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  • Writer's pictureElizabeth Cartwright

EditorAMA: April

Greetings and welcome to the inaugural edition of what I hope will evolve into an engaging series on this blog! Recently, I asked my followers on Instagram if they had any questions for me about writing, editing, or publishing. Today, I'll be answering those questions! So, without further do, let's explore the queries that have sparked your interest.

(Jump to a question by clicking the links below.)

"How do you know your project is ready for a developmental edit?"

As writers, we're intimately familiar with the never-ending cycle of tweaking and refining our manuscripts. Even after countless revisions, there's always something new to adjust or polish. Consequently, it can be challenging to pinpoint the right moment to seek out a developmental edit.

A developmental edit serves as a strategic guide for enhancing your book. To make the most of a developmental edit, you should aim to embark on this stage when you've reached at least your third draft. By this point, you've already combed through the manuscript once on your own (second draft) and possibly incorporated feedback from beta readers (third draft). These additional passes since your initial draft help weed out the glaring issues, enabling your editor to delve deeper into refining your manuscript's core elements without avoidable distractions.

It's worth noting that some editors are willing to assist even if your novel isn't 100% complete. I've personally worked on projects ranging from half-finished manuscripts to those with only bullet-pointed scenes, as well as raw first drafts. Ultimately, it's about what works best for you. If you've hit a creative roadblock and are unsure of your next steps, an editor can provide invaluable guidance to help you regain momentum.

"I'm British, but should I use US terms, like flashlight instead of torch? I don't want to be confusing."

The decision whether to pursue traditional publishing or self-publishing will impact how you approach certain aspects of your manuscript, including which region's words you use. Traditional publishers typically adhere to their own established style guidelines, ensuring consistency throughout your work. On the other hand, self-publishing grants you the freedom to make such decisions independently. While there isn't a definitive right or wrong choice, it's worth considering the potential for confusion among readers from different English-speaking regions. However, it's unlikely that such differences will significantly affect readers' enjoyment of your book, as context often clarifies any misunderstandings.

World-building will play a part in your decision. If your story is set in the UK, incorporating British English will maintain its authenticity. Conversely, if the backdrop is American, using British terminology may seem out of place. For stories set in fantastical realms or other settings, draw language inspiration from the location and era you're evoking. If you'd like to play it safe, American English tends to be more universally understood due to its prevalence in global media.

If you're uncertain about language choices, seeking input from an editor or proofreader from a different region can provide valuable perspective. For instance, during the editing process of my book Seeking Shadows, my American developmental editor pointed out several British terms that might confuse international readers. For example, while "torch" in the UK refers to a flashlight, in the US it often signifies a flaming piece of wood. Considering my book featured scenes with both types of torches, I opted to replace "torch" with "flashlight" to minimize potential confusion.

"How do I approach an editor for the first time when writing my debut novel?"

When approaching an editor for the first time as you embark on your debut novel journey, it's essential to start by assessing the type of editing your manuscript requires. Take some time to familiarize yourself with developmental editing, manuscript critiques, and line editing, as editors often offer combinations of these services. Finding the right editor involves a blend of considering your budget and ensuring their editing style aligns with your vision for your book.

It's wise not to wait until the last minute. Editors typically have busy schedules, often booking up months in advance. Therefore, conducting thorough research well in advance is key. Most editors prefer to be contacted through their websites, where they often have forms for you to fill out to provide necessary information. Online directories such as the Editorial Freelancers Association can be valuable resources for finding editors, as can platforms like Instagram, where many editors share insightful tips and information. If you resonate with a particular editor's content, don't hesitate to reach out to them. Once you've made contact, expect the editor to want to learn more about you and your manuscript. They may offer a free or paid sample edit, typically a portion of your work, to gauge compatibility and provide you with a glimpse of their editing style. Additionally, editors are usually open to having conversations to clarify your needs and determine the best services for your project. Don't hesitate to ask questions – whether about their process, pricing, or anything else – as editors are accustomed to assisting debut authors and are happy to help.

Unsure about the etiquette of working with an editor? My duo of articles can help: How to Make Your Editor Frown and How to Make Your Editor Smile!

"Should I use the same editor for all of my books?"

When it comes to choosing your editor, the type of editing you require plays a significant role. For editing across a series, consistency is key; sticking with the same editor ensures a cohesive vision throughout your story. Since each editor brings a unique perspective and advice, maintaining continuity with one editor is wise.

However, when it comes to copyediting, it's beneficial to opt for fresh eyes. When transitioning from developmental to copyediting stages, it's advisable to switch editors to ensure a thorough review of your manuscript. This is because your developmental editor, by this point, is likely as close to your manuscript as you are, therefore the objectivity a fresh editor will bring is invaluable for catching any overlooked errors or inconsistencies.

"I keep hearing editors aren't buying dystopians anymore. Is that true?"

You might have heard rumours circulating about acquiring editors shying away from dystopian fiction, but let's unpack that. Firstly, it's true that no dystopian series has quite matched the cultural impact of The Hunger Games. And yes, some editors expressed doubts during the peak of the pandemic, suggesting that dystopian themes hit too close to home for readers at the time. However, these observations don't necessarily mean editors are shunning dystopian works altogether. In fact, several standout dystopian novels have been published in recent years, including Prophet Song by Paul Lynch (2023), HappyHead by Josh Silver (2023), All That's Left in the World by Erik J. Brown (2022), and No One is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood (2021). Even Scott Westerfeld continued his Uglies series with the release of Extras in 2022.

What editors are seeking now is a fresh perspective on dystopian fiction. Authors who can offer unique social commentary, intricate character development, and immersive world-building that speaks to current concerns stand the best chance of capturing editors' attention in today's market.

It's important to remember that all acquiring editors are different—they're just people, at the end of the day, reacting to what's going on in the world around them and considering their own preferences. There are certainly editors out there who are looking for whatever genre you're writing; you just have to find them.

"I'd love to hear how you became a professional editor!"

I stumbled into the world of professional editing unexpectedly, despite my lifelong passion for writing. While writing stories since the age of twelve, the idea of becoming an editor never crossed my mind until much later. Even during university, where I pursued a degree in Media, Communications, and Cultures, editing wasn't on my radar.

My fascination with storytelling has been a constant in my life, from crafting tales inspired by childhood TV shows to exploring the nuances of horror in different cultures for my dissertation. Growing up, my nose was almost always buried in a book at social events (I wasn't very social!) However, after university graduation, I found myself in marketing and content creation roles, while still nurturing my love for writing on the side.

It wasn't until I began exchanging manuscripts with fellow authors and delved into the process of critiquing and refining their work that I realised my knack for editing. Encouragement from peers eventually led me to consider pursuing editing professionally.

A stroke of fate came with a company restructuring, leaving me unemployed but offering a chance to pursue editing full-time. I seized the opportunity, immersing myself in industry knowledge and honing my skills through studying and editing for free. Despite starting small on platforms like Fiverr, my dedication paid off as I gradually built a client base and established my own editing business.

Now, as a proud member of the Editorial Freelancers' Association, I've had the privilege of collaborating with 30+ talented authors, working on over 100 manuscripts collectively. Assisting them in exploring and refining their narratives has been incredibly rewarding, fueling my passion for the craft. With each project, I continue to learn and grow, surrounded by a community of inspiring editors and authors who enrich my understanding of storytelling and the ever-evolving landscape of the publishing industry.


As an editor, I'm committed to providing you with free, insightful content, and I have no plans to clutter your reading experience with advertisements. If you've enjoyed my work and would like to support the continued creation of these articles, I invite you to consider buying me a coffee.


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