overdone; if you shouldn’t quit your day job; if you’ve spewed out adjectival or adverbial prepositional phrases. WTF? I know, even writing it was difficult. Hey, we’re writers so we’re not supposed to know what those are anyway.

She’ll tell you if your character voice works as intended (uh, nope, not that Scooby Doo voice). She will tell you if your story conflict works within the piece. She will even tell you if you’ve written your piece for the intended audience and if the language was written at the right level or if anything needs explanations.

3. Do a meet and greet.
This is an important time in your life as a writer. A professional editor will see your work and comment on it, for the good or the bad. You should ask yourself a few questions before you even hand over more than a sample of your writing.

a) Are they mind-numbingly boring? Do you find yourself wanting to take the tip of your pen and jab it into their carotid artery and then watch them bleed-out while you silently finish your latte, looking around as if nothing happened?

b) Could I sit with this person for a few hours at a time? If you’re a misanthropic buttcrack, you’re gonna have a problem. But then, you already have problems, so…

c) Are they willing to listen? Look, you wrote this stuff and you may be better able to explain something that he didn’t understand. And, if he’s really good, then he’ll be able to actually tell you what it is you meant to write instead, which, let’s face it, is always nice.

d) Does he have fresh breath? Like I said, A—LOT—OF—TIME!

Point is, you will be spending a lot of time (hey, I just said that) with this person to go over live edits, ask questions, drink coffee, and all other types of serious editorial shit. You need to have a certain comfort level with your editor.

4. What are their fields of expertise?
Some editors, like writers, have areas of expertise. Don’t be afraid to ask the question: what are your areas of expertise? He will not be offended. Narrative, fiction, non-fiction, erotica, science fiction… Make sure your genre fits into his genre. Okay, after I wrote it AND read it out loud, it does sound a little sick. ANYWHO, you know what I meant so just go with it.

5. Hey, I found my editor, but I’m just not sure…
Google is your friend. As with every single thing in the scope of the entire universe, life, and beyond—Google, Google, Google. Need I say more? Google! Google your potential editor. Not only will it help you to know if he has killed any of his previous clients, it will give you an idea of the authors he may have worked with in the past.

Most editors will ask simple questions: type of writing, length, amount of stories if editing short stories, etc. This helps them gauge your type of writing and scope of the job to better offer you a quote. A good editor will ask for a sample of your writing and offer a trial run, of sorts, say thirty pages and edit them for free. They’ll make this up later as nothing in life is free. Ever! Don’t be naive. This also allows him to know if he’ll take you as a client. Maybe he won’t like you or your writing and won’t take you on as a new client. I don’t know him, but you never know. A good editor will be forthcoming and tell you upfront if your writing doesn’t make the grade, cut the mustard, it’s not your cup of tea, or insert your own stupid idiom or overly used cliché here. Hell, he’ll even tell you that you used a cliché right up there and that clichés in writing don’t, we’ll, pass the grade. Fuck! Now I did it.

So, calm the fuck down, take a deep breath, cleanse your aura, or do whatever bullshit it is you need to do to relax and then go out a find yourself an editor for that kickass novel you just wrote. Remember, your editor is there to help. You need to listen and learn. An editor WILL make you a better writer.

Lastly, don’t be a cheap S.O.B, pay your editor on time, every time. I know, it seems so simple, but it will alleviate stress on both parties. AND, turns out they like to be paid.

For editorial expertise in the Greater Phoenix market and BEYOND, fell free to contact:

**Jacob Shaver at jacobedits@gmail.com.His specialties include editing, writing coaching, teaching, and tutoring. He specializes and is fluent in the following languages: English, French, German, and Spanish.

**Jake Friedman at fourchamberspress@gmail.com and fourchamberspress.com . His specialties include, in terms of form: literary fiction, non-fiction, and poetry. His genres include: traditional, modern, and postmodern narratives; flash fiction; personal essay and memoir; free verse. His editing includes: large and small structure (e.g. from plots, character development, organization flow and overall sources of meaning to imaging, managing time, and individual sentences). He says, “The most important thing is finding somebody who likes your work (or at least understands it).” I agree!

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