When Are You Ready For an Editor?


As an editor, I am sometimes torn. I love using my talent to help writers polish their work, and I am honored that they trust me to edit their projects. But I also see a lot of work that really isn’t ready yet for an editor, and I think maybe they have spent money they shouldn’t have to have their project cleaned up.

So when are you ready for an editor? First, let’s understand what the editor’s job is not. The editor is not the author. The editor is not supposed to capture the author’s vision and take over his voice. If you basically want to give your vaguely written ideas to someone and have them do most of the writing/rewriting, then you want a ghostwriter, and you’ll pay a pretty penny for that service. I actually had a client who said he’d come to a barrier in his book and actually wanted me to come up with an ending and finish it for him. Perhaps he enjoys storytelling but not actually writing, in which case I would not want to edit the part he had done as he probably does not have a passion for the art itself and it would show in the work. If you truly love writing, it will naturally follow that you will want to study your craft and get good at it.

Writers must learn the difference between rough drafting and revisions, and that both steps are vital, no matter how talented or famous you are. There is no such thing as a writer who only needs to rough draft and it is as good as it needs to be. That’s because rough drafting, what I like to think of as vomiting words onto the page uninhibited, uses a different side of the brain than the analytical side which rearranges those words and polishes them into good reading material. There is no shame whatsoever in rewriting, even several times. It doesn’t indicate that you aren’t as talented as the best writers. It’s just the way the brain works. Get all thoughts onto the paper first, without regard for form, then go back and take out and rearrange words. It’s better to have extra words and not need them than to need them and not have them.

Here’s where many writers steer wrong. NEVER, ever send a rough draft to an editor. You are wasting your money. It is YOUR vision; you polish it as much as possible. If you haven’t captured your vision succinctly, an editor is most certainly not going to be able to see it. An editor can only raise the quality of your work about, say, ten percent (not scientific, just a general figure). So if you send a ninety percent-good job, an editor can get it to 100 percent. But if you send something only fifty percent decent, the editor will probably only be able to get you to sixty percent decent. It is not the editor’s book; they can only work with what’s given to them.

If writing and storytelling are your passions, you will find that both rough drafting and revising can be equally fulfilling tasks as you see your cherished masterpiece take shape before your eyes.



  1. I completely understand! I must look over and polish pieces dozen times or MORE before my editors even take a look. I also share it with family, friends, etc, to check for loopholes and other things that need tidying up before paying an editor to fix minor things.

    Nice article! I completely agree with you and know where you are coming from. It would be pretty unprofessional to submit scrappy rough-drafts to people when it’s the writer who needs to look it over first. Apparently some “writers” want their work done for them.

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